Blurring the lines between Architecture, Engineering and Contracting


John Tobin, LEED AP 
VP for Operations, EYP

The Segmentation of Building Design

The written history of construction spans several millennia and is a history of escalating segmentation. In the earliest accounts, architects were integral to construction site activities, but gradually, over time, began to drift away from their primary role as craftsmen and towards a role favoring the arts.

The first significant detour away from construction emerged in the Renaissance when architects began to focus on drawing techniques—“disegno”(Spiro Kostof, The Architect, p.134, 1977)—as a way to plan their work, initiating a split between intent and execution, and causing the architecture profession to separate from the trades or crafts.

Figure 3
. Starting in the Renaissance, architects identified their role as more about drawing than building. (Image: © copyright expired – Wikimedia)

This initial segmentation entered its second phase during the industrial revolution when architects eschewed the emerging fields of technology that were then growing in number.  This second wave of segmentation further fractured building design between architects and engineers.

Segmentation in building design reached epidemic proportions in the early 20th century with the electrification and air-conditioning of buildings.  By the end of the 20th century, there were entire professions in electrical, mechanical, fire protection, data/telcom engineering, all dealing with buildings, but all part of an “alien culture,” according to Reyner Banham’s The Architecture of the Well-tempered Environment:

“Because of this failure of the architecture profession to – almost literally – keep its house in order, it fell to another body of men to assume responsibility for the maintenance of decent environmental conditions: everybody from plumbers to consulting engineers. They represented ‘another culture’, so alien that most architects held it beneath contempt, and still do.”

Reyner Banham, The Architecture of the Well-tempered Environment, p.11, 1969

The net result of the past centuries is a fundamental problem that currently besets the industry today—internal divisions within important design roles that should never have existed in the first place.

Read the full article here


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