Tuesday, May 15, 2012

WHO OR WHAT IS AN ARCHITECT?



ar·chi·tect  (ärk-tkt)  n.
1. One who designs and supervises the construction of buildings or other large structures.
2. One that plans or devises: a country considered to be the chief architect of war in the Middle East.
 [Latin architectus, from Greek arkhitektn : arkhi-, archi- + tektn, builder; see teks- in Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

architect [ˈɑːkɪˌtɛkt]  n
1. (Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Architecture) (Business / Professions) a person qualified to design buildings and to superintend their erection
2. (Fine Arts & Visual Arts / Architecture) (Business / Professions) a person similarly qualified in another form of construction a naval architect
3. any planner or creator the architect of the expedition
[from French architecte, from Latin architectus, from Greek arkhitektōn director of works, from archi- + tektōn workman; related to tekhnē art, skill]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

ThesaurusLegend:  Synonyms Related Words Antonyms
Noun
1. architect - someone who creates plans to be used in making something (such as buildings)
designer
creator - a person who grows or makes or invents things
landscape architect, landscape gardener, landscaper, landscapist - someone who arranges features of the landscape or garden attractively
Ithiel Town, Town - United States architect who was noted for his design and construction of truss bridges (1784-1844)
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.

architect
noun
1. designer, planner, draughtsman, master builder. Employ an architect to make sure the plans comply with regulations.
2. creator, father, shaper, engineer, author, maker, designer, founder, deviser, planner, inventor, contriver, originator, prime mover, instigator, initiator  the country's chief architect of economic reform
Quotations
"architect: one who drafts a plan of your house, and plans a draft of your money" [Ambrose Bierce The Devil's Dictionary]
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002

Translations
Select a language:
architect
n architect [ˈaːkitekt]
a person who designs buildings etc.
n architecture [-tʃə]
the art of designing buildings He's studying architecture; modern architecture.
adj archiˈtectural
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2010 K Dictionaries Ltd.
architect
Multilingual Translator © HarperCollins Publishers 2009



One of the main objects of the Architects Act of Queensland is: imposing obligations on persons about the practice of architecture by establishing a Board of Architects to undertake this task along with the associated roles it has been allocated.

The question is: if the Board of Architects of Queensland is controlling ‘architects,’ is it controlling one who ‘plans, devises and creates’ things other than buildings – like the architect of war or economic reform, as exampled above? Why not? Where in the Act does it define an architect in relation to building or any related activity? A search of the Act reveals two uses of the word ‘building’ in the context of ‘building and construction’ – on page 48, section 82, parts (e) and (f). This section relates to the membership of the Board. One lawyer and one construction contractor ‘with at least 10 years experience in the building and construction industry’ shall be members of the Board. Even so, the further question is raised: what is ‘building industry’? Does this encompass theoretical ponderings or actual building design, documentation and supervision? The official CPD form asks for activities to be scheduled under four titles: ‘Design; Documentation; Project Mgmt.; Practice Mgmt.’ This suggests building activity to those involved in this industry, but why can this list not refer to the design, documentation, and management of a war, or an economy? How can this scheduling embody teaching, tutoring, research, as it seeks to do, if it is supposedly so intimately associated with ‘normal’ architectural office practice? What about theorising and writing that might not be too different an activity to the efforts of generals and bankers? Is it a useful set of headings?

The definitions in the Act seek to clarify the meaning of ‘architect’ and ‘architectural services.’ In the typical circular obscurification of dictionaries, the Act defines a practicing architect as one who carries out, or is responsible for the carrying out of, architectural services. It then notes that architectural services means services about architecture ordinarily provided by an architect. An architect means a person registered as an architect under this Act. The Act defines a practicing architect as one who carries out. . . etc.

Strangely the Board also has the task of controlling non-practicing architects. The Board must be satisfied that the applicant will not carry out, or be responsible for the carrying out of, architectural services. This is a tricky one to think through. If one seeks registration as a non-practicing architect and pays the annual fee for this privilege - apparently to use the label ‘architect’ - the obligation placed on this person is to never practice. Gosh, why pay to be policed to do nothing? One would be similarly regulated if one practiced without being registered - for no fee. The outcome would be much the same. Indeed, what stops one being an ‘architect’ in the ‘plan, devise, create’ sense that everyday language is allowed to engage us in? Perhaps one might call oneself a ‘creative’ architect in this sense, and qualify the word as ‘landscape architect’ does? Why not? ‘Building’ does not have any relationship with the definition of architect, only with two of those appointed to be members of the Board. So what is an architect?


This all begs a question: with our language using the word ‘architect’ more frequently in a variety of ways with the sense of one who ‘plans, devises and creates,’ has the time come for the Act to be more explicit, or for it to be abandoned? The word ‘architecture’ has similarly become a fashionable way to describe things that have a specific organization or inherent structure, e.g. the architecture of a computer or of a corporation/society - even of desire and doom. Why? A humble object - the body - can have an ‘architecture’ - and an ‘architect’? Gosh, Federal budgets have ‘chief architects,’ suggesting a hierarchy of architectural involvement. How does the Board decide when to draw the line on the use of the word ‘architect’? If I chose to label myself a ‘hair architect’ (hairdresser) or similar (one has), why is the Board so careless about this? What is this latent understanding that buildings are - have to be - involved? The definition in the Act sees practice as being ‘about architecture’ but this word has lost any direct or necessary link to building. Indeed, the specific reference to building is becoming the odd one out in our current usage, turning it into the anachronism that architects, as traditionally understood, seem to have become. Why not drop everything? If the Board sees one of its roles as ‘protecting the public,’ then surely it has the obligation to clarify the use of the word ‘architect’ and ‘architecture’ and insist on this? Its’ proclaimed role in educating would seem to mean that it should be doing more about the different use of these words in modern language.


But no. New usage is ignored and things are managed in much the same manner as they were one hundred years ago when an architect was an architect, and architecture had to do with building. While it might not have been clear just how this relationship could be adequately described to everyone’s satisfaction, (see Pevsner’s and Ruskin’s struggles), architecture in Victorian times meant something to do with a building or buildings. An architect was one who was involved in the, yes, design, documentation, project management and practice management of architecture. Today, things are far more complex, not only in language, but also within the practice of architecture itself and its associated fields that are accommodating an ever-broadening range of specific roles within the varieties of experience in offices and elsewhere.

The board makes more complications for itself by trying to include under the term ‘architect,’ those who teach, tutor, research, manage staff, act in legal cases, advise corporations and governments, and more, as well as controlling those who do get involved in aspects of what we traditionally understand as practice - and those who don’t. It seeks to treat all architects as one, irrespective of the task, skill or experience involved – a novice graduate; a skilled, experienced practitioner; a college lecturer in architecture. It is a troublesome task because each, apart from the non-practicing group, is asked to select a CPD programme, (without the Board giving accreditation to any provider or specific guidance to the ‘applicant’), as might be best suited to the tasks and roles undertaken by the separate individuals, with everything being assessed by the Board to allow it to offer the registration applied for.

This diversity is so great that it seems almost impossible to manage with one standard chart and a formal set of broad guidelines. Who will overview this? What happens if one fails to impress the adjudicator? Do it all again - and again? Punishment? Is there a right answer? Can there ever be? Deregistration? Well, that’s a big one. Will the Board deny one the right to work - to earn a living with one’s training and experience, just because of - what? Where are the processes made explicit? How are the requirements for this diversity defined? Just what is right when one is asked to make one’s own assessments? What is the point of checking any involvement when each set of criteria to guide choices will be different? Consider the mature architect and the recently registered youth; the theoretical researcher and the specification writer; the professor and the office project co-ordinator.


The whole concept looks very ill-considered and naïve. It seems to lack true substance. Think of the academic who seeks registration under the experience and activity of, say, lecturing, also being the same person who is able to give seminars to other members of the profession to allow them to gain hours for their CPD chart. There is something strange and irrational here - out of control; self-referencing in the ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ sense: ‘I’ll teach/test you if you, or your mates, test/teach me.’

It would seem that to make sense of the idea, the whole concept of CPD should either be dropped or be taken over by the Board to take true responsibility for the profession and education by carefully organising, managing and promoting the sessions for required registration for the diversity that is this profession. Without such rigour, the whole affair is likely to fall into the language game that the word ‘architect’ seems to find itself in. Who will know what, when, where or how about any activity when it seeks to cover such a scope of interest? Who will be the architect of this strategy? Who has been?

But the Architects Act is far more forgiving in its guidelines for renewal registration than this blind drive for CPD recording suggests. Why has it been interpreted in such a restricted manner? Look at the detail. The renewal section, Division 4, Section 16, part (2) spells out:
The requirements (for continuing registration) may include requirements about the following:
(a)   the nature, extent and period of practice of architecture by the applicant;
(b)   the nature and extent of continuing professional development to be undertaken by the applicant;
(c)    the nature and extent of research, study or teaching, relating to architecture, to be undertaken the applicant;
(d)   the nature and extent of administrative work, relating to architecture, to be performed the applicant.

This is followed by part (3) which strangely reads like a summary out of context:
The requirements are satisfied by complying with the board’s continuing registration requirements for architecture.
It is pointed out that these are available on the board’s ‘website on the internet’ (where else?): www.boaq.qld.gov.au

Part (3) is indeed a puzzle, because it suddenly states, quiet bluntly, what the specific requirements for registration are, in spite of the four items listed in part (2) as (a), (b), (c), and (d). A re-reading of the published ‘requirements that may be included,’ seems to indicate that an emphasis has been placed on (b), with the demand that 20 hours of specific types of CPD involvement be formally recorded, with some suggestion that an academic involvement, as noted in (c), would be acceptable too, but without defining just how this might be measured. The requirements noted as (a) and (d) do not seem to have been given any recognition in the guidelines published on the internet.

The relevance and significance of the ‘nature, extent and period of practice’ is easy to understand. Its importance is self-evident. Just why this is not identified as having any role in the renewal of registration is an enigma. It is as much a puzzle as item (d) is. A quick check of the dictionary at the end of the Act gives no definition for ‘administrative work.’ What is this? Office filing? The guidelines do not make the concept any clearer, or give it any particular relevance. By ignoring both (a) and (d), large schisms are created in the requirements and processes spelt out for registration renewal that a simple review makes so obvious. ‘Architect’ is a term given to a very broad range of skills and experience within the building and construction industry and outside of it, and to a variety of meanings in numerous different contexts in our ordinary use of language. Seeking to manage registration renewal in such a limited, mechanistic, rational and ill-defined manner - by merely trying to measure CPD activity - can only create problems. Some will be linguistic matters, but others will occur because of the inherent specialisation of the interpretation of the Architects Act and the selectively narrow approach it has defined as being relevant to the renewal of registration. The Board of Architects should do better than this. After all, it is the body that should know who or what is an architect. It should be able to express itself unambiguously on this matter if it is to remain relevant and this must recognise the miscellany that architects and architecture have come to include - or perhaps it should go?

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." (Sign hanging in Einstein's office at Princeton)

8 JULY 2014
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