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What Does It Mean To Be A Citizen Architect?

What does it mean to be a Citizen Architect?

This is my latest installment for the #ArchiTalks series.

Have you been following along with #ArchiTalks?

About #ArchiTalks

Here’s the format: 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 at the end of this article.

What does Citizen Architect mean to me?

I come from a family of engineers, contractors and inventors. My parents and aunts and uncles are the products of southern sustenance farmers. It is my heritage but that is not the south that I am from. For most of my life the south has simply been a second home. It’s the reason I watch “The Walking Dead.”

I grew up watching “This Old House” on Saturday mornings with my Dad. Mom filled my summers with Frank Lloyd Wright tours around Chicago. Those were two of the main reasons I wanted to become an Architect.

Programs like the Rural Studio and anthems like “Design Like You Give A Damn” ignited my passion for architecture. Samuel Mockbee’s vision and dedication to Hale County, Alabama as a laboratory helped me bridge the gap between academia and Architecture and my heritage.


My journey is filled with contrasts. Architecture is filled with contrasts.

If you’re not familiar with Samuel Mockbee or the Rural Studio or “Citizen Architect” the film, here’s the trailer.

Contrasts … If you’ve been seduced by Sambo, drank the Rural Studio Kool Aid, then Peter Eisenman’s “challenge” must amount to blaspheme. That’s what I appreciate about “Citizen Architect” the film.

“Citizen Architect” tells the story of contrast; the contrast between the reality of Hale County, Alabama and “the real world.” The contrast between idealism and the reality described by Peanut:

“Architects design buildings for who? For wealthy people. They are not going to design anything for anybody like us! Those kids, they know it. And they say ‘what the hell do I need to know them for? They poor!’”

Where do Citizen Architects work?

I left the traditional practice of architecture (at least as most people describe it) quite some time ago. These days I spend my time working with architecture firms; helping them bridge the gap, helping them tell their story, explain the value that they bring to the world.

One of my favorite mission statements of recent memory includes the phrase: “we work where we are.”

Where do Citizen Architects work? Where they are?

I left the traditional practice of architecture without regrets because I believe that Citizen Architects are needed beyond the traditional practice of architecture.

We Need Architects

We need Architects to lead. We need Architects to lead School Boards and Corporations, Not-For-Profits and State Assemblies.

We need Architects to educate. We need Architects to teach our young people to collaborate, to see the big picture, to be problem solvers.

We need Architects to serve. We need Architects to serve our communities, our states and our nation on a board, in a chamber or in uniform.

We need Architects, whether in traditional practices acting as volunteers or outside the definition of a traditional practice, to be Citizens.

I know there are many in our profession who already fulfil the diverse roles of Citizen Architect but we need more. We don’t need more for the sake of architecture. We need more for the sake of our communities, our world.

I enjoy working where I am, in my community and playing a non-traditional role in our professions. It’s my small way being the Citizen Architect. How about you? Are you a Citizen Architect? What does that mean to you? Let me know in the comment section below. I’d like to hear from you.

The Rest Of The #ArchiTalks Crew:

In the meantime, here are some other great thoughts and explorations on the topic of Citizen Architect:

If you’re interested in joining in the #ArchiTalks fun for future posts leave a comment in the Speak Your Mind area below and I’ll make sure you’re including on the email chain going forward.

My goal is to start an open dialogue and let Architect of the Internet be a forum where we can all learn to have success in the business of architecture through Social Media.

About Jeff Echols

Jeff Echols is the creative Storyteller for Award-Winning architecture firms and the Social Media Campaign Manager for industry professionals. He is a graduate of Ball State University with over 20 years’ experience in the marketing departments of firms ranging from three to three thousand employees.

Jeff spends countless hours studying, developing and implementing strategies for insuring marketing success for Architects and other business owners in the online arena. He documents the good, the bad and the ugly in Social Media at Architect of the Internet and speaks about Conquering Social Media in venues ranging from the Board Room to the Convention Stage.


  1. Wonderfully stated Jeff! Also glad I caught the “scope” today!

  2. Stephen Parker says:

    If you’re looking for leadership in the profession, look to all the aspiring leaders that advocate for the National Design Services Act. Drafting, sponsoring and lobbying for a bill is far beyond the scope of most architects. Emcorage this engagement in the political process and advocate for the NDSA.

  3. “Working where i am” seems to be an important part of what defines a citizen, at least in the posts i have read so far. It can be so easy to wish for something better. But we really need to hunker down and work towards making what have what we want.

    • I like to think that if we respect ourselves and our homes and our communities first, we can eventually spread that to a broader community. Thanks for the comment. – Jeff


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