Page 1

Robert J. ROSTRON 06067544

The Future of Architectural Practice

Manchester School of Architecture Professional Studies 16183501 1112 9


p. 2 4 6

Review Historical and Social Perception A Downward Spiral Today’s Truth and Reality

7 10 12

Critical Appraisal A Wake Up Call The Failings of the Institution The World of Academia

14 15 18

A Proposition Role of Education Re-brand and the Brand: ArchitectÂŽ Specialist, Merging & Networking Practices


To the Next Step...

21 23

References List of Figures

1 Howard Roark in The Fountainhead

“I am an architect. I know what is to come by the principle on which it is built. We are approaching a world in which I cannot permit myself to live. My ideas are my property. They were taken from me by force, by breach of contract. No appeal was left to me.�

H i s t o r i c a l & S o c i a l P e rc e p t i o n In front of a courtroom in a heroic closing speech, Howard Roark epitomises the image of an architect in Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead.1 Roark is a romanticised visionary standing up to traditional conventions in a struggle representing the triumph of individualism over collectivism. The revered nonconformist determined to realise his aspirations without compromising his artistic and moral integrity. Roark went on to design the tallest skyscraper in the world and became a celebrated icon of success. No doubt this image is one that still attracts so many to becoming an architect. Architecture is seen to be a noble profession that offers a wealth of opportunities in a variety of fields and provides emotional satisfaction, too. Etymologically, the word “architect” derives from the Greek arkhitekton meaning master builder. The profession has existed ever since the first human civilisation was created over 5,000 years ago, but under different names and guises. In Palladian times, the role of an architect was not a master builder as such, but rather a concept designer reliant on skilled craftsman to execute his schemes. The process of separating construction and design (etymologically deriving from designare which means to designate) was a gradual transition and really happened about 400 years ago. The name architect was invented about 300 years ago and the profession started forming its identity with John Soane setting the definition in 1788.2 However, the developments and processes of the construction industry in the 21st century are radically different from those existing in Soane’s times, yet the contemporary profession is still defined on the basis of 18th century ideals developed for operations in the 19th century.




A Downward Spiral In recent years, the omnipotence of architects has progressively eroded away and the professional role is more akin to a design specialist in a team surrounded by other experts in the architectural production chain. By acting as the bridge between vision and reality, it is only natural that architecture is limited to the practicalities of industry. As such, the profession is not one shaped by those who practise it, but rather one that has been defined by the conditions of the external world. It is located within the confines and restraints of the “construction industry that creates the context in which architects work.”3 It is society and market forces that define to what extent the independent professions are valued. In the modern era, the idea of commercial competitiveness has overtaken the independent advice of a competent consultant. The role as the ‘agent’ is disappearing. An external force that has had a large impact is to do with fee scales. The Office of Fair Trading implements the EU Competitions Directive that forbids all professional bodies to provide recommended or even indicative fee scales. The mandatory fee scales were abolished in 1982 and were replaced with recommended fee scales. These were withdrawn in 1992 and then the indicative fee scales withdrawn in 2003. It effectively triggered a ‘race to the bottom’ with architects cost cutting each other to generate business. Some, such as Richard Brindley,4 believe the fee scales never served the profession well anyway. As the demands of the design, procurement routes and services required by clients are becoming ever more complex, so the average fee scale for a typical job is far less relevant and applicable. Another factor affecting an architect’s fee is the volatile nature of the housing market and the variable property industry over the past three decades. There have been two major booms and busts, which have been correlated with the number of architects employed and their respective income.

To counter the depreciating value of the profession throughout the late 20th century, The Architect Act was passed in 1997, consolidating the enactments relating to architects, namely controlled registration and a code of ethics. Many feel this is outdated by today’s standard and has been a hindrance rather than an advantage. As even though architects are still free to hold other titles, it tends to foster the interpretation of the profession that concentrates on the building design as its sole function. This has been detrimental to businesses wishing to be flexible and integrate with others, especially during the present recessionary period. The perception of employing a traditional architect has been “marginalised as a luxury”5 rather than a necessity. Consequently, some practitioners have endeavoured to reinvent themselves rather than wait for the next economic boom. Some argue it is time to redefine the title and function of an architect and split away from a license to practice on the public, thus potentially opening up further opportunities and larger markets. With other professionals exploring new careers and inventing more precise vocational titles, architects have been left isolated and questioning their role and identity. One example being, with the introduction of new Construction Design Management (CDM) regulations for complex projects has given more control to specialists, such as project managers, that have absorbed what was once an architect’s responsibility. Also, with a greater social conscience regarding sustainability issues, new professions like sustainability consultants have been created ready to attract the market. As Gavin Elliott6 notes, the profession has been defined almost by default by others gravitating and operating in an architect’s sphere of influence.




To d a y ’s Tr u t h a n d R e a l i t y

What should be stressed is a seemingly obvious fact that we now live in a very different world, even compared to 20 years ago, and at times the pace of development can be overwhelming. By its very nature, geared towards shaping the future and coupled with the relatively time consuming construction process, the job of an architect is very susceptible to fragile economies, new legislation and modern technologies. With the current recession shifting the context in which architects operate being felt more than ever, the new model of practice is still adapting and changing its parameters. The Future of Architects outlines key forces that will direct and mould professional practice and architectural production over the next 15 years. Firstly, the world is increasingly becoming more urbanised and predictions are that 70% of the global population will be living in metropolises by 2050.7 This begs the question as to who will contribute to the future construction workforce and how they will demonstrate the value in cost, time and quality. Secondly, it highlights the limits of the UK market and the significance of oversees work, stating that infrastructure construction is forecast to grow “by 128% in emerging markets, compared to only 18% projected growth in developed markets.�8 Procurement and business models will

be drastically altered to accommodate the continued improvements in digital technologies with processes such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) as well as modern construction techniques and strategies. Furthermore, there is a greater awareness of the sustainability agenda and effects from climate change, the depletion of natural resources and new forms of energy which will inevitably govern professional operations that manufacture and construct the urban environment. The requirement and need for the production of architecture will, no doubt, continue, however how that service will be provided is one of the biggest questions facing the industry today. Whilst the profession has been and will continue to be heavily influenced by external forces, historically we can see that architects are incredibly flexible as they have proven to be experts in survival, constantly adjusting to future needs. Despite the negativity, these are exciting times to live in simply because they are so uncertain. Much like Howard Roark was in The Fountainhead, the new generation of architects have the chance to explore new realms of unchartered possibilities and fashion new paths for the profession by becoming innovators of their time.


A Wa k e U p C a l l

The profession is intrinsically intertwined with the economy. It feels the effects before they even happen. At the turn of the millennium, one can imagine gatherings of bald architects, dressed in black, with thick-rimmed glasses, on a high with the construction boom and drunk on the influx of capital. When the hangover set in and the depression hit in 2009, they must have awoken, scratching their heads, questioning their worth, rather perplexed on how it all went wrong. As Bruce Mau9 comments, the simple truth is that the majority of the world’s population find architects to be completely irrelevant and this has been a continual self-inflicted process. In previous centuries, architects have been arrogant in selecting their projects and how they operated. They rejected certain typologies and neglected mundane tasks that were seen to be beneath them. It was believed that wider society and clients didn’t value tedious responsibilities and services, such as cost and project management, but they are in fact now extremely sought after. A complete ideological shift is required and architects should see the current economic climate as a mechanism for “revolutionary possibility”10 in which the profession can fundamentally evolve its procedures with new models of practice in order to generate a greater service. Rather than being frustrated with external forces driving the profession, a more self-reflective perspective needs to be adopted, with change coming from within. The new generation of architects can only transform themselves in the manner in which they operate and appeal to society, as no one else will do this for them.


Philip Johnson

“Architects are pretty much high-class whores. We can turn down projects the way they can turn down some clients, but we’ve both got to say yes to someone if we want to stay in business.”

Critical Appraisal


T h e F ailings of t he Inst it ut ion Amidst the rapid urbanisation brought on by the industrial revolution, the profession was first consolidated with the founding of the Institute of British Architects in 1834, gaining royal charter in 1837. The Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) primary aim was for “the general advancement of Civil Architecture, and for promoting and facilitating the acquirement of knowledge of the various arts and science connected therewith.”11 Much of RIBA’s early work involved “formulating rules for fees, practice and conduct.”12 Today the RIBA has come under a lot of criticism as it is seen to be outdated and tries to layer on so many responsibilities that it inevitably hampers its effectiveness. Many feel the RIBA has failed to respond to the changing responsibilities of the architect. Judging by the RIBA website, it prides itself more on its impressive archive rather than pushing for the promotion of the architectural profession, even though the ‘A’ stands for architect and not architecture. As Jeremy Till notes, it appears to hide behind the mask of “public good” for “private gain.”13 Even when the RIBA attempts to introduce reform, such as with the recent overhaul of the RIBA Plan of Work, it neglects to consult with its general membership, preferring instead to communicate with “internal and external stakeholders.”14 It is one of the few institutions where in order to become its member you need acceptance from an entirely different body, the Architect’s Registration Board (ARB). The disassociation between the RIBA and those it is supposed to represent is further stretched considering the significant number of part-qualified professionals produced by the education system, who are formally outside the profession and yet still influence the built environment. 10

Critical Appraisal


The Wor ld of Ac ade m ia

The architectural system of schooling in the UK is seen to be one of the most intensive and respected courses on offer, not to mention one of the longest, too. It is one of very few degree courses combining the arts and humanities to develop transferable skills such as critical thinking and problem solving. As Ellis Woodman comments, an architecture degree has a wide creative scope and “gives students a grounding in art, science, philosophy, land use, sociology and communication skills.”15 A rise of 23 per cent between 2004 and 2009 in the number of students in the UK enrolling in part 1 courses shows there is still a strong appeal and value in an architectural education.16 Yet there is much debate that questions the merit of five years of schooling, with reduced higher education funding and increased tuition fees, plus a further minimum requirement of two years work experience to acquire a title with a relatively low salary and decreasing relevance. The image of the architectural profession is one caricatured as plausible and attainable for anyone, whatever his or her background. However, at a time when architecture needs to widen access and recruit the best talents to deal with the scale of the current challenges, the fear is “it could deter all but the wealthiest of candidates, and become more elitist than it has ever before.”17

Many believe there is an inherent disconnection between professional practice and academia that needs to be remedied in order to benefit the employability of graduates. With practice having to survive in the market place and be innovative to do so, many architecture schools are striving to find new ways to complement the changing realities of the construction industry and the world beyond. What also needs to be noted is that engagement with the industry is taking the form of many guises, and is not solely concentrated on studies in architectural schools. At the same time, the world of academia needs to fulfil one of higher education’s primary tasks by ensuring their graduates acquire the appropriate skills to be made employable and benefit any workforce in order to make a positive contribution to society. What is abundantly apparent is that the RIBA and role of education are still in the process of adapting to the changing demands of the profession, which is naturally governed by the context of its industry and market forces. The bond between professional architectural services and the academic process is imperative to solving the challenges of the construction workforce. Combined with the fact that the modern pace of change is so rapid, it makes for a very challenging future.


A Proposition


Role of Education

It is clear there needs to be a synergetic and more harmonious relationship between the worlds of academia and practice. It seems one ignores the other, whilst being well aware of the benefits. There are a number of practices that wish to tap into the educational system to employee graduates and use the academic context as the perfect vehicle to test and research concepts they would not normally have time or the resources for exploring. Likewise, making students of architecture more exposed to the professional world would only enhance their employability credentials, especially during economic times when any work experience is hard to come by. Furthermore, a greater integration of business modules and additional qualifications required to set up as sole practitioners upon graduation should be seen as the next progressive step for architectural education. For example, over 50% of architectural practices in the UK do not have a business plan18 and through education this can change.


Re-brand and the Brand: Architect®

If the architectural profession is to progress, architects need to realise that no one is going to legally protect their function and preserve their traditional practice of ‘designing buildings.’ Since the abolishment of mandatory fee scales created a freer and more competitive market, it has become obvious that the customer simply does not value what architects are already offering. In the current capitalist system, it is market forces that dictate prices and not the profession. Therein lies the fundamental problem, how to make the undeniable capabilities of architects more valuable to the consumer. Fortunately, architects are highly specialised in complex problem solving and creative thinking, two of the most critical skills that Forbes magazine believe will get you a job in 2013,19 so they are in the best possible position to enforce this change. The radical ideological shift that needs to be enacted is one from nostalgically yearning for the professional past to accepting the current realities and modern desires of the consumer and economy. Architects need to understand their target market, and only that way can they add value and showcase their integral worth.


Paul Iddon believes it is a question of brand and understanding the position and identity within the marketplace. First and foremost, architecture is predominantly a business-to-business enterprise. Appealing to the public is not necessarily a worthy strategy for larger practices and attempting to ‘educate’ society on the benefits of an architect is not a feasible solution either. Creative industries tend to get classified and are profitable in two areas, one being the attractive recognisable image they create and the other being the efficiency of their business. By understanding these factors, architects can brand themselves as something else entirely that matches their repertoire. Critical attributes, such as creativity, strategic thinking and practical ability, all extremely fundamental requirements in almost any workplace, need to be vehemently promoted. As Paul Iddon sums up, architects are “the most comprehensively trained strategic thinkers in the education system.”20 He believes they have a trophy chest laden with invaluable skills and expertise. All that is required is the know-how to open it and show its contents off to redeem some of the lost value and stabilise the state of flux the profession is currently experiencing.

Richard Buckminster Fuller

“You can never change things bY fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.�

A Proposition


Specialist, Merging & Networking What is clear is that professional practice will be radically different in the future. The construction industry is likely to be polarised into large and small firms, as medium sized design-led practices are under the most threat. The resilience to change will be personified in the small local practices that will continue much in the same vain by working for private clients with local builders. The medium sized practices, that are “less familiar and sophisticated in the commercial language,”21 cannot sustain their focus on expert design and continue to neglect cost and project management, meaning they do not have the resources to compete with larger firms and cannot rely on smaller projects to generate a lasting profit. The polarisation allows new models of practice to emerge and depending on which asset they choose to invest in it will create a new set of professional operations. By dismissing the image of the authoritarian master builder, architects can place themselves as specialist and expert practitioners dedicated to very specific and valuable services. If the Architect Act was to relinquish its control of the definition, it has the potential to provide liberation from traditional procedures and open up new avenues. As Paul Iddon suggests, the title of architect is a very powerful and an exciting brand.22 The definition of the title could be more generic and new licenses could be issued to those who wish to practice as independent practitioners to make the offer of a service. Other radicals have completely abandoned the title of architect. Jeremy Till, Tatjana Schnieder and Nilshat Awan already call themselves Spatial Agents and their project “presents a new way of looking at how buildings and space can be produced.”23 Other titles invented and already in circulation include ‘design houses’ or ‘studios.’ Traditional practice will dissipate into different smaller forms that can focus on functions such as planning advice, development consultancy, access provision etc. A more focussed approach will allow architects to

target their agendas to fit into specific realms of the construction world, no doubt having a beneficial impact on the urban and wider environment. For larger firms it is obvious that to continue to attract a larger clientele, they need to demonstrate a greater degree of integration to offer a range of in-house services. Companies such as Atkins, Arups and BDP already do and will continue to do this, by means of company acquisitions, mergers and lateral expansion. By encompassing all procedures under one roof, it creates a one-stopshop which makes the construction process more efficient and favourable to clients. Some companies go even further than the traditional designand-build procurement paths and offer post occupancy and facilitate management services too. Contractors play a pivotal role in the future of architects too, with over 50% of the construction value of architect’s workload likely to increase.24 These contractors are expected to expand into multidisciplinary businesses to operate under the Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) concept, and are likely to employ built environment specialists where architects would be in pole position. The forward thinking practices will utilise outsourcing and networking through reputable consultants. This will allow practices to strip down to bare minimum facilitating more efficient business operations and allowing them to be more nimble and durable to outlast recessionary periods. With a hardcore and highly skilled workforce, it would enable the networking practices to readily adopt advancements in technology and be more flexible to keep up to date with latest architectural developments. The appeal to clients would be that these practices could still advertise themselves as one-stop-shops, much like the potential of larger firms, but rather by a series of established networks already in place. 18

Wouter Vanstiphout

“If architecture can claim to solve problems, then it’s only logical that it can also be blamed.”


To t h e N e x t S t e p

The current economic climate has provided the perfect context in which architects can have a momentary reflective period and understand that they need to start valuing themselves more. This can only be achieved by understanding the market forces and the future requirements within the framework of the construction industry. Noble aspirations of making the world a better place will not make a difference if architects cannot make a living. The architectural education system provides one of the best platforms, but the skills that are developed need to be better publicised in order to make them more valuable to the wider world. The capacity of the architectural profession is clearly enormous, with its inherent potential to shape the future and be exceptionally rewarding for the new generation.


Bib l i o g r a p h y & References Ayn, R. (1943) The Fountainhead, Bobbs Merill, Indianapolis

The Future of Architects? (2011) RIBA Building Futures Report, p.21, retrieved 15 2 Kostof, S (2000). The Architect: Chapters in January 2013 <http://www. the History of the Profession. 3rd ed. London: Oxford University Press. loads/The_Future_for_Ar p.194. chitects_Full_Report_2.pdf> 1


9 Robinson, D. (2011) The Future of Archi Mau, B. (2011) You Can Do Better, Architect tects? RIBA Building Futures Report, Magazine Online, retrieved 17 Janu- p.4, retrieved 15 January 2013 <http:// ary 2013 <http://www.architectmaga downloads/The_Future_for_Archi can-do-better.aspx> tects_Full_Report_2.pdf> 10 Mau, B. (2011) You Can Do Better, Archi- 4 Brindley, R. (2012) Why doesn’t the RIBA tect Magazine Online, retrieved 17 provide fee scales? BD Online, January 2013 <http://www. retrieved 15 January 2013 <http:// you-can-do-better.aspx> why-doesn%E2%80%99t-the-riba- provide-fee-scales?/5041284.article> 11 RIBA. (2011). Charter and byelaws. Avail- able: 5 Williams, F. (2011) On the profession, The TheRIBA/AboutUs/Ourstructure/ Architect’s Journal, 13th January Constitution/CharterandByelaws. 2011, vol. 233, no. 1, p.33 aspx. Last accessed 9th April 2013. 3

12 Elliott, G. (2011) Building Futures Debate: RIBA. (2011). Our history. Available: http:// The Future of Architects? Transcript, retrieved 15 January 2013 AboutUs/Ourhistory.aspx. < Last accessed 9th April 2013. assets/downloads/ The_Future_for_Architects_Tran 13 Till, J. (2009) Architecture Depends. p.153- script_Manchester.pdf> 4. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 6

14 The Future of Architects? (2011) RIBA Newall, M. (2012) “No.” Is the RIBA Right Building Futures Report, p.1, retrieved to Overhaul the Plan of 15 January 2013 <http://www. Work?. BD Online. Retrieved 17th January 2013. <http://www. loads/The_Future_for_Ar chitects_Full_Report_2.pdf> debate/is-the-riba-right-to-overhaul- its-plan-of-work?/5045665.article> 7


Woodman, E. (2009). Charting the changes Kernel, Manchester Metropolitan in architectural education. University on 6th November 2012. Available: http://www. 21 The Future of Architects? (2011) RIBA changes-in-architectural- Building Futures Report, education/3145939.article. p.1, retrieved 15 January Last accessed 8th April 2013. 2013 <http://www.buildingfutures. 16 The Future of Architects? (2011) RIBA The_Future_for_Architects_Full_Re Building Futures Report, port_2.pdf> p.36, retrieved 15 22 January 2013 <http://www. Iddon, P (2012). Architecture and Be yond, lecture notes distributed loads/The_Future_for_Ar in the topic 1D7Z0804_1213_9Z1F. chitects_Full_Report_2.pdf> Kernel, Manchester Metropolitan University on 6th November 2012. 17 Hunter, W. (2012) Alternative routes for 23 Architecture, Architectural Review Awan, N, Schneider, T & Till, J . (2011). Online. Retrieved 17 Janu- Spatial Agency. Available: ary 2013. <http://www.architectural- Last> accessed 8th April 2013. 15

24 The Future of Architects? (2011) RIBA The Future of Architects? (2011) RIBA Building Futures Report, retrieved Building Futures Report, 15 January 2013 < p.1, retrieved 15 January 2013 <http://www. The_Future_for_Architects_Full_Re port_2.pdf> loads/The_Future_for_Ar chitects_Full_Report_2.pdf> 19 Casserly, M. (2012) The 10 Skills that will get you hired in 2013. Forbes Online. Retrieved 17 January 2013. < sites/meghancasserly/2012/12/10/the- 10-skills-that-will-get-you- a-job-in-2013/> 18


Iddon, P (2012). Architecture and Be- yond, lecture notes dis- tributed in the topic 1D7Z0804_1213_9Z1F. 22

List of Figures

p. 1 Howard Roark in the Fountainhead McKinley Burkart, (2013), Howard Roark in Fountainhead [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www. [Accessed 09 April 13].

p.11 Architects’ Revolutionary Council Spatial Agency, (2011), Architects’ Revolutionary Council [ONLINE]. Available at: http://www.spatialagen architects.revolutionary.council.arc [Accessed 09 April 13].

p.3 If Crime Doesn’t Pay... Where do Archi- tects get their Money? p.13 Richard Buckminster Fuller Architectural Association, (2013), Alvin’s Space Laboratory, (2012), The Architect’s Revolution Richard Buckminster Fuller [ON ary Council [ONLINE]. Available at: LINE]. Available at: http://blogs. saschina. aalife/library/arc.pdf [Accessed 09 org/waihei01pd2019/2012/02/02/ April 13]. richard-buckminster-fuller/ [Accessed 09 April 13]. p.8 Philip Johnson ArchiModels, (2013), Philip John p.19 Wouter Vanstiphout son with the AT&T building [ON TU Delft, (2009), Wouter Van LINE]. Available at: http:// stiphout first Professor of Design and Politics [ONLINE]. Available at: post/26820015060/c-philip- johnson-at-t-building-new-york-usa latest-news/article/ [Accessed 09 April 13]. detail/wouter-vanstiphout-eerste- hoogleraar-ontwerp-en-politiek/ [Ac p.9 Repressive Insensitive Brutal Arrogant cessed 09 April 13]. Architectural Association, (2013), The Architect’s Revolution ary Council [ONLINE]. Available at: aalife/library/arc.pdf [Accessed 09 April 13].



Manchester School of Architecture

This is part of the submission for the Professional Studies course at MArch (Hons) level at the Manchester School of Architecture and was formally submitted on the 16th April 2013.

The Future of Architectural Practice  

This is part of the submission for the Professional Studies course at MArch (Hons) level at the Manchester School of Architecture and was fo...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you