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James Jonassen FAIA
Seattle WA
The profession as a whole and many practices demonstrate no specific purpose that resonates with potential clients.
Those practices that find, profess and live a purpose in which clients sense an intellectual, financial and emotional connection generally get respect and work from those clients.
When the architect's purpose is limited to the minimum of mandated professional responsibility and great design, defined solely in aesthetic terms, the reach of client resonance is pretty limited. Those practices which believe and act on a purpose which includes achieving a high level of intellectual,emotional and financial value for clients generally succeed.
Of course this is not profound...its just true.
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Form Follows Function
“It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human, and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression,
That form ever follows function. This is the law.”
---Louis H. Sullivan
I was reminded again today, while reviewing a project designed from the outside in, and in which the mechanical, plumbing, and structural systems were all awkwardly configured and misaligned, how unique the Chicago perspective on architectural design is. This project annoyed me because it strayed so far from everything I’ve come to value about good architectural design from my Chicago based background. Chicago architecture, at its best, sees architecture as the interrelationship of aesthetics, structure, mechanical systems, and often the environment. In 1896 Louis Sullivan wrote, “Form ever follows function. This is the law.” This saying, which he derived from Vitruvius by way of Horatio Greenough, has been repeated so often that it is now a design cliché. Sullivan’s apprentice Frank Lloyd Wright refined it, saying “Form and Function are One.” How a building functions is governed as much by its form as its form is governed by function: Both are simultaneous, and have equal emphasis. He also said, anticipating Le Corbusier by more than two decades, “The tall modern office building is the machine pure and simple.” A building has to function efficiently to be effective architecture.
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I think we are wearing this thread out, as it sounds like we are preaching to the choir. At the risk of needlessly prolonging the discussion, I feel a need to respond to Christopher Walsh's post, regarding his analogy to nurses and doctors. As an architect working in the healthcare sector, I can safely say I have never worked with a nurse who confused her or his role with that of a physician. And increasingly, we are seeing a shift in healthcare education and delivery where the physician no longer occupies the center of the universe, so to speak, but is the leader of a multidisciplinary team composed of a broad spectrum of providers (sound familiars?). Nurses play distinct but very important roles, and we are seeing more nurse practitioners, who can prescribe medications without physician oversight (though the extent of this authority varies from state to state).
Regarding licensure, I agree with Christopher about the importance of licensure. Our firm actively encourages interns to pursue their licenses and become registered. Failure to do so puts a limit on how far they can advance in the firm. However, despite this, only the partners (owners) of the firm can stamp drawings. This is due to our professional liability insurance ... we won't maintain our cover if a non-partner stamps documents. We are a 160-person firm ... maybe policies are structured differently for smaller (or larger) practices?
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There was an architect, an engineer, and a musician standing on the street.
The architect turns to the others and says, "Do you think what I do is important? I don't feel like our clients care what we do."
The engineer replied, "Doesn't really matter. The inspector loved the work and blessed it all. It's safe to use, therefore, mission accomplished."
The musician looked up at both of them and said, "I've been playing this song for 10 minutes. It's a song that I've been working on for over 10 years--my personal masterpiece. And the best you guys can toss in my hat is 15 cents?"
Rich Farris
Author of "Principles of Creativity, Architecture's Insight to Invention"
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With sadness I see and read most of this discussion - post.
As everyone can see, I'm an International Associate, which means I'm not in the USA.
But I can tell you my vision of your "new" problem, the one we suffer for years here in Chile. Here we have a lot of Architectural Schools, from each one every year graduates near 80 architects (the same you call designers), and unfortunately here our Architects Association doesn't have any interest in regulate that, so all of these newly-unexperienced recently graduates come to the market and offer cheaper, mediocre and inadequate services. By law our Association can do a thing (they doesn't have interest too) about this, by contrary AIA has something like law enforcement and counselling, even they do something like lobby or pressure over congress to get some laws or initiatives. Why don't make some pressure to regulate this issue with a law, by the congress?
We architects pay a considerable amount of taxes(we help the state to get more taxes too) & insurances, we even create a large amount of employment....why the STATE doesn't protect us (you, not me)?
Ok.....I'm boring and my English isn't the best.............I know that
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I agree with Mark Robin, let's face it with HGTV everyone believes they are great designers and they can do our jobs just like many nurses believe they can do what the doctors do, the difference is they can't write prescriptions so you have to see the doctor. Trying to convince the world that an Architect license means someone is a great designer will fall on deaf ears, mine included, some of the best designers I know are not licensed Architects.
The AIA needs to work on requiring a licensed Architect to stamp every plan requiring a building permit, believe me this would cause Architects to be greatly sought after and push the interns to obtain their licenses which they have no urgency to do. The one item I would add to Mark's comment would be that the AIA needs to push municipalities to require the Architects have Professional liability insurance (just like the Plumbers, Electricians, General Contractor...), this would eliminate the "Basement Architect" who undercuts the legitimate firm and keeps our fees from rising. I am baffled when I go in for a permit and the municipality doesn't require the Architect to produce their insurance certificate. If some of the insurance companies knew the homes and buildings they are insuring have an unlicensed and uninsured person designing them they should be worried, get them involved to push our initiative.
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Fear of missing out. FOMO. It’s a thing.

A form of social anxiety, it’s that compulsion to know what other folks are doing just in case they might be having more fun than you. Anyone with a smart phone and a Facebook page has experienced it. There are real psychological drivers behind it, too. Check out Henry Murray’s Explorations in Personality and his list of psychogenic needs. FOMO is in between cognizance and sentience.

And now, I’m gonna try to use FOMO as a motivator. Here goes.

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I think the value argument hasn't work and never will. Do you go to a doctor because of value? Do you use an attorney because of value? No. Professional advise is used because we need it. There is no other reasonable choice. You cannot get medicine or medical procedures with a doctor involved. Don't go to court without a lawyer. You don't want to see what happens. We need these services to go about life.
What I am saying is all of AIA efforts should be going towards the day when any construction requiring a building permit cannot be performed without a architect. Thinks of the quality and resiliency of the built environment if architects did have a role in every building. Think about the improvement in the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Now that would be value.
Need not value is the obstacle to any sell.
Mark Robin AIA
Mark Robin Architecture
Nashville TN
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I’d like to hear more about Group 7. It also occurs to me after over 50 years of practice, that the word expert is often used in disputes, arbitration, mediation and litigation. Must we be careful as architects not to claim a global definition in relationship to humans and the built environment? Does human relationship to buildings involve architects’ expertise in ergonomics, in construction, in other physical or psychological impact which might be subject to classifying ourselves as more than we are?
Lest we forget REASONED ART is and always has been a part of architecture. Perhaps the emersion of form without function in the digital age caused us to question the idea of reason in our work. Careful we don’t encourage fewer rules, less behavioral issues and the loss of human dignity in what we suggest. Careful we don’t lose our sense of regionalism, and oh yes, scale.

Freedom of expression should not be lost, but respect for dignity and the very work HUMAN are at risk.

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In trying to "reposition" the image or role of the architect in the public's mind, I think it would be a useful exercise to understand how the public sees architects now.
You start your message by juxtaposing the architectural profession with that of Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, and Accountants, all of which are very pragmatic professions that deal with the pragmatic concerns of the public they serve. Then you spend the rest of your message talking about the artistic and ethereal nature of architecture and design. In one fell swoop you have identified the "problem" with the public's image of architects.
The public, even the most sophisticated public, are mostly concerned with the more pragmatic concerns of their lives and of society. I don't think anyone of them would argue with the fact that architects have an artistic sensibility. But the overwhelming majority of them are more concerned with the practical nature of life. Where we as architects fall short in this "debate" with the public is in our ability to show how the profession of architecture can respond to their needs, not just their wants, or lesser still, their philosophies.
I do not see in your list of subcommittees, any listing for the economics of architecture (value vs effort), or the practical benefits of good, thoughtful design, such as comes from sustainable design (maybe in Emerging Knowledge, though not all practical benefits come from emerging knowledge). These are all more pragmatic concerns that I believe the public is concerned with, much as can be shown for Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, and Accountants.
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I have two immediate reactions to your effort. The first is appreciation for your concern to improve the state of architecture for practitioners and clients alike. The second is appreciation for your sense of unknowing. Maybe what you propose makes sense, but maybe not. I commend you and thank you for both aspects.
My questions relate to the disconnect between the pragmatist and the artist. Each can do a little of the other if they are lucky, but my experience suggests that one is at heart one or the other. I happen to be an artist. I paint, I draw, I write, play and record music, I write poetry. Oh, yes, I have a small practice of architecture, made smaller by the sins of others (that is another story), and clients for whom I suggest, cajole, comfort, confound, and amuse. I am very good at what I do. But I do not consider myself an expert, for there is always at least one other way to accomplish that which I prefer.
My view is that the Architect is the Guardian of the Culture. For me that is far more serious than being expert at mitigating between humans and things. I suspect it may be harder to define as well. Nevertheless, I take the long view, perhaps naively, optimistically, that the purpose of a society is to become a culture. We may have been on the right path once, but no more. Our task as Architects, our responsibility, is critical and unpopular. Why has the AIA not resoundingly decried the inane redevelopment in lower Manhattan? Why do so many think it heroic? Nothing there has been for the citizens. Nothing has been for the people.
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I really appreciated this slide show. Thank you for sharing it. For what it’s worth, here’s what I said in a very short speech at the 2014 Convention afrer lamenting our focus on the famous few at grass roots:
Speech at AIA National Convention: Francis Pitts
June 26, 2014
Debbie and I have two daughters.
Our oldest, Annelise, is a graduate architect working for a really good firm in San Francisco.
Her decision to become an architect was a surprise. It was based upon a promise that this profession has; that the life of an architect is a life of real value.
Annelise’s decision had an impact on me. After 30 years as a volunteer in the AIA, I realized that I owed something not just to the profession but also to my daughter; that she deserved to benefit from the promise that she saw in architecture; that, finally, we needed to deliver on that promise to ourselves.
I graduated from school in 1976 into the teeth of the worst recession the US had seen since the Second World War. Jobs didn’t exit. Friends of mine travelled thousands of miles and settled in new places on the hope of getting a job, And if we did we were paid pennies.
We faced other challenges. We wanted to be of service to our communities and there weren’t great practice models for that. There was an energy crisis and sustainability was a huge driver and we knew next to nothing about that. Technology was changing how we were practicing and how that technology worked was all alien to us. Building technologies began to rapidly change and, finally, our role in the construction industry was eroding.
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It seems that we've been forever discussing why a doctor's input is more valued than that of an architect. Maybe personal health is just more important than the quality of the physical space with which a person inhabits and interacts? If the AIA can somehow establish and increase the perceived value of an architect, especially that of an "AIA architect", then perhaps we can start moving in a positive direction on this front. The message needs to be clear and compelling, and it needs to be made understandable to the general public. With an increased value perception, increased financial benefits should naturally follow - and perhaps we architects, especially those of us out in the trenches, could actually start to reap some of those benefits. This is especially true for the small firms and sole practitioners out there, who have so much to offer but are typically relegated to the most mundane of projects with the most undesirable clients.
FWIW, in 25+ years of practice and successful completion of hundreds of projects, and despite my best efforts to explain the benefits, I have never, ever, been asked to design a project for LEED certification. I don't think LEED is our magic bullet.
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I'm sorry to throw water on the embers of one's passion, but Pleaaaaase!
Yet another group/manifesto/vision quest trying to give architects a protected/special place in the world. If a doctor says 'take this pill' to fix your whatever, you say 'yes Doctor, you're the professional.' If an architect (specialist in human and environmental interaction) says,' put your sofa in that corner as I'm the expert in this kind of thing,' no doubt you'll say I would rather have it in the other corner. Same goes for kitchen design, the size of your lecture hall, the color of your cladding, and the shape of your roof.
Everyone is an architect, by this definition. So let the AIA stay with it's mission of ensuring that if we spend 7 years in training for this glorious yet amorphous role, we get paid the most of everyone. And that nobody else gets to call themselves 'architect' as flimsy as that term seems to be. And carve out extra places for our trained abilities rather than miss them (such as Design Thinking and allowing the public to think that LEED is a better qualification than AIA).
Rant over.
John Onken Intl. Assoc. AIA
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Hi Mike:

I would love to join your group. I am very concerned about the future because young architects are abandoning the profession in a big way. The AIA is very complicit because they promote contracts that favor design by non architects. We need to redefine architecture in the 21st century but in appositive way.

Charles E. Dagit, Jr., FAIA
381 Williamson Road
Gladwyne, PA 19035
215 817 6591
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Mike --

We as a profession have already unwittingly defined, and thus limited our role within society. In a conversation with a member for the general public, introducing yourself as an architect results in questions about what buildings you have worked on and if you do kitchen remodels; introduce yourself as a designer, the follow up question is often ”what do you design?”.

Our role is as a profession responsible for bringing ideas for a healthier built environment into harmonious existence with existing natural systems/environments (this includes human behavior/wellbeing). Arguably, we have the most important role within society as the built environment affects everyone, to some degree, throughout their lives: shelter, safety, transportation, comfort are all results of a designer’s (not necessarily a trained architect’s) efforts.

I would be very hesitant about calling an architect an “expert” on the relationship between humans and the built environment. Such a definition limits who we are as a profession and moves us further from our role as social, environmental, community, and urban innovators (feel free to expand this grossly simplified list). Many of us focus on such small, but critical niches of design that to call ourselves experts on human-built environment relationship is far from the reality and would only serve to further mislead the general public and also limit the scope of our thinking.
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I was reading over the materials and I hope you can clarify a few things.

It sounds like Group 7 is an established group that has been together for a while now. Does Group 7 have a central facebook page, forum, blog, etc? I am trying to determine what contribution I and others could make coming in now have as there is a project planned laid out in the word document. Are you still trying to recruit volunteers for this effort? There was some vagueness at the end of the word document about who to contact.

A few notes on the presentation (Group 7 smallesta). I am making my notes based off what I observe in presentation understanding that there might be additional information provided in a presentation.

Slide #2:

Text reads “Does it concern you that architects design so few of the houses that are built in the US today?” I think this text is a little misleading as architects are involved with the suburban developments (my father was a developer/contractor and did hire an architect to provide base plans. I understand this is not the norm), but as designers know these places are not conducive to community building or sustainability. This sentence is also very limiting to purely residential architects and could be seen as alienating to other sectors like sports, office, and higher education. I also do not like this phrase as it continues to stipulate a continuation of the status-quo of unsustainable suburban development instead of the issue at hand which architects are being left out of the process. A phrase one of my good friends talked about was: “2% of the buildings worldwide are planned by architects” (Source: Quote starts at 1:10). While this phrase might not directly relate to things happening in the U.S., it does highlight a global problem with the professions serving the needs of the people. It would be good to have a source for the statistic being made as it would provide a concrete fact instead of a subjective observation.
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Lone Johnny Calligraphy Leapfrog Group (aka Group 7)
Proposed Work Plan submitted to the Change Network 10 5 2014, revised 11 3 2014 revised 11 16 14
Group 7’s central idea is that if architects (and the AIA) would focus on educating towards, becoming and being the experts on the relationship between humans and the built environment, they and the Institute could become much more important in American society. If this interests you, please read on and volunteer to study the feasibility of this idea over the next few months.
Prerequisites – There are two documents that describe the mission of Group 7. Please review those documents and decide whether you are interested in joining this group. They are also attached to this message.
Proposed Group 7 Work Plan – this is an extremely accelerated work plan because we are late in getting started, maybe having little time will be an advantage, no time to hem and haw.
Before December 10, review and improve the power point mission statement. As a group, we will through teleconferences and emails attempt to adjust the power point as necessary for all of us to be enthusiastic about it. If we discover that there is nothing significant in the power point about which we can all be enthusiastic, Group 7 will disband and redirect their energies to the other subgroups.
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This seems like an appropriate place for us to share our thoughts about the Group 7 subject.
I will post all results to this blog so that all of you can read them.
In another effort, I am going to revised the Power Point Mission Statement based on various comments received. I will post that somewhere soon and let you know. I hope you will review this Mission Statement and give feedback prior to January 15. That way, Soren and I can present a somewhat vetted version of the Mission Statement to the Culture Collective at its meeting in late January in Austin, Texas.
Please feel free to comment as you please, both about the substance and the way of doing this.
Thanks and Happy Holidays to all.
Mike Mense
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Lone Johnny Calligraphy Leapfrog Group
We agree that the time is now to change the way we think and behave. . . . .
Elevate public awareness by learning how to speak the public’s language . . . . . .
Advocate for the profession by giving members clearer ways to explain themselves . . . .
Expand and share knowledge by leading an effort to discover and codify an architectural canon.
The Key Focus Area – Pursuing a discussion about what it is we think we are selling, and testing whether being the experts about the relationship between human beings and built environment might be the basis of a more effective marketing effort
Goals/Measures of Success – our goals are these:
Primarily, convince you and the profession that we have to change ourselves in order to reach a much greater percentage of America. I believe that is important not only for us but also for America. Design can and should be the future of the American economy. Architecture could lead the effort to make that happen. I think I know how we can do that, but I may be wrong. It may be impossible to keep our existing strengths while drastically increasing our role in the US. We will be searching for a way.
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