Do Architects have any power?

Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby GrahamH » Sun Nov 15, 2009 10:16 pm

I think architects could have an enormous amount of influence, whatever about power. Which brings me to one of my bugbears, for which I may be pilloried, but hey...

It is truly astonishing how little architects appear to actively engage with the built environment around them on the basis of personal interest alone. For a profession that demands an over-arching, all-consuming passion for its subject, above that of many other disciplines, it is remarkable how few architects seem to: a) be interested in the world around them, and b) seek to pro-actively use their insight, skills and practical resources to influence change.

One of course appreciates that like everyone else, architects have a day job, and lives to which they wish to retire come evenings and weekends. But just how few seem to engage in extracurricular design activity, whether it be voluntary, self-promoting, wishful thinking, lobbying, provoking, or simply thinking aloud, with the tools, skills and ideas at their disposal that one would imagine to generate immense satisfaction, is really quite surprising.
As such, questions one might ask are:

How many architects do you know have drafted simple design proposals for a problem or derelict site near where they live, and submitted it to the local planning authority as a possible way forward should an application come in, a CPO be enacted, or the authority force works to be carried out?

How many architects have sketched a quick redesign of an horrendous planning application as part of a submission on the case as to how it should be dealt with?

How many architects guide their local parish in the right direction over church, community centre or public realm proposals?

How many architects give an input on Tidy Towns committees?

How many architects speak out of poor work on the part of their colleagues, or national trends in planning and design issues?

When was the last time the RIAI ever took action on one of their members being involved in scandalously poor design and planning – of which there must be many hundreds over the course of the boom years? How can decent members accept this?

So few architects appear to engage with their profession in any of these, or other, ways. I suppose this was brought home to me by seeing the work of two or three architects who work their socks off in their spare time putting their skills to productive, valuable use for the benefit of society. It is baffling that so few architects appear be animated by everyday planning and design, or legacy problem sites and buildings they pass every day, or feel sufficiently engaged to want to take these on as personal exercises, in whatever small way that may be. Perhaps they do and we don’t hear of them, but that seems somewhat unlikely.

I think now more than ever, architects have to demonstrate their value to society by whatever means they can. Maybe I am wrong, and many are more engaged than what they let on, in which case, in these horrendously challenging times - and with more time on their hands - they need to show us what they’ve got.
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby gunter » Mon Nov 16, 2009 2:15 pm

GrahamH wrote:. . . . one of course appreciates that like everyone else, architects have a day job . . .


I don't know about that, Graham :rolleyes:

A lot of us are unemployed, or at best, seriously under-employed.

The voluntary thing is fine in principle, but after a while you find that there's not much dignity in unpaid work, . . . . when you've got people to support and bills to pay.

Having said that, I like your idea of an internal, Royal-Institute, bitch-fest, blood-bath,
you may have used the words 'colleague criticism', but we know what you had in mind . . . :)
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby wearnicehats » Wed Nov 18, 2009 9:49 am

GrahamH wrote:I think architects could have an enormous amount of influence, whatever about power. Which brings me to one of my bugbears, for which I may be pilloried, but hey...

It is truly astonishing how little architects appear to actively engage with the built environment around them on the basis of personal interest alone. For a profession that demands an over-arching, all-consuming passion for its subject, above that of many other disciplines, it is remarkable how few architects seem to: a) be interested in the world around them, and b) seek to pro-actively use their insight, skills and practical resources to influence change.

One of course appreciates that like everyone else, architects have a day job, and lives to which they wish to retire come evenings and weekends. But just how few seem to engage in extracurricular design activity, whether it be voluntary, self-promoting, wishful thinking, lobbying, provoking, or simply thinking aloud, with the tools, skills and ideas at their disposal that one would imagine to generate immense satisfaction, is really quite surprising.
As such, questions one might ask are:

How many architects do you know have drafted simple design proposals for a problem or derelict site near where they live, and submitted it to the local planning authority as a possible way forward should an application come in, a CPO be enacted, or the authority force works to be carried out?

How many architects have sketched a quick redesign of an horrendous planning application as part of a submission on the case as to how it should be dealt with?

How many architects guide their local parish in the right direction over church, community centre or public realm proposals?

How many architects give an input on Tidy Towns committees?

How many architects speak out of poor work on the part of their colleagues, or national trends in planning and design issues?

When was the last time the RIAI ever took action on one of their members being involved in scandalously poor design and planning – of which there must be many hundreds over the course of the boom years? How can decent members accept this?

So few architects appear to engage with their profession in any of these, or other, ways. I suppose this was brought home to me by seeing the work of two or three architects who work their socks off in their spare time putting their skills to productive, valuable use for the benefit of society. It is baffling that so few architects appear be animated by everyday planning and design, or legacy problem sites and buildings they pass every day, or feel sufficiently engaged to want to take these on as personal exercises, in whatever small way that may be. Perhaps they do and we don’t hear of them, but that seems somewhat unlikely.

I think now more than ever, architects have to demonstrate their value to society by whatever means they can. Maybe I am wrong, and many are more engaged than what they let on, in which case, in these horrendously challenging times - and with more time on their hands - they need to show us what they’ve got.


I don't have time to reply in full to this right now but I will say that it is safely the most irritating post I have read in a long long time
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby bitasean » Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:08 pm

I think Graham has a point and would personally love to see more negative reviews about bad buildings in the press.

There was a review some while back in an English paper that I read which slated a new civic building, pointing out the flaws in it both conceptually and contextually. Now when was the last time we saw anything architectural in the Irish press that wasnt a gushing review about the latest award winner. I'm not saying that we shouldnt publicly commend great architecture, just that a lot of dross goes uncriticised (apart from on this site).

When you start to read an article on the latest book, play, exhibition etc you never know how the journalist is going to rate it. But for some reason when people write about architecture they feel they have to commend its every detail - even when some of them dont work technically or aesthetically.
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby spoil_sport » Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:40 pm

I don't think we need to start filling the papers with how crap everything is, I mean where would you even begin? But it is a valid point, the most distressing fact is that in a lot of cases architects write their own reviews.
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby GrahamH » Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:07 pm

I wholeheartedly agree negativity is not the way to go, nor is it constructive. But to see even the slightest level of objective criticisim - by that I mean assessment - would hearten us that architects are really engaging. We tend to focus on the public’s lack of engagement or debate about architecture, when in fact discussion about architecture amongst architects themselves, within the public realm, is something that rarely, if ever, takes place.

Okay, I ‘did a Coughlan’ in respect of the day job reference, but the general gist of the above isn’t intended to refer to the current crisis at all. Nor is it a plea for architects to provide their hard won expertise and services to all and sundry. Rather, it simply surprises me how little architects feature in the public consciousness in terms of their interaction with the everyday, whether it be debate over a public project or something as localised as offering a guiding hand on local committees relating to the built environment. Of course some do – and I know some that are – but relative to the size of the profession this seems rather small. When one sees the enormous impact that some architects have through their all-consuming passion for buildings and design and its application in their community, it demonstrates what could be achieved if more architects had some role – however minor – in their local built environment or other public platform.
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby PlanE » Thu Nov 26, 2009 10:37 pm

henno wrote:the fact that architects cannot market themselves is a very significant hindrance to understanding and regard that gunter is referring to.

...

If architects were allowed to market themselves they would have to seriously consider a vital aspect of any business. The restrictions in marketing are viewed by many as a thin veil of cartel-ship.


I was contemplating this question in another vein today, as in how can you possibly convince (sell) to the average layperson concepts that take years to develop? Is it a lost cause from the outset? Has this question ever been satisfactorily answered? Or is it always going to be compromise for one or the other party? The marketing question is a good one. However, if architects had real power, would marketing be necessary? :p

reddy wrote:
And there's no restrictions on architects marketing themselves - there used to be restrictions on advertising but they've been lifted long ago. The only constraint is that you cannot bring the profession or a colleague into disrepute.


That's news to me? I don't think that's correct. The answer to Teak is that there is a law preventing marketing, or at least a Code of Conduct. Advertisement of RIAI services is still not allowed, else we might be ending up with the crass slogans customary of all solicitors' offices as of recent years.

zelemon wrote:Architects maybe respected 'honorable' members of society but do we hold much power when serious issues arise? Yes we have managed to protect our 'title' but recent developments in the socio political arena would suggest that we do not have a voice or are simply not powerful enough for politiicans to bother with us.


1.2006 The GCC contracts were developed with relatively little input from the Archtiectural proffession, the result is a contract that is unworkable or unresonable for most to adminster.
2. May 2009 Tanaiste criticises us for having excessive fees etc.
3. 2008-2009- The developement of NAMA.
4. Nov 2009-State demands steep cut in fees from architects on new Childrens’ Hospital in Dublin


Sorry, I didn't see this thread before I posted a new one about the "Romans" and the RIAI. :rolleyes: They are quite similar, but I hope the detail will define them differently.
I'm not sure this thread has adequately responded to the whole of your question yet. In Europe it is my understanding that architects are still valued citizens with a high degree of clout in their own province (quite rightly). In Poland for example, the Planning committee will ask the advice of the applicant architect before making a decision! And I have heard of other Planning Councils in Europe that are well-represented by architects. Again, quite rightly.

I would like to see rules placed at planning (or at inspected building control level), that the designer or trusted delegate should be responsible or consulted on all matters relating to physical impacts on the building, be it signage, decoration, security cams, fascia boards and what have you - even through the building's life-cycle. Something like an Operations+Maintenance manual, only better. ;)

As for the meeting scenario depicted by Keating, I think that in certain large and complex projects architects are possibly getting marginalised, when specialisation and delegation is a necessity. In my experience, before the bust, I can only judge from similar meetings that the architect was the one who was always asked to supply all (or at least the majority) of the answers.

And most of all, the architect's role is not and should not be defined by others. For me, as always, design = authorship = authority. As long as there is design, there is authority - I only wish our collective representatives could ensure that!

However, I do appreciate the question. It is possibly one that will always be hanging in there. What is a vision if it doesn't have things in the way? But today it seems more pertinent than ever.
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby gunter » Thu Nov 26, 2009 11:23 pm

PlanE wrote:I would like to see rules placed at planning (or at inspected building control level), that the designer or trusted delegate should be responsible or consulted on all matters relating to physical impacts on the building, be it signage, decoration, security cams, fascia boards and what have you - even through the building's life-cycle. Something like an Operations+Maintenance manual, only better. ;)


From what I can tell, most planners despise most architects, . . . . . probably with some justification.

I can't see that system working, PlanE.
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby reddy » Fri Nov 27, 2009 9:34 am

PlanE wrote:That's news to me? I don't think that's correct. The answer to Teak is that there is a law preventing marketing, or at least a Code of Conduct. Advertisement of RIAI services is still not allowed, else we might be ending up with the crass slogans customary of all solicitors' offices as of recent years.


Nope - this is from the RIAI member bulletin issue number three. Its been that way since 2004 - all as part of the reshape of things for the competition authority.

"The RIAI Council removed the restriction on paid advertising formerly contained in the RIAI Code of Professional Conduct. The new rules are operative from 23 April 2004. The only restrictions are that any advertising should be truthful, should not reflect unfavourably on other architects and should not bring the profession into disrepute."
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby henno » Fri Nov 27, 2009 10:19 am

reddy wrote:Nope - this is from the RIAI member bulletin issue number three. Its been that way since 2004 - all as part of the reshape of things for the competition authority.

"The RIAI Council removed the restriction on paid advertising formerly contained in the RIAI Code of Professional Conduct. The new rules are operative from 23 April 2004. The only restrictions are that any advertising should be truthful, should not reflect unfavourably on other architects and should not bring the profession into disrepute."


thanks for that reddy
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby PlanE » Fri Nov 27, 2009 4:22 pm

gunter wrote:From what I can tell, most planners despise most architects, . . . . . probably with some justification.


you sound quite comfortable with that gunter
gunter wrote:I can't see that system working, PlanE.


I wasn't suggesting we should ask them...
I don't know the parties who change planning law, but I don't see why architects shouldn't be among them.

reddy wrote:Nope - this is from the RIAI member bulletin issue number three. Its been that way since 2004 - all as part of the reshape of things for the competition authority.

"The RIAI Council removed the restriction on paid advertising formerly contained in the RIAI Code of Professional Conduct. The new rules are operative from 23 April 2004. The only restrictions are that any advertising should be truthful, should not reflect unfavourably on other architects and should not bring the profession into disrepute."


I seeeeeeeeeeee said the blind man. Interesting... must get a few ads in lol
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby gunter » Fri Nov 27, 2009 7:48 pm

Re: The possibility that planning officials despise architects

PlanE wrote:you sound quite comfortable with that gunter


I don't know if I'd use the term 'comfortable with that', PlanE, but when you read some of the extravagant claims and downright drivel that accompanies many planning applications, you can see where the average, put upon, planning official might develop a low tolerance for swaggering architectural arrogance and precious egotistical posturing.

I mean, obviously one would prefer at all times to be regarded with enormous respect, but I suspect we'd be in delusional territory if we thought that this was actually the case.

I've been at the odd planning meeting where the merits of adjoining buildings have come up for mention and I've heard the odd planning official literally pour scorn on the design ability of the relevant architectural firms, sometimes using language that would make even seasoned archiseekers blush.

Human nature being what it is, one imagines that, on occasion, the door may have hardly swung closed before gunter's proposed magnum opus, and matchstick model, came in for the same vitriolic treatment.

However, you have to move on, you can't dwell on stuff like this, it's not worth wasting time worrying about it, tell yourself you have nothing in common with these people and anyway, if it wasn't for feelings of vengeful bitterness, many of us would be empty on the inside :)
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby tommyt » Fri Nov 27, 2009 10:37 pm

[quote="PlanE"]I
And most of all, the architect's role is not and should not be defined by others. For me, as always, design = authorship = authority. As long as there is design, there is authority - I only wish our collective representatives could ensure that!

sorry but this is absoute horseshit in the context of the speculator-led planning system we are burdened with. Do you honestly wonder why other built environment professionals have a poor opinion of architects?
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby PlanE » Sat Nov 28, 2009 1:00 am

gunter wrote: you can see where the average, put upon, planning official might develop a low tolerance for swaggering architectural arrogance and precious egotistical posturing.

I mean, obviously one would prefer at all times to be regarded with enormous respect, but I suspect we'd be in delusional territory if we thought that this was actually the case.


Actually, when it comes to my work I couldn't give a rats-ass what planners thought of me. Am I in a minority of one here? One good thing about crit-based training is you have far more intelligent and relevant criticism to deal with and learn from. Planner's criticism? Don't make me laugh. I met planners for one meeting, in which we (including the client) were told that the only way this site could be developed is to do it their way. So they designed it. I didn't fall about laughing my ass off. But it is now built as the most laughable, architecturally inept pile of shyte that anyone had the misfortune to witness.


tommyt wrote:
sorry but this is absoute horseshit in the context of the speculator-led planning system we are burdened with.


I'm not sure who you are aiming at, dear fellow. speculators? planners? architects? 'built environmental professionals' in general? Even if most stuff is not designed by architects, as has actually been the case since time immemorial, that doesn't undermine my statement. Not all design is good design, obviously. What exactly are you talking about? I can't wait to hear.

tommyt wrote:Do you honestly wonder why other built environment professionals have a poor opinion of architects?

No, as I said above, I honestly do not wonder and moreover couldn't give a flying f**k what 'built environmental professionals' thought of us. Should I?
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby dan_d » Tue Dec 01, 2009 8:37 pm

Scuse me for jumping in here but.....PlanE essentially what you're saying is that you couldn't give 2 curses about what anyone else who is not an architect (preferably only the ones qualified enough to crit your work) thinks, and that you're basically above anyone else involved in the building/design industry because - well, you're an architect...
As an engineer, let me assure you that you're a member of an overall team - something that many architects tend to forget - and that you're not any more or less important than anyone else on that team. A concept is fantastic, but it's useless if it doesn't stand up and has no services in it.
People are hardly to blame for the opinion that (as an architect once said to me) "most architects are egomaniacs". (his words, not mine)
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby gunter » Wed Dec 02, 2009 12:20 am

dan_d wrote:People are hardly to blame for the opinion that (as an architect once said to me) "most architects are egomaniacs". (his words, not mine)


A wise person would leave this thread alone . . . . . before somebody has to come out with the mop and bucket again

so, pressing on . . .

discuss the role of ego in architecture:

It seems to be that wherever drive and ambition are called for, there will be plenty of big egos ready and willing to answer the call. Does architecture require drive and ambition? . . . . . I suppose Great architecture probably does.

There's an argument that without a big ego driving the architect onward, the forces that produce creativity and innovation are never fully charged. It's the big ego, craving attention, that fuels the creative driving force.

In this argument, it is the role of the big ego to banish self-doubt, dismiss uncertainty and instil belief. Nobody's going to produce great architecture without being totally convinced that they have the ability and the belief to carry it off, a big ego will do this for you.

This is bad news for those of us whose egos are ugly little bastards that nothing will ever satisfy.

But we've been talking about great architecture, what about good architecture? Is a giant ego a help or a hindrance in producing good architecture?

I think this is where the concept of tradition in architecture is [or was] tremendously useful. For the architect that's not quite sure if greatness beckons, or not, there can be an understanding that, within a tradition, the making of even incremental advancement, or subtle refinement, can bring about good architecture.

Some people would contend that producing good architecture is no bad thing to aspire to.

Unfortunately, your average architect with his big ego isn't going to be satisfied by such low goals and fuelled by enormous feelings of self-worth and with his critical systems disengaged, he's still going to be out there desperate to make his mark.

At least all of the above types, whether they're burdened by big egos or small egos, are passionate about architecture, the real damage is probably being done by the guys who just don't give a toss.

Probably better not to think about this too much, and anyway my doubts tell me that I could be completely wrong.
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby henno » Wed Dec 02, 2009 9:29 am

gunter wrote:. It's the big ego, craving attention, that fuels the creative driving force.
.


I find this hard to accept.

Great passion fuels the creative force.

Great passion can exist without ego.

Ego is detrimental to the creative force ..... there exists the ability to say "I am me" without being self serving and closed to others.
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby bitasean » Wed Dec 02, 2009 10:12 am

Balls to ego! It's hard work, late nights and pissed off loved ones that never see you that makes great architecture. As with most worthwhile achievments in life, it's the hard slog that counts and nothing else can take its place.
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Re: Do Architects have any power?

Postby PlanE » Thu Dec 03, 2009 7:21 am

To sum up, the answer to the question "Do Architects have any power?", most certainly the answer would have to be an emphatic Yes.

Now, I wonder how many people on here that is going to frustrate / displease / infuriate? :mad:
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