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The "new" definition of "Architect"?
by Katy Purviance on 11/01/10 @ 07:44:43 pm
Categories: Architects | 2268 words | 1440 views

I found this thread on the ARCHITECT group on LinkedIn. Thought you might like it. I took out all the names since I didn’t ask anybody if it was okay that I reproduce their words here.

Some years ago I was running a department that included both architects and designers. Some of the architects were not licensed in the state, although they had licenses in other (US) states. Some were recent graduates. The State Board of Architects had me withdraw all their business cards and reissue them with the word “architect” removed unless they were locally licensed. What’s more, there was to be no mention of the word “architect” or “architectural” to denote those positions–whether in the books or on business cards–unless they were licensed in the state. I had to reissue many business cards and change the company policy on the positions they held to reflect this.

Now it seems that anyone who works with computers can be called an architect, whether they are IT Architects, Data Architects, Systems Architect, or just plain Architect. It is frustrating to see a want ad for an “Architect” online or in the papers just to read the details and find out that they are looking for a computer programmer.

Now, why are the State Boards so strict about the usage of the word when it pertains to real architects who struggled through college and licensing procedures yet they turn a blind eye to those who call themselves architects and are really not?

I have tried to contact the State Boards about this but to no avail. I would appreciate any suggestions and possibly some way to find a way to prohibit the usage of that title unless they went to traditional architecture schools and graduated as real architects.

We see the same thing here in Australia. Likewise, our States are quick to take notice of any infringement of the use of the name Architect for unregistered graduates, interstate architects or foreign architects. However, it seems the word ‘architect’ has been hijacked by other professions. Now the use of the term architect for a construction professional is in the minority.

Likewise, here in New Jersey, we have experienced the same thing, but to make matters worse the state board of architects now permits anyone to call themselves a designer and to advertise “design services".

I know. I am in NJ too. Anyone in the State Boards listening? Can we do something about this?

The same thing in Canada. It seems to me that the only concern of our provincial architectural associations is to watch how the term “architect” is used. You cannot use this term even if you’re licensed in another province, not to mention foreign trained architects (doesn’t matter the experience, knowledge or anything else). And to become licensed architect in Canada you have to go through the hell…. Really weird situation!

No wonder Canadian architecture sucks. No wonder that Frank Gehry who was born and raised in Toronto has designed his fisrt project here in the age of 70+…It is very sad. Bureaucrats fight for stupid labels and quality of profession suffers.

I heard in Europe situation is different (besides UK).

You miss the point. I am happy to have agencies protect our hard earned careers. I am NOT happy that now anyone who does computer assistance can be called an “architect". That is not what either we nor they studied.

About Europe: I was managing an architectural group in Ireland and, besides myself, there was only one other real architect and she was foreign. The rest of the staff were what they call there, “architectural technicians", which means that they are designers with experience–and some didn’t even have the last one. License to practice architecture was not needed.

I do agree that certain protective measures are needed. But if the reality out there is different (as you clearly described above) then the agencies / associations should be flexible and change their obsolete conservative rules. Architectural agencies are not able to dictate to other industries (especially to much more powerful IT industries) their rules. So it is better to adjust.

I see not problem to minimize requirements and to let people with appropriate education (let’s say B.Arch) and some basic arch. experience (let’s say 3 yrs) to carry the title without any limitations. Wouldn’t affect anything.

I know (based on my personal experience) two countries where the system works this way: Norway & Israel. Both are way in front of us (N. America) in terms of architectural development. In every aspect of it: be that architectural aesthetics, sustainability or overall use of modern technologies in the process of design and constructions.

Using the tern “Architect” after your name should have a very specific meaning. In most states and Countries it means that your have completed all of the educational and experience requirements of the region you are working in and have been certified by that region or state to practice Architecture.

You would not want to have the doctor that treated you in the emergency room to have only gone to school a little bit or trained a little bit but never completed their training and obtained certification. The same should apply to Architects and the term Architect.

Having said that, many states use the process of providing reciprocal licensure as a way of keeping the competition out. There should be an easier and simpler process of proving your ability and experience as a licensed architect when you relocate. NCARB is really not much better if you happen to not have a 5 year B-Arch degree.

No one seems to me argues the necessity of having some sort of procedure for gaining the Title. The issue is just what is the best possible way. How far the restrictive measures should go.

Should it be a current rigid, conservative, weird, protectionist structure. Or just a logical requirements that will let young professionals to grow and our industry to compete without crying how “those bad IT guys are using our term"…

this is not happening in Greece (yet?) but to be honest with you I was thinking recently to start a topic like this. I think the problem exists at the anglosaxonic countries mainly. If p.e. you insert the term “Architect” to search in any british job agency, it is almost impossible to descry a real Architect between the thousands of ads about IT architects!

And they’re tens of specialties: java architect, semiconductors architect, software architect, hardware architect, database architect, integrated circuits architect and much more. Searching that way you can also find solution architects, project architects etc. I don’t know how this started, it’s a mess. Being greek I understand the real meaning of this word, indeed you can use it everywhere nevertheless professionally it cannot fit elsewhere. Who is this “conspiracy architect"?

Yes, it is Anglo-Saxon world only. And apparently it has nothing to do with the quality of architects. This bloody title…

Look at small nations free of such idiotic formalities: Norway, Dutch, Denmark, Israel… Fantastic modern architecture, bright professionals, no bureaucratic barriers or conservative ridiculous traditions. No one cares about it in the modern world. Wake up architects - it is 21st century!

Well we could go back to the days where if a building failed the Architect would be put to death!

However short of that States and Countries do need to have some defined set of criteria that establishes what is necessary to call oneself an Architect (or Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant etc.)

One problem comes when licensed professionals from one jurisdiction try to obtain a reciprical license from another jurisdiction. How do they compare different standards of licensure? How do they attribute the value of a career of professional service and experience vs educational requirements. How do they test that a professional from one jurisdiction is actually qualified to perform work in a different jurisdiction where there may be special geographical needs or requirements (i.e. hurricanes, earthquakes, extreem heat or cold etc.), different codes and laws or different materials and methods of construction.

NCARB has in place a method for making this evaluation. However in practice it is a long and difficult process and is implemented in an arbitrary and capricious manner. I personally had to argue with NCARB for over a year to permit me to count a MBA (Masters of Business Administration) degree from an accredited US University as the equilavent of a single semester business class for architects. In the end I failed to qaulify for an NCARB certificate because NCARB would not count current licensure in three US states, 25 years of professional Architectural experience 15 of which were as the Owner of a Architectural firm as the equavelent to a 5th year design studio. The NCARB review committee actually had the nerve to tell me that I should go back to school and take the 5th year studio course.

Yes but I still can’t find real architect vacancies because of this :-)
“Et on touera tous les affreux” :-)

This seems to be bigger issue than the State Architects Board, since the board only regulates the architectural industry (as it pertains to constructing buildings) and doesn’t have jurisdiction over other industries or business at large.

Historically architects built buildings (some countries/languages say architectural engineer) but apparently there is no law that prevents a data engineer from calling himself data architect. If we really want to make the use of the title Architect exclusive to the architectural industry we have to make it law. A job for the AIA PAC to push for a law that would make it illegal for anyone who isn’t a state licensed architect to call themselves architect regardless of what profession they’re in.

Yeah… keep dreaming. I would suggest to make a law for public execution of all of those (from all the fields and industries) who use term “architect” without a “permission” or damn license from such a “high” authority as AIA or any other bureaucratic institution.

P.S. I bet, Gaudy or Michelangelo would not have a chance to be architects under current system. What we have today is a ridiculous bureaucracy, corruption and protectionism instead of good taste, professionalism and talent. Yeah… talent, which is is the most significant thing for architects - you can’t get license for that.

It’s not about a title and who’s deserving it, it’s about the MESS! If someone calls himself a doctor that doesn’t mean he’s a threat for doctors’ society or dangerous for anyone, exept of course if he plays the doctor too!

By the way because I have renovated some buildings they were sick and I operated on them, I’m thinking of calling myself a Surgeon Engineer from now on :-P

Not to be any misunderstanding: I consider as a mess the title of Architect at IT professions ONLY, and that is what Felix started in this topic if I’m not mistaken. For the rest of them in our profession I don’t care at all. Here p.e. a decorator can have the inspiring idea to call himselsef an Architect but that practically doesn’t mean anything since he cannot officialy stamp and sign anything at all. So I don’t think anybody of us has a problem with that.

I have found a common misconception by the lay person that having AIA after ones name means that you are an architect and if you don’t have it then you must not be one. When in fact those of us in the industry, know that it is just a pay to belong membership organization or club for architects. This is an mis-conception that the AIA does nothing correct and in fact enjoys the benefits of. I personally am a member of the AIA solely because I got tired to expalining to people (including zoning officers and building sub-code officials) that the RA after my name means Registered Architect and that the AIA is just a club.

But getting back to this issue of the term Architect and the licensing of Architects. Unfortunately, the licensure of Architects in almost all states and countries is a test of minimum skills and not necessarily those skill that are needed to perform as an architect.Creating beautiful tastefull and timeless buildings is a subjective criteria and should not be a significant part of the testing or licensing procedure. However creating buildings that solve a functional issue, stand up, are safe and meet all codes is and should be the minimum criteria for licensure in any jurisdiction.

However, just because one is a talented designer and can create beautiful designs, images and renderings of buildings does not make them an Architect. They are and should remain a designer (no matter how talented they are) until they complete the necessary requirements of their jurisdiction to qualify and be certified as an Architect. In the end having a license to practice Architecture is just a statement by our government that you have completed the minimum requirements and criteria of your jurisdiction to design buildings.

Missing the point!! Again!!

Here is an example:
“ARCHITECT. Bachlr degree in CIS of equivalent. 2 years in job or as Analyst. Tech Lead in Java Developer. Enterps scalemiddlewr/SOA. Skills Reqd: RSA? Entrpr Architect. UML Class/sequenceDiagrams. Oracle 10G using ORM tis hibernate ot TCS-MstrCrft. HSQLDB-Java embedded database.JMS XML Agent, 12EE, Junit, Web Services development. APP Svce Weblogic 8.1; Eclips SVN using Subversion/STRT Agil &TDD.” (sic)

Is that an architect?

I assure you that if Social Workers started calling themselves “Family Attorneys” they would be sued by… yes, attorneys.

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