Is Architecture Dead?

Is Architecture Dead?

I was sitting in the office of a lawyer the other day. He was going over a contract that I had been sent from a prospective suitor for my services. I am a designer of buildings and integrator of concepts that involve buildings.I am a designer of small buildings and homes as I am licensed through the province on a yearly basis. I must acquire insurance yearly and be subject to examinations as required.

In some parts of the world I would be called an architect. I am not an architect in Ontario, Canada. In order to be so one must be registered with the Ontario Association of Architect to be – legally – an ‘Architect’.

Anyway, the very wise lawyer says to me that the state of architecture is changing and as such “Architecture [in Ontario] is dead”. Sadly I may have had to agree. I’ve been hearing this sentiment from many many young and old architects and building designers in the past 12 years.

So is this true that architecture is dead in Ontario? Maybe even North America? If so why? If so how? If architecture is alive – who is it alive for? When is it alive for them?

My lawyer pointed out the obvious: most people will at some point in their lives need a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant for that matter. Most people do not need or might not ever need an architect or designer. Most people have no idea what a designer or architect does … And that is a fact! NOW WHAT?

BUT – before I am all this I am soul in the body of a human being who happens to LOVE Good Design. Good Design can be in anything from crafting words to food, from crafting planes to flower arranging, from diaper changing to making baby food. So how I make my money coincides with my love for Good Design, i.e. building design, most things associated with buildings, neighbourhoods and pieces of city.

BUT – before all this I chose to be a stay-at-home dad (a.k.a. house husband) and sketch, draw and book keep between activities for my kids and family. I’ve lived, never fully rested, for decades. My kids are almost grown up and are making choices now that leave me with more time for design and business.

So why did I not choose to be architect in Ontario, Canada? Simple; I chose the most important architecture that I’ve ever known and that is the architecture of people. That is to say spending time nurturing my children, my family and my community. The external manifestation of architecture, the quality of the built environment, is a direct reflection of how human beings create their relationships to each other and our environment. It is a timeless principle. Good Design starts with designing good actions and reactions that stem from living with and for people. Good Design is a process as well as the goal. At present, in my opinion, the process of becoming an ‘architect’ would have jeopardized relationship with my family, having children and my passion for good design integration involving other crafts and disciplines presently deemed unworthy experience by that professional body. i.e. Children (raising a family), construction labour, carpentry, credential, volunteer for several community groups and initiatives, developing-designing-financing several derelict properties in the city in new and innovative ways, teaching and lecturing, many personal studies to be applied to building methodologies and so on.

I almost lost the principle of Good Design is Good Process because I had been sold a bill of goods, an ideology of sorts. That ideology purports: 1) if I get this credential, a PHD, A professional degree, or an Engineering Fellowship, etc., that I’ll be happy. 2) If I get a beautiful spouse, I’ll be happy, 3) if I go to the right school and work for the right firms, I’ll be happy, 4) live in the right neighbourhoods, I’ll be happy and on and on and on – you get the drift.

Architecture may be dying for most people here in Ontario and perhaps elsewhere … I’m not so sure but seemingly many things are supporting this notion. I would like to hope that there is still hope for architecture for the many.

In my next blog entry I will begin to discuss aspects of how I would like to see Good Design and Good Process, in the form of the built environment (some call it architecture) begin to reconnect to the larger body of human beings in our province and perhaps elsewhere. Don’t be surprised if I start with what I know best; my own neighbourhood.