I know many people that will read this article are Architects, so for them the thought of a future without Architects may be unimaginable.
But what about non-Architects. What would the world be like if there weren’t any more Architects? Would you even notice?
Last week, I traveled to Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning. In talking to some of the faculty in charge of admissions to the Masters of Architecture program, I learned that student applications are down as much as 25% nationwide.
Let’s do a little math.
If we assume that a 25% reduction is a trend and not an anomaly, how long will it be before no one applies to be accepted into architecture school? The answer is about 15 years.
Will There Be Architects In 15 Years?
Sometimes when I’m invited to speak to groups of Architects I’ll tell the story of 13 men that got together in February in New York City. You’ve probably been in a similar meeting.
Everyone talks about what’s going well and what’s not. You share experiences and advice.
The main topic of discussion amongst this group was that they were having trouble selling the value of their work and that other professions were using their words; the words they used to describe themselves and their work.
The punchline that many of my audiences don’t expect is that those 13 men gathered together in February of 1857 (not 2016) … and they were Architects. Nearly 160 years later, we’re still having the same discussion.
How many organizations or industries can you think of that survived 160 years while not pivoting to overcome fundamental challenges?
Kodak? Blockbuster? The recording industry?
Obviously the decline in enrollment in architecture schools and difficulty selling the value proposition of architects are complex issues, but I’d like you to think about a key factor at the core of the overall problem: relevance.
Are Architects Still Relevant?
Every week, I have conversations with Architects that want their prospective clients to know all about their latest awards and their collaborative approach. Every week, I tell Architects to put themselves in their prospective clients’ shoes.
I tell them to think about the first thing those clients worry about when they wake up in the morning.
I’ll bet it’s not finding an award winning Architect that takes a collaborative approach to architecture .
We Are In A Free Market.
The market doesn’t care about awards. The market doesn’t reward legacy or capacity or collaboration. The market doesn’t discriminate for or against all those things you list on your About Us page.
The Market Rewards Relevance.
Is your work, your knowledge, your experience, your expertise, your location relevant TO ME? Yes or No?
For a generation, programs like Rural Studio, DesignBuildBluff and The Design Workshop have championed works in communities most architects wouldn’t touch with that proverbial 10-foot-pole.
They are projects of the utmost relevance to their communities, yet they’re just blips at the edge, maybe even off most people’s radars.
Are We Prepared To Pivot?
We’re frustrated because we’re losing market share to Engineers and drafting services, even home builders.
We fight licensure issues against Interior Designers and lobby to block information technology fields from using the term Architect.
Yet, initiatives like Charrette Venture Group’s “Architecture Business Plan Competition” and Equity by Design’s “Hackathon” are paid little heed and leant little support.
We can argue professionalism, education and training wall we want … isn’t that what the Unions argue?
We can talk about design thinking, quality of life and #ilookup all we want, but if we can’t prove our relevance are we destined to fail?
From Rural Studio to Hackathon, these are all efforts that fall outside the realm of the traditional model of architectural practice.
As I watched Todd Reding announce the 5 finalists for this year’s Architecture Business Plan Competition and I listened to Rosa Sheng plug this year’s Hackathon, I wondered:
‘If we ignore or dismiss these opportunities; if we don’t support, encourage and even increase the number of these opportunities, are we destined to go the way of Kodak?’
If Architects can’t prove their relevance, are we destined to a future without Architects?
This is my latest installment for the monthly #ArchiTalks series.
Every month, someone (usually Bob Borson of Life of an Architect) throws out a topic and a growing number of us in the architectural profession wax poetic (more or less) on the subject.
You can find a complete list of everyone participating in this month’s #ArchiTalks challenge below.
Did you miss last month’s articles? My latest contribution was “The Best Tool In Your Toolbox”
Here’s the rest of this month’s #ArchiTalks Crew and their riffs on ‘Architecture and …’:
Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM): Architecture and Photography
Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti): architecture and __
Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC): Architecture and Travel
Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent): Architecture and Storytelling
Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect): architecture and integrity
Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect): Architecture and Gaming
Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome): architecture and m&ms
Rosa Sheng – EquitybyDesign [EQxD] (@EquityxDesign): Architecture And the Era of Connection
Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel): #ArchiTalks 18: architecture and… the bigger picture
Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA): Architalks 18: Architecture and Mathematics
Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar): Architalks 18: Architecture and … Parenting
Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX): Architecture and Yoga
brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA): Architecture and Ego
Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley): Architecture and Ego / The Architect’s Unique Struggle with ‘Good’ Design
Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge): Architecture and Kids
Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia): Architecture and More
Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept): Architecture and the Myth of the Master Builder
Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory): Architecture and Real Estate
Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum): Architecture and Interior Design
Samantha Raburn – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch): Architecture and Wrestling
Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong): Architecture and Children
Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign): Architecture + Memories
Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch): [#ArchiTalks 18] Architecture and Strange Travel Etiquette
Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey): Architecture and…my Generation.