When I became an architect I didn’t take an oath. I didn’t stand up and publicly swear to protect the health, safety, and welfare of for those whom I design. I didn’t promise to uphold the tenants of my profession so long as I practice the craft. After a decade of academic and practical study, the moment that signified my professional status was an email from my state board followed up with a certificate in the mail. I told my immediate family personally and shared the news with my greater social circle by posting a photo of my license online. In hindsight, my proclamation was no different than those who share an engagement, new baby, or house purchase. We live in an era where momentous news is circulated quickly and digitally, soon to be pushed down the line to make room for the next announcement.
Those of us in the industry understand what it means to become an architect, it’s a huge milestone in one’s professional career. Finally receiving my license mattered a hell of a lot to me and I know that this new phase I’m entering is not something to take lightly. New titles lead to new responsibilities be they ethical or performance related. And yet as I celebrated the news, the question that often surfaced was an iteration of the following:
“So what’s that mean? Do you get a raise or something?”
It’s had my brain whirling and my gut churning. If being an architect is such a big deal to us within the profession, why don’t we do a better job of expressing it to those who aren’t? If we want the general public to value architects perhaps the first step is publicly expressing how much we value them.
For years there have been writings and discussions of an architect’s Hippocratic Oath, a variation of the pledge many medical professionals take to ethically practice medicine. The AIA Code of Ethics and Bylaws address the responsibilities members hold to the public they serve, and the high level of standards to continue to build upon their knowledge in architecture, and the dedication to show competence and care through the decisions they make.
Bottom line, we will strive to do the best we can for the good of the project and for the betterment of the world around it. What client or stakeholder doesn’t want to hear that?
Maybe that’s the key we need to take to get the general population to understand what we do. That becoming an architect is so much more than an occasion to drop the term “intern” (or whatever title it may be) from our introductions and signatures. That what we do matters and that we’re here to look out for mankind.
Becoming an architect should be an opportunity to make a pledge to give a damn from here on out.
I’m ready to stand up.