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Everyone wants to be called an Architect

A recent television news series spoke of development of a new electric automobile.  It appeared odd that the person interviewed wore the title of “Product Development Architect”.  Many in the software industry also wear titles denoting some sort of “architect”, though they’ve never been exposed to issues dealing with public well being, building envelope issues, and professional licensure by a public entity or even (irk!) liability. 

We tend to think of architects as trained and licensed professionals who work with stone and concrete, and who understand builders’ lien laws.  Architecture is regulated in some fashion by governing jurisdictions, and only certain individuals – usually distinguished by education, experience and examination – may wear the title “Architect” or practice “Architecture”.

Although one side of me is elated that this person wore the title “product development architect” as opposed to “product development engineer”; still, how would someone who designs software or leads a product development initiative think that they could be called an architect?

Perhaps, in taking one portion of the practice of architecture – visionary project leadership – and forgetting about the legalese, one might craft a definition of ‘architect’ that could describe this position.  But that’s just dealing with the people who want to wear this title, what about the practice of architecture?

Architecture historically has been rooted (no pun intended) in solid buildings with form foundations tied to the earth.  While many professionally licensed architects have been responsible for designing and producing items ranging from tea kettles (Michael Graves) to aircraft interiors (Cambridge Seven) to farm tractors (Clifford Wiens), those actions have never been termed “architecture”.  Mind you, at its introduction, the design of the current Volkswagen Beetle led many to describe it as an “architectural” car.

Is this architecture?

Is this architecture?

However, in describing architecture as a machine for living, perhaps the object isn’t to limit who may be an architect.  Rather the object may be to expand the definition and scope of what is architecture, allowing architecture to move beyond structures rooted in the earth built of masonry or steel. 

And that may be good for society’s overall growth and advancement

Posted in Architecture, Automobile Design, Pop Culture.