Evolving Roles of Architects In Society

With the tools, technology, and apps (e.g Room Planner, Homestyler Interior Design) available at everyone’s disposal, it seems like everyone can be a designer, or sometimes those without training in architecture & design want to be the designer — even your clients. Architects with training, view such, as frivolous and cause frustrations on what it takes to be a designer. Yet, put another way, some architects miss to see the evolving roles they play and can play in society.

At the recent Greenbuild 2018 conference attended by more than 5,000 architects out of 18,000 attendees, Amal Clooney, lawyer and humanitarian, underscored the impact one person can have — even without the help of government, in her Opening Keynote. During her Q & A with US Green Building Council President and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam, she said “…people should try to contribute in any way they can to the issues they are passionate about.” This is very true for architects. However, there is also a culture within the profession that think architecture is nothing but design and building stuff even though there is increasing evidence of architects taking on roles outside the “design and building” pathway to deliver architecture.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch architects have embraced “the idea that architecture can be anything done by an architect.” Some architects still hold on tightly to previously known notions about the “discipline of architecture” which is limited to “buildings”. This is a dangerous way forward. This will not advance architecture to transcendence. Instead, it will set it back. There are already many disruptors that are affecting the profession and practice such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), blockchain, etc. We as architects need to liberate ourselves from confining our roles to previously known ones, to remain relevant.

In my recent chat with San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, she reinforced one of the most important roles that architects can have in society: to uplift the underserved and vulnerable. One of the ways we can do this is by bringing quality architectural solutions on livable spaces.

Society has already great expectations for architects, “I think that architects are one of the best things that has happened to humankind. Why? Because you take an empty space and make it livable,” Mayor Cruz described.

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