Why are architecture education and profession autonomous?
Every architectural institution has a subject called ‘Professional Practice.’ This is taught for two to three semesters. To define professional practice, we must first define education's role in the fundamentals of that professional activity. The word ‘professional practice’ refers to the actions and activities of someone in a specific profession. Professions are careers that need extensive education and training. They are overseen by professional groups that accredit educational institutions and certified professionals.
Professional organisations set standards. These are divided into many areas– ethics, performance, competence, insurance, and training are all important considerations. These guidelines are recommendations that must be followed to remain in the profession. Typically, these are defined in a code of conduct.
The link between practice and education is challenging and complicated. It is neither formal nor completely casual. In other words, architectural education has no direct influence on the nature of the practice, and vice versa. Yet, both find communication and exchange through backdoor embraces in hidden and obtuse ways. The ideal of intellectual genius and a distinct design ‘signature’ as a personality trait supports architectural innovation.
The autonomy of the profession and the discourse of architecture are in a grey area where education and practice intersect. It is at this point that builders declare their autonomous zone. This is because the information found here is thought to be of supreme significance to the discourse and its proponents. Not only that, it is so deemed a domain that must remain outside the gaze or examination of ‘others.'
The emphasis on individual talent and design, rather than architects' demonstrations of ‘objectively how they increase the value of projects that they design,' has resulted in a mismatch between professional practice and professional identity formation. It is easy to find many architects who aspire to be successful designers. But few will practice this identity. Like Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (1943), the architect continues to have a professional image as the lone genius, akin to Howard Roark. The phenomena of the principal architect are the modern equivalent of this concept.
Professionals have historically received more status and autonomy than other occupational groupings. Why? Because of their claims to special knowledge and skills. This autonomy is a professional necessity. Yet, it includes its social discourse full of visual and linguistic codes and rituals. This is where the roots of our discourse as a tribe lie awake. They overtake the process of socialisation & normalisation of a new entrant into the tribe as a whole. This bases the said human into a detached, uniform member of the tribe. Such are the effects of this transformation that its impacts are not only the subjects of anthropologists but psychologists as well. They consider the ramifications of this assimilation into the architecture code as having far greater consequences on a person’s life as is understood by the member consciously.
The Pritzker Prize, architecture's greatest distinction, celebrates the hero architect. This adds to the enigma of architectural authorship. Design as a creative effort is central to twentieth-century sociologists' self-understandings. (Blau 1987; Gutman 1988; Larson 1993). Recent organizational reports have reaffirmed its status as a paramount value. (Brown et al. 2010; Kornberger, Kreiner, and Clegg 2011).
Despite its discomfort and strangeness, the rationale for social autonomy can be explained.
The solution is unity. A tribe takes care of its own. What is perplexing here is that this profession's unity converts into the uniformity of the profession's goods, that is, buildings. This begs the question: how can design thinking and construction, which include a plethora of other stakeholders, be regarded as an independent activity of architects? How could the process of building design and construction ever be divorced from its socio-economic-cultural-environmental implications?
Architecture is a self-contained profession. And architecture practice is not, although they are both considered the same. The architectural profession is a self-defined and self-perpetuating social construct. It gives the architect a social position in the nation's narrative and creates a sense of community. The practice of architecture, though, is a more difficult, transversal, and multi-stakeholder affair. The difficulty for professionals is to redefine the link between these two opposing parts, in a creative manner. It must be done in such a way that their inherent opposing nature is understood and accommodated without jeopardising either pole.
From the outside, it appears counterproductive to believe that architectural practice and products may be regarded as autonomous. However, it appears to be a better notion to preserve the same within the profession's bounds. Separate processes are safe. But for what, if one must inquire? For absolute control.
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About the Writer
Anchal Srivastava is an architect, urban planner, writer, researcher and scholar. She is a certified GIS specialist from IIRS, ISRO, Dehradun. She is a graduate of the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi and Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Technical University (APJAKTU), Uttar Pradesh. She has experience working at the Town and Country Planning Organisation Delhi, Jabalpur Smart City Limited, Suresh Goel & Associates (SGA), APS Green Architects & Associates, and as the head architect at SSAP and Shantiniketan Buildtech Pvt. Ltd.
About the Editor
Shama Patwardhan is an architect and writer from Mumbai. She is a graduate of the Rachana Sansad's Academy of Architecture (AoA), Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Heritage Conservation Society, India. She has experience working with Rethinking The Future (RTF), Abhikalpan Architects and Planners, and Manasaram Architects.
About the Illustrator
Palak Gupta is an undergraduate architecture student at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Bhopal. She is also a graphic designer, illustrator and painter. She has experience working on the packaging design and branding for NutriTown Organics.