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Cafe musings - Is Architecture a dying art ?

After another hiatus my ponderings are finally making it to print. It has been a busy few months at work with several very exciting projects under construction and a couple of new ones on the drawing board. However I am very mindfull of not falling into the trap again of simply doing the work and not thinking about how to generate new projects.

The current climate is particularly concerning for Architects, especially those, like me who specialise in Residential projects. While the past couple of years have been incredibly fruitfull with a bouyant market and low interest rates, the recent fall in house prices and a more conservative approach to lending by the banks has left a few of us considering our options.

As Architects make up a very small percentage of Building Designers in the Residential market our services are often seen as a luxury. Coupled with Home improvement shows like the Block and Websites like Pinterest, there are many home design experts out there. At a meeting at the Board of Architects recently I did question how Architects differ from Building Designers and the response was resoundingly positive in favour of our profession. The six year degree at University fosters a design thinking that is essentially solving complex problems, while the Registration process demands competancy levels well above those of any other design profession.

However I still do wonder, is Architecture a dying Art ? A recent article via Twitter confirmed all the professions that will no longer exist in the future. Architects were on that list. Along with Lawyers, Real Estate Agents and a huge assortment of jobs one could not imagine we could do without.

While there is certainly a chance of house design no longer needing the services of an Architect, every other building over Three Storeys is required by law to be signed off by an Architect. Officially they should be designed and documented by one too.

So does this mean we won’t have any new buildings over three storeys? I highly doubt that !

While accreditation and competency standards required by the Board of Architects may push the profession into an elitist categorary out of touch with the needs of our society, I see it quite differently. We are adding value in every situation. This is important not simply for now but for the future. It may not be true of every Architect, however this is the philosophy of those I know and respect.

My colleague Philip Graus, former Director of Cox Architecture and now director, Western City at the Greater Sydney Commission and Chair, North Sydney Design Excellence Panel wrote an excellent article recently in the Fifth Estate

So..... I wrote this article over six weeks ago and never published it. The questions I am asking are quite big and possible beyond the remit of the purpose of this blog, however they are incredibly important to our profession. Recent article on Twitter have questioned exactly how we value the role ofthe Architect, beyond merely telling a story and I guess that is where my resolve has ended.

Unlike other professions, ( Lawyers and Doctors for example ) it really does seem difficult to place a numerical value on the work Residential Architects do other than to say you will have a better designed home with a smoother process, saving you time and money. However that is not always the case and certainly doesn't seem to be the perception in Australian Society. Although it should be.

I think I could rample on this topic for a while, moving from houses to apartments and the percieved overdevelopment of Sydney. Also the neo-liberal state of affairs that means value is purely a monetary offering not an improvement to wellbeing or community. But I wont. We are a week and a half away from the summer holidays and despite two ill-fated Christmas Days I am positive that things will turn around.


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