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Monday, February 9, 2015


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An architectural office is a city-state that competes with others for work. I have never had the impression that offices are very interested in sharing their competitive advantage, if it exists.

I have the impression that the architectural profession wishes to improve the public perception of its value in order to increase the work available to competing offices. This requires cooperation rather than competition.

At the risk of over-simplification, an office goal is to survive competition. A professional goal is to increase market share in an effort to protect the public interest.

It appears to me that the profession is struggling to develop an argument that will increase the public perception of its value in order to increase its market share, and has had difficulty achieving its goal by repeating the arguments of the past. It has also had difficulty defining research that will produce the tools and knowledge needed to improve this argument and the public perception that follows.

The Point

My point is that all must recognize the difference between practice goals and professional goals if they haven’t already. Professional goals improve the tools and knowledge that is shared by architectural practitioners. I agree that we must communicate with the public in terms they can understand. This is no different than a doctor talking to his patient, but it is a practice goal. The professional goal must be to improve the knowledge, education, tools and experience all practitioners can use to solve a problem of great public significance.

A medical analogy might help to make my point. The goal of the medical profession is to improve the tools, knowledge and treatment of injury and disease. The goal of a doctor is to successfully treat a patient with the education and experience provided.

In the case of architecture and city design, the problem is shelter within sustainable geographic limits without excessive intensity. This is the larger context that has great public significance, and the problem grows one project at a time in a pattern currently referred to as “sprawl”. A practitioner must be able to address a project. A profession must be able to address the problem before solutions can be found.

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