• Who Is The Architect For The Common Man?

One of the many questions that students of architecture are faced with in the early stages of their school life is the question of whether architecture is a profession or a business or both. At this tender age most of the students dream of practicing architecture as a profession and are clear in their mind on what paths to follow, how to design humane spaces and still satisfy the needs of their client. Most then have internalized Amos Rapoport  House, Form and Culture and will boldly quote house designs are not simply influenced by physical forces but is the consequence of a whole range of socio-cultural factors in their broadest terms. Most of them at this age will idolize Frank Lloyd Wright and his proponents of organic architecture and have read in depth the importance of light in design as established in depth by one Louis Kahn.

However more often than not these ideas are short lived once these young brains hit the industry and are faced with challenges and few emerge victorious. The main crowd remains lost with the hope that one day they will get the one big client that will have enough finances and give them enough room to design with few constraints. These clients are hard to come by unless one happens to be Antonio Gaudi and as Frank Ghery laments most client hire architects and then tell them what to do.

 

Once out of school the young brains of architecture find themselves in business minded architectural firms whose projects are churned out as quickly as possible and they move on to the next project. The driver is money. Given that everyone has to make ends meet, the business part of architecture seems to overpowering the professional part in the industry. This is especially so in the developing world and can be seen across many emerging cities where architecture is on the downfall. Architects tend to give in to the client demands and are more likely than not to comprise their professional standards.

With these money minded professionals the author is left at a disadvantage trying to establish who is the Architect for the common man, the low capital clients in need of decent spaces. If Architects hope for high-end clients, for large iconic projects to thoroughly invest their creative minds, and also charge good fees, who then will stand up for common low to middle income clients?

Across Africa projects documented for the low income clients are either research based or CSR works from big and mostly international firms. One Francis Kere has great Architecture done in the simplest of ways with native materials in west Africa and his projects can easily be replicated by the village people of Gando, for example, even in his absence.

The author wonders apart from these research and charitable works is there any other way that the common man, in the villages and emerging towns, can feel the force of architecture? Has architecture become a business to the point that it has little room for this? And forbalance sake is there a way of making business as a professional in this low capital projects?

Who will be the architect for the common man if all architects want big capital clients? Where is the place for quality-designed spaces in this business minded society? I thought Architecture is divine and universal, at least if not all the time in my basic/foundation of designs lessons.

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