If you've been on any social media site in the last few months and are an active member in any architectural community, you probably have noticed "the debate" is getting bigger and bigger. "The debate" I'm referring to is the one of the proper use of the word "Architect". Gaining fuel since mid-fall, the arguments have grown more tense and have provoked several bloggers and journalists to pose the same question to the masses. Who has the right to be called an architect?
What is an 'Architect'?
So who does have this (seemingly) God-granted right to call themselves an "A"rchitect? Is it illegal for someone who isn't licensed to call themselves one (much so like a doctor posing false accolades) and should there be repercussions for introducing yourself as an architect when you're really still just drawing toilets? There have been a wide variety of answers thus far and some have been very relevant while others seem to scoff at those silly architects who take their career and profession seriously. But this should be no laughing matter, we should be taken seriously (for the record, I am only an Associate AIA) because our education and testing requirements are just as stringent and actually more lengthy than many other fields which are very well-respected. It's time that we settle this debate once and for all, making the Architect actually feel good about choosing his profession and taking it seriously.
Do a quick job search on a site such as Monster for "architect". What comes up for a person searching for a job in the building industry ranges from "software architect", "senior platform architect" and a range of other titles that have meta-tagged their way into your search query. That poor young professional now has to shift his focus to understand that most architecture firms won't post jobs, you just have to stick your neck out and send your things in cold (or warm if you dare call or wander into their offices). This title is increasingly becoming more relaxed and used by a variety of different professions in what seems like a crude attempt to compare their jobs to a person who oversees one of the most complex creations of our world; a building. When the term "architect" was first coined, it was known as a person who dealt with built environment. Today that person who has architect in their name very well may be a nurse, a software junkie or even a fast food architect who builds the best burger you have ever tasted.
For the sake of maintaining our credibility and dedication to the built environment, I suggest the AIA and like entities forge the title "architect" as a title equivalent to "MD" or "DDS". No, we may not be surgeons saving somebody's life on an operating table, however we still uphold public safety and well-being with our stamp of approval. People loosely using the title both in and out of the profession may not realize their misguidance on the proper titles of an RA or an intern architect but by making the title carry more clout could have a profound impact on the discipline. Architects (interns and licensed) may be egotistic or self-absorbed at times but it is due to the increasing number of people calling them out for being - for lack of better words - useless. Other professions in the building industry still have trouble respecting architects because of their different approach to similar problems. The increased amount of criticism and hardships placed upon the profession drives newcomers away and defiles a group of professionals that do a job not many others would do for so little return (monetarily).
While this debate is still stirring and the community determines if there should be actual laws implemented to stop those who are not licensed from calling themselves architects, it is worth it to point out that one does not even need to get licensed. Many designers (some very famous ones too) have chosen a path of non-licensure and it has worked just fine for them. Honestly, it may work better for some people, especially those who are more concerned with research, theoretical or experimental architecture. If you are not licensed, however, it is not accepted to call yourself an architect. Maybe to combat this we can coin another phrase besides the lewd "architectural intern" so somebody such as Renzo Piano doesn't have to feel like the always belittled intern*. But in all honesty, just as Mark LePage once said, "Be better" and "Stop fighting the use of the term 'architect' and start creating value".
*Note: interns are really great at learning, so hire one!