The making of architecture


Architects often succeed as leaders when they step outside of the conventional definitions they have given themselves. By the close of the 19th century, the architects’ professional association in the United States, the American Institute of Architects (aia), was publicly and loudly insisting that architects, as a profession, be considered a cadre of master artists at the head of America’s cultural table.

In the process of educating the public about the value of architecture, as well as directing the profession from within, architects slowly surrendered their position as the executives of the building process. As technology advanced and new technical proficiencies were applied to building design, increasingly the authority and responsibility formerly controlled by the architect were delegated or co-opted. As a result, the status of the architect changed from that of the leader of the building team to just the designer on a team of building experts. Add to this a contrived and widely promoted perception of the professional architect as a European-styled artist and soon architects were involuntarily losing a substantial measure of credibility in society’s broader decision-making processes.

Not only did the other creative and building professions bridle at the idea that the artist-architect incarnation was their natural superior, but this self-imposed diminishment of the intrinsic attributes of the architect–that of master builder, technician, and team manager–had a lasting negative impact. For rather than embracing and promoting the diversity of skills that place architects among society’s professional polymaths, this imposition of old-world elitism by the upper echelon drove the profession away from such an empowering self-realization.

by Richard Swett, FAIA @designintelligence

Read the full article here


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