Have Architects lost their relevance?
I received an email from the AIA today urging me to contact my congressman and urge them to hurry up and pass healthcare reform. In the email it said that the AIA has not endorsed any particular legislation, but “…that America’s architects believe that the time has come for affordable, quality, health-care.” Isn’t this stating the obvious? Is there a single architect, or even a single person in the country who would disagree with this? What exactly am I being asked to do, and why?
This email is representative of how irrelevant the profession of Architecture has become. The best thing we have been able to muster as a profession in the last twenty years is to pass awards between ourselves, patting each other on the back in a narcissistic display of mutual admiration, while we artificially inflate the cost of construction and contribute through negligence and inaction to a credit addicted, responsibility defaulting and defunct societal trend. Even our “Walk the Walk” initiative was ludicrous. Sustainable design is an issue that had to be thrust upon us. Had we taken the initiative originally, maybe the process of designing green buildings would be much better today than it is, with a point system that forces the adoption of practices that are of questionable benefit and unknown cost. The only franchise that the profession of architecture has been able to claim is that of esoteric aesthetic effect, which is valued by the public so long as they don’t know what they are paying for it, and thanks to the pervasive use of AIA contracts, they don’t. But that is changing, and with it goes the value of the Architect to society. Our forefathers who lead the profession through the 70’s and 80’s allowed the Architect’s role in controlling construction cost to shift toward the contractors, who in turn became consultants rather than builders. Building is then left to sub-contractors who’s individual roles prohibit them from having a holistic view of a project, and who’s self interests prevent them from pursuing it. We let this happen, we helped it happen. Perhaps we deserve what we get.