“Think about the last time you broke a rule (a big one, not just ripping the tags off your pillows). Were you burned, or did things turn out for the best?”
In the United States, and most developed countries, it is illegal to call yourself an Architect (yes, with a capital A) unless you have been licensed by your state of residence or another state through reciprocity. It is also technically illegal to practice architecture without a license in most states. I say “technically” because most states do not require an Architect’s stamp on all projects, mostly residential, and there’s some other fuzzy language in most statutes that allows you to practice “design” in the realm of “architecture” without being licensed.
All that to say I technically break the law every day just by operating this blog and doing what I do best – architecture. And I’ve talked long about my problems with the licensing process and my distaste for the AIA and other “professional organizations” that do little more than take your money for the honor and privilege of putting “AIA” at the end of your name on your business card. Ugh, give me a break.
Now, in my daily activities, the question of whether or not I get burned or skate through unscathed….well, that’s a question of degrees. You, see I go through great pains to make sure that I do not advertise myself as a licensed architect. It gets into very complicated explanations with potential clients that have no reason to know about the licensing process and the legal hoops and hurdles of gaining “the title”, but nonetheless I do my best. This has led me to a degree of both success and failure. I’ve both lost and won projects because of this. Some of the projects that I’ve been fortunate enough to work on have been incredibly exciting (look for the LA Modern post coming soon) and others were just small design exercises that brought in a decent fee and kept me moving forward. All careers are filled with a mixture of these.
But, the moral of this little tale is that laws are created to ensure a baseline of public safety. But Architects (with a capital A) have fallen into a very unfortunate attitude of elitism that quite frankly makes me sick. I read a study, and posted recently, about the fact that only about 3% of the total residential construction done in this country had an Architect involved on the project, and even fewer of those had the same Architect involved all the way through construction. That to me is a complete failure of not just the profession but the legal system as well.
If Architects want to take a larger piece of that pie they need to realize that the 97% of residential clients out there are in the same kind of income bracket as we are – middle class. And, if most Architects can’t afford to build their own “dream home” while paying an Architect 9-12% of the construction budget, what makes you think the other 97% of clients can?
In this day and age of technology and rapid communication across a wide range of tools and softwares, the laws be damned. Architecture needs to change.