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Dear Architect: what would you say you do here


At my first full time architecture job, I used to watch Office Space every morning before heading to work. I was a lowly intern. It was not a busy time for architects. I was not happy. I really liked my immediate coworkers, but the guy who was in charge of me…well that’s a story for another time. At one point in my life I could quote every line in that movie. Almost. But today, the line I want to discuss is this one:

“What would you say you do here”

That entire scene is great, but I can’t find it online. You either remember the scene, can go rewatch it because you own that movie,  or should do yourself a favor and buy it. It’s so good. The heart of the scene brings to mind one of the plights of the modern architect. What is it that we do that makes us special? What is it that we do that makes us uniquely qualified to separate ourselves from other designers? Why do we get to have a license and they don’t? Yes there’s education, experience, and exams. But someone without tests and schooling can be just as experienced and knowledgeable. Or more so.

I really don’t have any answers to this question (not in this post at least). Both licensed and unlicensed professionals can be ethical or unethical, experienced or not, smart or dumb, good or bad value…what separates those with a license? A license doesn’t confer special knowledge. Perhaps licensure should happen right after school just like with doctors and lawyers. If everyone could get licensed right out of school, that might clean up the confusion surrounding those who dedicate their lives to the design of buildings.

What do you think? Should the AREs be taken as part of graduating from a professional degree program? Would that stress be too much for young students focused on design? Is that part of the problem: that school is too much about design and not all the other topics we need to pay attention to as architects? Or is there something else about the current status quo that makes sense. Something that really separates architects from non-architect building designers—other than that we took some tests, document our continuing education, and pay some fees?

Bonus Thought:

Here’s an interesting blog post that looks at another aspect of this issue. It raises a great question: Who benefits from not requiring all buildings to be designed by a licensed architect?

Subscribe to my blog to read more about the tricky world of being an Architect in the 21st century: Shoegnome on FacebookTwitter, and the RSS feed. It looks like my blog has entered that mature phase of semi-infrequent posting. I’m sorry. It’s probably  just temporary. I do find it humorous that my favorite ArchiCAD blog went dormant for three and a half years while I grew Shoegnome. And now that Onland.info is posting again, I find myself too busy to write as much as I’d like. Never fear, I’ve got too much to share to let this slow period last long. After all my current backlog of half written posts sits at a little over 200. So yeah, plenty to share.


  • July 6, 2016

    Sanju Maharjan

    Dear Jared Banks,

    Why don’t you post anymore? 🙁 🙁

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