Promoting the architecture profession is protecting the architects

November 16, 2018 | By: Arch. Benjamin K. Panganiban, Jr., (first published in The Manila Times last November 14, 2018)

When I started writing on architecture a few months ago, some members of society and not so young architects asked this leadership why it is promoting the profession. They also wondered from whom this leadership is protecting the architects.

Their line of thinking seems to be way out of context from what I want to promote and why I want the architects protected. They don’t seem to understand that the world today is a changing, daunting, critical, digital and vicious one, totally different from the past.

This leadership is promoting the profession because the practice of architecture has now evolved from what society and these older architects used to know. So many years ago, architecture was as generic as vertical structures and residences. Back then, architecture was about manual drawings and the ability to speak and explain well.

Architecture then was simply about erecting an amazing structure eventually appreciated by clients upon turnover. It was respected by professionals from allied professions because it easily separated their works from what architects do.

Today, the playing field of architecture and its allied professions is totally different. To answer why I have to promote the profession is already moot and academic. But I still wonder why it’s not appreciated by a smaller segment of society and older architects who may be as jurassic as architecture.

Let me explain this better by citing how parents raise their kids in the mid-1950s to the 1980s. I am sure you will all agree that one word from the padre de familia or even from the matriarch of the house was good enough to keep our mouths shut. It was enough for us to be obedient and disciplined. Just a word from a parent would make children follow instructions.

Today, the living standards have changed. Parents and children compromise. The manner of bringing up children has evolved. Its totally different from the pre-war and post-war methods of raising kids.

And why is that? What has caused this change? The answer is around us. It is the changing environment that has set new standards of practice, way of life and upbringing.

As a student more than 30 years ago, my definition of architecture in the classroom was simple. For me then, architecture was the art and science of buildings.

Today however, that definition has changed. Architecture is now defined as an art, science or profession of planning, designing and constructing buildings in their totality, taking into account their environment in accordance with the principles of utility, strength and beauty.

Even the definition of “architect” has also evolved. An architect used to be a person who was qualified to design and construct buildings or vertical structures.

Now it is defined as a person who is professionally and academically qualified, a person registered and licensed under Republic Act 9266 or the Architecture Act of 2004, with a certificate of registration and professional identification card, responsible for advocating the fair and sustainable development, welfare, and cultural expression of society’s habitat in terms of space, forms and historical context.

Going to the meat of this piece in detail, I should say that first, architecture today is no longer only about vertical structures and residences. Now, it’s also about complex buildings inter-related to each other, involving the terrain and environment. It started to include all the other disciplines that will eventually produce a total package for the client.

In simple words, the architect’s work of today is not anymore in its singularity. Its now in its plurality, with a broader team of experts co-relating to the architect’s work, specializing in a certain field that will harmonize all professional works as one.

Secondly, today’s architecture is not only about manual drawings where skills are required. Because of the internet and all the different kinds of apps and computer wizardry, architects, instead of doing things manually, now do presentations digitally by using different kinds of programs such as auto cad, building information modelling or BIM, sketch ups and the likes that produce more refined drawings and stimulate the appreciation of the client.

This is where the older architects seem to be lost in the matrix of computerization and tend to employ the millennial architects who are adept at this kind of work. And yet, the older architects who are now stable in their fields of expertise don’t worry much because their communication skills still carry them through in the presentation. More importantly, they enjoy the trust and confidence of their loyal clients.

The beauty of architecture is that creativity is still the norm because it comes from the inner spectrum of the architect’s mind which cannot be duplicated by a laptop or another kind of professional not trained in this profession.

Thirdly, there is truly an advantage in the complicated and digital presentation of the whole project to the client in three-dimensional (3D) form wherein the client can appreciate even before the first stone is cast.

Imagine the satisfied client seeing the project completed, walking through all the rooms, offices, lobby, functional places, and its surroundings in 3D as if the building has been constructed. This is where the architect takes the client to the next level of excellence. He shows all the aspects of his presentation, which the client can see, move inside and around the project virtually as though it was a walk in the park. The client can even add his comments and suggestions at this level of presentation. He can refine ideas as he and the architect go along the way towards perfecting the project. This stage of presentation was never possible so many years ago.

I remember visiting the Apple’s headquarters in California, USA recently. The presentation of their headquarters looked like a huge spaceship in the visitors’ lounge. It was architecturally done. The headquarters impressed me and my group. Imagine looking at a monochromatic landscape model of the huge complex and its terrain, and then pointing an Ipad on it and out comes from the Ipad screen a colored presentation of what you pointed at, as though it is really complete with trees, and the monochromatic building structures in live form and colors.

Simply touching the Ipad with a finger can blast the roof off and bring it back so that one can see the inside of the buildings. Amazing!

Lastly, because of the advent of modern technology, the tools for the younger generation have been made easily available to them. In fact, almost all you need to know are in the Internet, which brings information right at your doorsteps. Thus, people tend to adopt things, work them out personally and even think it’s right to apply what they have learned.

The opportunity to do business has also changed the mindset of society, making a lot of people think they are good at it and even qualified to do things only regulated professional architects are capable of doing. This is where the younger generation of registered and licensed architects should exert efforts to protect their profession because what they practice can now be copied, adopted, and implemented by anyone including illegal practitioners of architecture.

Hence the need to protect the profession. And this is also true for other professionals and their profession. Even registered and licensed dentists, doctors, accountants, technical professionals, engineers and the likes are alarmed at the proliferation of illegal practitioners.

This is what modern technology has done to empower those not capable of doing the jobs that only licensed and registered professionals can perform.

And so this brings me back to the subject of promoting the profession and protecting the architects. As registered and licensed architects, it is our obligation to reeducate society about the roles and functions of architects, and what they do for society.

Architects have elevated their works to a higher level of excellence, showing to the public what architects can do. They can never be duplicated by other allied professionals or illegal practitioners.

Architects practice heritage conservation, forensic architecture, commercial and mix-use building plans and designs, high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, social responsibility projects for our less fortunate brothers and sisters, socialized housing plans and designs, liturgical architecture, regenerative architecture, design and build services, architectural research and evidence-based learning, hospital planning, tourism architecture, hospitality designs, material specifications, energy efficiency building plans and designs, cost efficient buildings, community and urban design, human settlements and many other specific expertise.

The United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) has launched an advocacy campaign slogan, “For your plans and designs, get an architect” which aims to stimulate and reeducate society. It aims to impress upon the community that there is a profession specifically performed by licensed and regulated architects and nobody else.

The safety, security, usage, functional and circulatory flows of mankind using the structure and the aesthetic components that make life habitable are the works only of these qualified professionals.

In short, promoting the profession IS protecting the architects.

The writer is the current national president of the United Architects of the Philippines and the first national president coming from Mindanao. He has been in the Private practice for more than 33 years and is a Fellow of the UAP. He is also the first Asean Architect and APEC Architect coming from Davao City. He is a graduate of B.S. Architecture from the University of Mindanao and is also a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects Singapore.)


Photo Credits