• Architectural Language: The Myths and The Reality

Most architects consider themselves at the top of the thought chain in the design industry. They basically purport to be all knowing and will readily profess how the profession requires them to know something about everything. But as it goes a jack of all trades is a master to none and it begs the question of whether architects do know the much they claim or they are better off specializing in one field and perfecting it. As is mostly put, aren’t they better affirming their design language or design field and being a master of the same?

More often than not young architects find themselves at the heart of decision making where their professional opinion is required and fast. It’s not uncommon to find these presumed think tanks making rush decisions with no basis due to the fear of being considered inadequate. They would rather not consult a seasoned contractor or other consultants, which may be wise at times.

However, the very question here is not how the architect should respond to such situations or how much he knows then but how much he should know, practice and perfect. Is it wise for architects to gamble with the wide field as was traditionally and be unable to deliver the expected? Can the present day architect be able to stand as the master builder? Isn’t it wise for architects to specialize in smaller fields of architecture, language and/or practice and perfect it? Am of the opinion that the latter is likely to see better product in the market and as such has very keen interest in architects who have established what they do best.

Nico van der Meulen architects are masters in residential projects. Through working closely with all their clients to ensure optimal satisfaction, the practice has accomplished astounding success in the design of upmarket residential homes. The company’s innovative architectural vision is evident in its ability to continuously produce outstanding architecture that is personalized in accordance with the homeowners’ lifestyle requirements. They do other projects of course but are widely known for those.

Mick Pearce designs have huge inclination towards environmental design. He focuses on low maintenance buildings with low capital and running costs, using renewable energy systems of environmental control. He constantly develops and refines ways of making buildings that are suited to their natural environment and the people who use them.

Francis Kere specialises mostly in sustainable buildings, local building materials, local knowledge and local technologies and has won numerous awards for the practice of the same.

These are just a few in the continent but right across and world over architects are continually establishing specific languages of design and fields and making a fortune out of it. With the information age, clients are increasingly aware of what they want and with the specialization in architecture; they find it easy to select an architect based on their previous works, their design language and area of specialization.

However, with the question of specialization in mind, most budding architects consider themselves jacks of all trade. They claim to be able to design anything and will do irrespective of the final product. This is so as at this stage not only because bills have to be paid but also because of the race to establish themselves. 

So then is it appropriate for architects to strive to amass knowledge in all areas of design? Is it still possible for architecture to be as multidisciplinary as was? Or has this moved to be a myth and architect should accept the reduced role of specializing in a small field of architecture but then be able to deliver high standards product? Residential, Commercial, Social, Environmental, Urban Design or such? Isn’t it time? Just a thought.


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