In modern architectural education, architects are taken as problem solvers. Any architectural projects provides the architect/student with a set of problems to which every architect has a unique solution. A site on a hill will require an architect to approach the project different from he would if he was designing on a flat site, a client may demand something which doesn’t even benefit them, during construction soil settlement may cause certain parts of the structure to be re-designed, the list of problem goes on and on and on for an architect. This is generally how the profession works OR should work, except for few ‘starchitects’ which with their immense resources may bypass the problem completely instead of trying to solve it; a starchitect might ignore the hilly site entirely and propose design no different from what they would have designed on a flat site (hint: think Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster)
With the world becoming increasingly interconnected the influence of architect is no longer limited to one geographical location. Architects now work all over the globe with different people and working on projects of massive scales. This gives an architect great power to play role in solving issues of global concern. For example, pertaining to climate change, in U.S. alone, buildings were almost half (44.6%) responsible for CO2 emissions in 2010. By designing energy-efficient buildings architects can have the greatest impact in combatting climate change, probably more than any other profession. This example is merely illustrating the point that in the age of globalization the architect is no longer a designer only whose job starts and ends with the buildings, the architect of today has to provide solutions.
For this thinking to actually catch on ‘the architect’ has to redefine the role they play in the society. On architecture websites, like archdaily.com, numerous articles talk about how the profession seems to be isolated from the society, how the general public views the profession as that of ego-centric, dreamy-eyed individuals. Architects have to understand that their role is far more influential, for the buildings they design affect not only the space they stand on but the space around them and how it affects them is in the hands of an architect. A new skyscraper can alter property values, effect public utilities, alter pedestrian and traffic flow and even influence the business or kind of the activities that takes place in the vicinity. What the architect needs to understand is that his design doesn’t work in isolation anymore, that the building is not a piece of art meant to be viewed in a certain space in which it is bound, it is in fact a part of a larger organism. His design has to respond to the context and work well or else it does nothing but further the problems, instead it might create new ones.
Architects, might be standing at another crossroads in the history of profession. This is a time where the problems are more than ever before and too few dare to solve it. In an effort to build taller (and shiner!), we might have forgotten how to build smarter or even why we build in the first place. The wrong people do the job which in today’s age might be better suited for an architect, who in turn has to truly understand this new role that he has to take on. He has to reconnect with the society, to understand his fellow human beings again and when he is able to understand that the architect is no longer a designer… he is a problem solver.