This is an article from the Architecture Australia archives and may use outdated formatting

Recently, the RAIA commissioned some qualitative research which revealed some disturbing and fascinating facts about the community perception of architects.

One significant revelation is that it seems everyone knows a builder, or someone who knows a builder, but few people in the community know an architect. Of course sheer weight of numbers is on the builders’ side. It is a reasonable assumption then that when the majority of people think of building, they will not think first of an architect.

If architects wish to be recognised as leaders both in the construction industry and the community generally, much must be done both collectively and individually to promote the desired image and ensure that performance matches the image promoted.

It is not uncommon for members of the RAIA to complain that architects and their contribution to society are not appreciated. We cannot sit back and wait to be recognised and sought for our skills and be asked to make our contribution. Those days are gone. To be seen as leaders, architects must demonstrate leadership in their professional activities and contribute to society their skills and ability to organise, inspire and lead.

There is no doubt that architects have the skills and knowledge to play an important leadership role. Architects receive an excellent liberal arts education which equips them superbly to view things from the "big picture" perspective—an attribute incredibly beneficial yet sadly lacking in so many boards, committees, councils and organisations in Australia today.

The opportunity for architects to, albeit indirectly, lift the profile of the profession through a greater level of community participation is enormous. It is a great waste of the collective skills and experience of the profession that so few architects sit on the boards of Australia’s leading companies, advisory bodies, inquiries, councils and committees.

“My message is simple. Get out. Become involved. Take the lead.”

Whether a strong designer or someone more inclined to meticulous and methodical detail, every type of architect has something to offer the community by getting involved in things in which they have a particular interest. For example, if you have a child in a kindergarten or school, get involved with the parents and friends or citizens association. There are countless openings for contributors to local government, church groups, clubs and societies. By getting involved, both you and the organisation benefit. Through involvement, architects can indirectly, as well as directly, increase awareness of good design, of environmental considerations and the impact that these have on quality of life. I am not suggesting that architects become involved with these groups for the sheer crass commercialism of generating commissions. That sort of attitude will only damage the profession’s reputation further. Architects have a responsibility to demonstrate leadership if they hope to earn the level of respect that the profession once enjoyed. Through respect earned by the individual architect, the profession collectively will be enhanced.

My message is simple. Get out. Become involved. Take the lead.

John Castles LFRAIA



Published online: 1 May 1996


Architecture Australia, May 1996

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