I Am Not An Architect

While I still maintain that I am not an intern , I legally also am not an architect. Even after "practicing" the art of architecture for over six years now, I am nowhere near being an 'architect' and am confident in saying I still have a lot to learn before even thinking about testing. What's interesting, however, is the new push for (and endorsement of such methodology by NCARB) graduating from school with a license. Last week, NCARB released a firestorm when it notified the general public of it's plans to begin researching avenues to get students licensed quickly and before they even graduate-or as they graduate, if you will. With an all-clear from the overseers of licensure in the United States, the plan is to have an initial program initiated for use by a pilot school in the next five years. After that, the title of "Registered Architect" suddenly will lose a whole lot of clout and the general Architect population will lose much experience and knowledge as a whole.

The Complexity of Architecture

Architecture is hard. Being in school and excelling in the practices of 'architecture' are much different than being in an office and excelling in the practices of Architecture. School is necessary to teach the theoretical and conceptual side of design, especially after seeing such drab buildings shape the beginning part of the 21st century. School is meant to learn the fundamentals of design and practice, the stuff you won't get a chance to learn once you're out making real buildings and focusing on the fact that sky-hooks don't, as a matter of fact, exist. What school never was intended for (at least as it seems with the current NAAB-approved curricula) was learning every little bit of how architecture is practiced in reality. Although this actually may be a problem when faced with the harsh realities of practice, it's simply how the pedagogical process has been formatted. While I do agree incorporating more of the everyday-practice into education would be beneficial, earning a license after only five years of the abstract is simply absurd. In a previous post , I expressed my discourse with the current systems in place for learning architecture. Too far removed and conceptual, however still necessary in becoming a good designer and valuable practitioner. I still uphold the statements I made in that post, however the attempts to make the long process of becoming licensed happen while getting a B.Arch is almost crazy talk.

Schooling for this field may cover anywhere between 10-25% of the things you need to know to be prepared to sit for an ARE. Most schools lay somewhere in the middle of the percentage group, while select few teeter on the higher end (technical schools and some of the larger universities such as USC and Michigan have been noted for their exceptional technical courses and education). It's impossible in a five - even six - year span to learn what is necessary to effectively call oneself an Architect. What really defines a person who is prepared for examination and practitioner of being an RA is experience, something sitting in a studio working on conceptual (albeit really, really cool) projects will not necessarily get you. Incorporating experience into school to shorten the period after school before sitting for an exam makes more sense, but expecting a 5-7 year period to fully foster the brain of an RA is asinine.

School Is For School

Whether or not the system in place is correct (but definitely leaning toward the "or not"), it still serves its purpose to introduce students to the practice of architecture. Long, arduous nights in the studio mixed with juggling other classes, social life and daily hygiene are already hard enough for most B.Arch candidates. Throwing in an additional requirement to work in an office while doing everything required for school seems a bit much. It was tough enough for many, myself included, to even juggle a campus job. Work requirements and the entire design process took up a lot of time, add in an internship and suddenly the complexity grows exponentially. Envisioning a practice-based addition to the B.Arch curriculum may add too much to fit within a 5 year period, even 6 years at that (note that the initial number of years has arbitrarily set to 7, a program that reflects co-ops already in place). To effectively gain the knowledge to graduate with a B.Arch and an RA, one must have 5600 hours of experience in an office as well as minimally 5 years of education (which many are now saying isn't enough). Right there, you're looking at 10 semesters of school and roughly 2 years and 9 months of full time work experience. Let's say these time periods were all pushed together, eliminating breaks and holidays, this is roughly a 6 year and 1 month time period to complete everything. By that point in time, the student will have burned out and possibly perished from overwork.  Working summers at an internship is one thing, but over-consumption of a student's time and removal from the more exciting things in life is just torturous.  

It's great that NCARB is looking at alternative ways to get students licensed, but this really doesn't feel like the right solution.  It seems as if they're only trying to make it more marketable to younger students looking at what they want to do with their lives.  The process could use some revamping, however throwing a barely experienced kid RA into the practice of architecture doesn't seem to be the best idea in my mind.  Instead, let's look at fostering more real-world knowledge in the pedagogical processes, extend the number of years of school to six and incorporate mandatory internships into those six years.  This would shorten the time after school to licensure as well as grant students a better idea of how the world of architecture works without giving them a stamp right out of the gate at graduation.  

Final Thoughts

This whole thing has a smell to it.  A money smell, you say?  Could NCARB effectively increase its profits tenfold by creating an easier avenue for licensure?  Could they create a bigger 'need' for their services to aid in the growing number of  unemployed and out of work graduates?  While I'm not fully accusing of NCARB of doing this for money, I am a bit suspicious they'd think this was an accessible route after so much backlash in the past couple of years regarding the lack of knowledge graduates have.  What has made architects good to this point was the ability to be well-rounded.  Having a solid education (with blends of conceptual and technical) mixed with the practicalities of the profession leads to a more holistic understanding of what Architecture is.  By letting mere - this word hurts, but I think is necessary to drive home the drastic changes that have been proposed - interns stamp drawings and uphold the safety and well-being of the general public is scary.  It's watering down the talent and knowledge-base of those practitioners who have had the well-rounded experiences thus far.  Once again, the system does need many changes, I can't really say what exactly but being a recent graduate and now a practitioner in the field of Architecture, there are inefficiencies in how we are trained.  I'm calling NCARB out to think more seriously about the implications this type of system could have not only on the profession but the quality and rigor of work.  Experience breeds understanding and knowledge education could never fully bring to such a hands-on field.  So what can be implemented as an in-between for this never-ending debate?  How is it that as of now I'm only an intern but two extra years of school could make me an Architect?  This whole thing seems a bit cretinous to me. 

Please weigh in below, this is our future at risk right now.