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October 11th, 2015

This post is a part of the #ArchiTalks series – conceived and curated by Bob Borson over at his blog “Life of an Architect.” To check out the other posts & contributors for topic #13 in this series, “Citizen Architect,” see the bottom of this page.

Since I was a kid, I saw architects as this special breed of people who brought buildings on a page to life in the world. Although I didn’t know any architects, I was always more fascinated by the buildings and how they took shape rather than the architects themselves.

As I grew into the profession, I came to understand my fascination with architecture — it was the appreciation of the few disciplines of study and practice that married the highest with the most basic of human needs, creative arts & shelter. At the root of this understanding is the organic and inseparable link between the “purposeful and creative” in design. This link leaves architects with a challenging imperative: to not lose sight of the functionality in favor of the creativity or the beauty in favor of the purpose.

I was lucky enough to be exposed to, and participate, in some of the world’s most famous examples of “creative vs. purpose,” during my time at the Rural Studio and with Architecture for Humanity NY. While both of these models developed from a philanthropic, rather than a for-profit effort, the lasting message of both organizations is much bigger than “architects should give back.” These groups, and the wave of architects who have been influenced and inspired by their mission have become vocal “Citizen Architects” in their practices and in their communities.

Citizen Architects are one of the growing groups of professionals showing that atypical business and career models can make a huge difference in the way architecture is practiced. They are joined by (and overlap with) several other increasingly popular definitions of practice that are introducing the world to a new brand of architecture.

1.)  The Citizen Architect – This term has caught fire thanks to the work of Samuel Mockbee, trained at the Rural Studio, has become a movement within our industry. Citizen architects practice with an ethos — an intention. They believe in designing what should be built, not what can be built. Citizen architects are changing the way architecture is practiced, because they believe architecture is for everyone, and the built environment should be left greater than we inherited it. Citizen Architects challenge themselves and others to achieve projects that matter to our communities.

2.)  The Master Builder – The architect’s return to the Master Builder role has come in the shape of the design-build movement. Much of the world’s most celebrated historical architecture was designed and completed under the supervision of an architect trained in the arts as well as the trades. Now, as in the past, this model is ideal for many clients seeking a “one stop shop” approach to the design and construction of their projects. More and more accredited architecture programs in North America are rising to the challenge to provide a balanced and holistic approach to architecture education that supports lessons of theory and history with those of constructability and practice.

3.)  The Renaissance Professional – There was a time when architects aspired to know building design and construction fluently and exclusively. The revival of the skilled Renaissance man/woman within the culture of the architecture profession has led to an explosion of projects that uniquely overlap various disciplines. Renaissance professionals are changing the way we practice by shaking up our understanding of design boundaries. They embrace new technologies and materials alongside the traditional counterparts. Renaissance professionals practice as generalists at the level of specialists. They are able to achieve this through a systemized immersion in an intimacy with each project and client’s exact needs. Renaissance professionals are changing the conversation of specialization within our field.

4.)  The Entrepreneur-Architect – An entrepreneur-architect, is equal parts business leader and designer. Speaking from personal experience, an Entrepreneur-Architect gets just as excited about client experience design or developing an internship program for new graduates as they do designing buildings. I am thrilled to be ushering cutting edge business models into the way architecture is practiced. From our “mobile/global” cloud storage and communication platform to our partnership with clients and universities to bring real world projects to the next generation of designers, my love of both architecture and the practice of architecture is paving the way to a new model of success.

5.)  The Eco-centric Designer – The newest generation of architects in practice grew up celebrating Earth Day and learning about the massive role our industry plays in filling landfills (with construction waste) each year. The Eco-centric designers in our midst don’t just subscribe to the practices of the USGBC’s metrics for green buildings; they see their practice of architecture through the lenses of environmentally responsible design. Eco-centric designers find ways to limit the mountains of paper used at architecture offices, they ride their bikes to work, and they think about a building and it’s components from “cradle to cradle” as the book famously details. Eco-architects know that when they commit to protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public, they can only do so by committing to protecting the environment at large as well.

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Citizen Architect … Seems Redundant

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Citizen Architect

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Good Citizen Architect

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Does it Mean to be a Citizen Architect?

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
small town citizen architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: The everyday citizen architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Citizen Architect: #architalks

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Architect as Citizen

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
My Hero – Citizen Architect

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
We are the Champions – Citizen Architects

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Meet Jane Doe, Citizen Architect

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Architalks #13: How Can I Be But Just What I Am?

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Help with South Carolina’s Recovery Efforts

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Senior Citizen, Architect

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Citizen Architect

Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
Citizen Starchitect’ is not an Oxymoron

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Citizen Architect – Form out of Time

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
[cake decorating] to [citizen architect]

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Citizen Architect #ArchiTalks

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Citizen of Architecture

Daniel Beck – The Architect’s Checklist (@archchecklist)
Protecting the Client – 3 Ways to be a Citizen Architect

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Citizen Developer??

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Citizen Architect

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How Architects Can Be Model Citizens

Aaron Bowman – Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Citizen Architect: The Last Responder

Samantha Raburn – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Inspiring a Citizen Architect