Lehrstuhl für Computergestütztes Planen in der Architektur
Fakultät für Architektur / RWTH Aachen

Crisis? What Crisis?

Autoren: Elger, Dietrich and Russell, Peter (Russell )
Erschienen in: Digital Design: The Quest for New Paradigms (23rd eCAADe Conference Proceedings)
Seiten: 547-556
Ort: Lissabon
Land: Portugal
Jahr: 2005
ISBN: 0-9541183-2-4


The paper describes the current situation concerning career opportunities in the field of architecture in developed western countries. Several aspects that are almost universal mark this situation. Firstly, there are too many architects chasing traditional work in competition with structural (civil) engineers. This is not surprising in consideration of the fact, that the architectural education industry produces far too many new architects for the economy to absorb. In Germany, the number is almost three times too many. Secondly, the needs of the building industry have changed over the past twenty years so that the skills that architects want to offer are not necessarily those that are sought. Lastly, the constant specialisation of work has continued unabated. Architects, as generalists, have idly watched their areas of expertise be usurped from neighbouring fields like civil and structural engineering The reasons for this crisis are manifold. In the schools of architecture, the discussions often deal with form or formal arguments, which, in fact, have little or no relevance to the building industry. This position was tenable so long as the clients were willing to accept formal arguments in order to receive buildings of high quality or current social relevance (i.e. current architectural fashion). With the dual aspects of globalisation and a shift to maintaining building stocks rather than producing new buildings, the tolerance for “architectural” discussions has been reduced even further. Indeed, the monetary pressures overwhelm almost all other aspects, including so-called green issues. What is more, most of the monetary issues are time based. Time represents, perhaps, the largest pressure in any current planning project. The clients expect expedient, accurate and inexpensive solutions. If architects are not able to produce these, the clients will (and do) go elsewhere. The authors argue that there remain serious problems to be solved for architects and the metier in general. Ever cheaper, ever faster and ever encompassing information technologies offer the architectural community a chance to turn recent trends on their head. By using information technologies to their full potential, architects can reassert themselves as the coordinators of building information and processes. Simply put, this means less photorealistic rendering and more databases, which may be unappealing for those architects who have positioned themselves as “designers” and are able to talk long on form, but short on cost or logistics. Nonetheless, the situation is not lost, so long as architects are able to recognise what is desired from the point of view of the client and what is desired from the point of view of the architect. It is not a question of one or the other. Architects must be able to offer innovative design solutions that not only address the fiscal, legal and programmatic constraints, but also push the boundaries at to the position of architecture in the community at large. For educators, it must be made clear that the real potential architects possess is their encompassing knowledge of the building process including their expertise concerning questions of architectural form, function, history and art. Precisely while they are generalists are architects invaluable in a sea of specialists. The biggest hurdle to asserting this in the past has been the control of the vast amounts of information. This is no longer a problem and also no longer an excuse. In the education of architects, it must be made clear that their role dictates sovereignty over architectural information. Architectural Information Management is a necessary skill alongside the more traditional architectural skills. A brief outlook as to how this might come about is detailed in the paper. The authors propose didactic steps to achieve this. Primarily, the education of computer supported planning should not simply end with a series of lectures or seminars, but culminate in integrated Design Studios (which including Design-Build scenarios).