As we celebrate the last state and national Awards events of the 20th Century, I am prompted by the question; ‘are we seen as a profession, or as a collection of talented individuals?’ The question arises from the way in which we promote ourselves especially using architecture awards. Of course we are talented people who contribute to the winning of awards, but the real winners will always be out clients and the public; the ultimate owners of our ideas. These are the real beneficiaries of the solutions that we provide to their problems.
Following this line, it has been suggested to me that architecture awards be the provinces of clients. They should be celebrated not only for their commitment and vision, but also for their selection of the architect in this way the value ot the relationship between parties takes on an expanded meaning; the client recognises the architect and design by nominating their project for an architecture award. After all, it is the client who defines the ultimate scope of a project.
It is not unusual however for the architect to have the ability to give the client confidence to proceed what a partnership; and what a responsibility. Are we educated for such a responsibility? Architecture education could see ‘design’ as a conclusion to a process rather than a beginning. Design will come out of sound briefing, learning to listen, process management and risk management. Design will come from a sound understanding of business principles related to that of our clients and our own business, from a greater understanding of politics, culture, economics and environment. The role of education, through a rigorous intellectual foundation, is to promote the ability to adapt to change. The profession must re engage an internship process that enhances this foundation through a skill base, and the RAIA must engage in continuing professional development programs that respond to changing needs.
Stepping back from Awards for a moment, I propose that the community does not see ‘Architecture’, it sees Architects; individuals who possess certain skills. The thought of engaging an intellectual could be threatening, and it may be that the subject of ‘Architecture’ is never raised at all during a commission. So it is that as skills become blurred by change, or demonstrated by para-professionals, or even bY clients themselves, the value of what we do is constant y questioned, even to the extent that the value of being educated in Architecture is taunted.
We must move forward with a positive view on the value of Architecture, not Architects as individuals; that will follow. In the lead up to the National Awards, questions have been raised regarding the Jury processes. It is always appropriate to revisit Policy, and we should expect this. It is far less appropriate to challenge the integrity of Jury decisions, even if they fly in the face of Policy. I expect that we will continue to be rigorous in our selection of Juries, and then trust to them the difficult task of assessing design excellence, and making (these) Awards.