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Tuesday, January 13, 2015


PLEASE SEE MY LATEST BOOK, The Science of City Design: Architectural Algorithms for City Planning and Design Leadership. The book offers a universal language to correlate the work of many isolated disciplines concerned with one issue: The provision of shelter for the activities of growing populations within a limited Built Domain that protects their quality and source of life - The Natural Domain. It is available from in both e-book and paperback.

I wrote this in response to an AIAKnowledgeNet discussion on repositioning the profession. It has been revised several times since this submission. The latest update has occurred around 9:05 AM on 1/16/2015. See Follow-up "Value-added Architecture".

The goal of medicine and law has been to improve the tools and knowledge used by its practitioners to protect the public interest. Architecture is perceived as serving private interest. It prepares a strategy to achieve an owner goal. Before you object, think about the struggle to accept building and zoning codes that protect the public interest. They have often been considered restrictions on creativity. Architecture needs a public goal before it can step into the same arena with medicine and law. A brief review of the architectural process will help set the stage for my repositioning comments.


An architect defines an owner goal with a programming effort, or asks the owner to provide a program of requirements. A strategy to achieve the goal is defined through a design and production effort. The result is a set of construction documents. They define a product that is a prototype. Bidding of contract documents produces an agreement to achieve a vast number of specified objectives with one or more contractors. These contractors are field commanders.

When a command strategy hits the beach in this military analogy adjustments are required to compensate for imperfect anticipation. The same is true for any prototype. In these circumstances a prototype strategy that hits the beach requires an adjustment budget. Every untested strategy requires adjustment. In automobile manufacturing this adjustment occurs before production at considerable expense. In architecture this adjustment occurs during production at minimal expense often referred to as a contingency budget.

Architecture is a prototype that serves a limited special interest. Its public benefit has been mandated but not embraced. An emphasis on public benefit will equate architecture to medicine and law, but this will require additional levels of awareness and expanded goals.


An architectural prototype is the responsibility of a practitioner, like a doctor’s responsibility to treat a patient. It is only an organizational responsibility when support to the entire profession is considered. This responsibility is to improve the tools, knowledge and concepts placed in the hands of a practitioner to improve the public benefit provided. I believe this distinction is at the heart of an architectural repositioning discussion. The question to be debated, in my opinion, is one of organizational goals and practitioner goals. I’d like to suggest five levels of awareness and four organizational goals that would involve repositioning.


1)      To recognize the presence of two worlds on a single planet: the Built Domain and the Natural Domain.

2)      To recognize that the Natural Domain is an unstable source of life in an infinite, unstable universe.

3)      To recognize that the Built Domain is slowly consuming the Natural Domain with design decisions that produce sprawl.

4)      To recognize that sprawl contains shelter capacity and intensity that is an aggregation of individual project design.

5)      To recognize that shelter capacity and intensity are physical conditions that require new measurement systems to assist and defend design decisions.

6)      To recognize that design matters because we must learn to live within geographic limits and function symbiotically. Form and appearance must follow symbiotic function. This is the message of hope from Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. It is a level of awareness that can lead to a Symbiotic Period. The period will be symbolized by its composition, context, capacity, intensity, function, form and appearance.

1)      To improve the design of shelter context, composition, capacity, intensity and symbiotic function for growing populations within a geographically limited Built Domain in order to protect their quality and source of life – the Natural Domain. The form and appearance of shelter will flower from the policies established.

2)      To improve the tools, knowledge and concepts needed to achieve the preceding goal.

3)      To expand private practice into the public domain and workplace by offering public benefit.

4)      To build a network (of professional organizations) to achieve the preceding goals through research, collaboration, education and practice.

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