Seen pragmatically, an institution is not only a building but a network of people, who are full of ideas, and there are numerous possibilities and opportunities. Architecture education must teach its graduates that their designs are much more than just cultural and social ‘engagement’ projects. In the real world, the design is no longer about the appearance of objects, rather it is to be understood as a tool for planning and producing the desired outcome. Architecture is always connected to social justice and affects people’s lives. Architectural schools should be more accommodating, promote informed generalism, and encourage intellectual forums and be equipped with state-of-art workshop facilities for prospective future architects, inventors and others who wish to attend the school for 7 minutes, 7 hours, 7 weeks or 7 months – not just those who wish to attend the school for 7 years. (Adapted from ‘Architecture Schools should be dissolved unless…’ 2011, a debate hosted by SUAS (Sheffield University Architecture Society).
The predicament of emerging architects, who are facing challenges, such as, debt-laden education, job insecurity, lack of practical skills, self-centred work culture, etc. are also of prime consideration in ascertaining the significance of architect-client relationship in architectural education. According to a survey in 2005, only 2% of architects in Britain were ‘very’ happy with their jobs, scoring the last of 30 professions surveyed (City and Guilds Institute, London, Happiness Index Survey). A recent study by (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) in America has reported that ‘architecture and engineering professionals ranked fifth most likely to commit suicide, compared to those in other jobs’ (McIntosh et al. 2016).
The conventional process of doing architecture practice has become obsolete (according to one of the RIBA report) when the internet and digital technologies have become an integral part of our daily lives and our intellectual capabilities.
Conferring to data published by RIBA in 2013, the domestic clients constitute 52% of the micro practice client base (less than 5 architects) and 34% for the overall architecture practice in the UK. These figures would be even more confounding in other parts of the world, given the lack of legislative and regulatory constraints imposed by professional institutions. As such, growing concerns about the disparities among architects and clients have initiated multiple debates within the professional institutions. In September 2015, a roundtable discussion, organised by RIBA, reported a series of findings, which suggested that:
“Many architects lack the people skills needed for collaborative working. Some architects need a cultural shift to adjust to flat management structures. Clients are, in most cases, keen to see architects step forward to lead the vision. [Digital technologies] offers a fresh opportunity for the architects to re-establish their role leading the vision. Architects need to be business savvy, demonstrating an awareness of how to deliver value” (RIBA Client Liaison Group report).
The phase of making an architect of a student, a time when the personality is moulded, is not adequately endorsed either by architectural education or by the practice, that expects both, practical skills and sound knowledge.
Through these posts (scenario-statements), I hope to initiate a progressive discussion to highlight the importance of architect-client relationships for emerging architects. Normally, we only hear about the architect’s viewpoint, in journals, publications, and blogs, etc., therefore in these statements, I purposefully consider clients as the most significant stakeholders in a private residential project, towards whom architecture as a discipline, has been less considerate.
Your participation will be greatly appreciated! Please feel free to offer your opinions based on your experiences with architects, clients, architectural education / professional practice by participating in this discussion. There are no right or wrong answers, as everyone can have their own incidents to reflect from.
Although this will be occasionally felt by the reader, through these statements, the author does not intend to adopt a position of advocacy for the clients or the architects. It is simply an attempt to articulate a viewpoint to stimulate productive dialogue.