Architects are no longer “Gods”

Who is an Architect today?

Architects used to be called “Little Gods”, but it is no longer relevant today. The areas of their expertise and responsibilities have drastically changed since this saying was used to describe them. The number of things architects have control over is generally declining and the contemporary architects are not that “powerful” anymore.

In most cases architects today are just a part of a team. If it used to be that architects hired different specialists from different fields throughout the process of designing and building, now they are being hired by someone else. The role of an architect became much less significant being limited to design only. The only exceptions are the so-called “Starchitects” such as Frank Gehry, who have the full control of everything.


Other specialists are interfering into the process of designing narrowing down the specialization of architects even further. A structural engineer adjusts design according to his calculations; a contractor suggests getting rid off some elements in order to cut a budget; this list can go on and on depending on the scale of a project. An architect can consider himself/herself lucky if the final design looks somewhat similar to what he/she has originally proposed.

Vitruvius in his “Ten Books of Architecture” described the profession of architecture as one of the most difficult and elite jobs in the nation. An architect was supposed to have sufficient knowledge in practically every major field: mathematics, geometry, music, physics, chemistry, history, philosophy, art, etc. Contemporary architects rarely have knowledge of structure, which is a primary element in design. Lack of expertise in different fields greatly limits capabilities of an architect and as a result lowers the rank of architects among other professions.



Do we need fewer architects?

Having less architectural schools will be beneficial. It will allow concentrating the best tutors in fewer places and producing higher-qualified architects. Currently the field has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the nation. It is an indication that the market doesn’t need these many architects and the education system has to respond to that.


Another option will be preparing architecture students to work abroad. There is a great shortage of architects in many rapidly developing countries in Asia and Latin America (best places for architects to find work).

What is Green?

How green our buildings are?

The designation “green” architecture is extremely wide ranging, as Cook and Golton pointed it out. Sustainable architecture is essentially contestable concept encompassing many viewpoints and open to broad interpretation. Glancing through thousands of articles, reports, and books you can find bewildering array of contrasting building types with different design approaches and technologies, each justified by highly diverse interpretations of what sustainability really is. Trying to comprehend the environmental innovations in architecture tends to be a confusing business and competing environmental strategies do not always make sense.

Even if we accept the fact that sustainable architecture is contestable concept, much of the debate over contemporary sustainable architecture tends to sidestep the issue. The common delusion is to create homogenous categorization of green architecture with no or very little regard to distinctiveness and diversity of the environment and ecological strategies.

So, how green our buildings really are? The most widely recognized categorization of the sustainable architecture is the LEED certification. However, the current ranking system has many flaws in it and more close analysis of the LEED certified buildings revealed that these buildings are not as green as we thought they are.


My understanding of Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture is not about implementing the latest technologies in a building. I believe that architecture is one of the most significant factors that shape personality and social thinking. It has tremendous impact on our daily lives and social behavior. For this reason, I argue that architects should aim to change these social patterns in their designs.  Architects have the power to change our everyday behavior and habits that brought humanity to what we have today – depletion of natural resources, contamination of air, soil, and water, biodiversity reduction, climate change etc.

Centre for Engineering Innovation at the University of Windsor Ed Lumley in Windsor, ce969155bee067a0331f6363dc3e0494Canada, is a great example of smart sustainable building. It is designed to be a “Live Building” that student can learn from. Building systems were deliberately exposed, which allows its occupants to see different processes in practice. Many high-performance design features inspire students to shape the future of the sustainable design.

Sustainability and a toilet flush

God is in the Detail


Ludwig Mies van der Rohe believed that “Less is More”. It was argued many times in the history of architecture and his main opponent was Robert Venturi who said, “Less is Bore”.

The philosophy of Mies is closer to my understanding and vision of architecture. In my design I prefer simple and pure forms. The richness of an architectural form is not in excessive ornamentation and decorative elements, but in carefully designed details.

In the contemporary architecture MIes van der Rohe’s legacy is particularly relevant. “Less is more” could be a great slogan for sustainability. It is true that architecture greatly influences our daily lives, which means it has the power to reshape the social thinking. Sustainability often perceived as making sacrifices and giving up our convenient lifestyles. The goal of the sustainability movement should be changing people’s minds. It is possible to do more with less.


Sustainability starts from the toilet flush 

Architects should not aim earning LEED certification points, but restructuring patterns of people’s daily lives. It is crucial to realize that design doesn’t stop once a building is finished. How a building serves its occupants and how it is being used afterwards is way more important. A designer should keep in mind how a building performs. An architect’s task becomes embedding elements early in a design that will encourage occupants to make better choices and change their daily habits.

As Mies van der Rose noted, God is in the detail. These smaller details collectively form our lives. All kinds of appliances and technologies that surround us determine choices we make.

How do you use a toilet? You press a button that flushes it. It uses the same amount of water every time, whether it is needed or not. What if there are two buttons on the toilet tank? It will prompt thinking and give an opportunity to make a choice. One button uses less water per flush and depending on the necessity now you have a choice to use more or less water. If every house has such a toilet, it will significantly reduce water consumption. Moreover, providing people with a choice, even a smaller one, “forces” people to reshape their everyday habits.

Danish manufacturer Vola specializes in designing bathroom taps and personal hygiene necessity products. In Aarhus Arkitekterne-designed Round Series they have presented their “clean” design for a bathroom. All the features in the bathroom are high-tech and operate based on sensors. It helps to regulate the operation of the bathroom more efficient and prevent “irresponsible” behavior of its users. “Even better’ you’re not left wondering whose hand you’re shaking when you flush”.


Underground Garage Office


Buildings live. Therefore, they change over time. Sometimes, these changes are absolutely fascinating and happen in an unexpected way.

Underground Garage Office in Genoa, Italy is an example of an amazing transformation. The space used to be a garage for cars, but today it houses an architectural office. It is a part of a freestanding building and is surrounded by gardens. Garage was redesigned by Carlo Bagliani firm to refit its new purpose in 2013.


The notable thing is the way the architect approached this task. He didn’t only create a functional interior space, but also effectively reconfigured the exterior. The office almost disappears in the garden and becomes an integral part of the landscape. At the same time, the structure is not trying to hide. An oversized opening on the front façade provides the office occupants with a lovely view of the garden and access to sunlight throughout a day.


When a building becomes a landscape

The Undergroung Garage Office building reminded me one of the landscape projects by Chris Counts studio. Chris Counts’ design was never realized, but there was one aspect that truly fascinated me. Similar to what Carlo Bagliani has done, Chris Counts studio very successfully integrated structures on the site into the landscape.

The project was a recreation park with a lot of green open spaces. The challenge was to accommodate enormous parking garages without destroying the image of the green area. It was proposed to conceal all the parking spaces under the park itself. It was done in a such way that while being in the park you don’t even realize the existence of these enormous garages under your feet.

Can Traditional Architecture become Modern?

Modernization = Westernization






These two images represent one of the largest cities in the world – the New York City and Tokyo. These two cities are also big representatives of the Western and Eastern cultures. Here is a question for you – can you identify which one is Tokyo and which one is New York?

If you can correctly identify them, you most probably recognized some of the buildings you might be familiar with. In others cases, it is almost impossible to tell which one of them belongs to East and West. The general silhouettes and buildings types of these two cities are extremely similar. There are many other examples like this one – Hong Kong and Boston, San Francisco and Shanghai, etc.

Most developed Asian cities trying to keep up with the modern world drastically changed their images. They all have adapted the Western Architecture with its skyscrapers. It inevitably damages the national architectural styles and erases boundaries between two different cultures.


Traditional Modernism

The winner of the 2014 eVolo Skyscraper Competition demonstrates how traditional architecture could successfully be incorporated in a very modern building. The architect’s intent here is to draw people’s attention to and revive Korean traditional architecture.

The vernacular design of the Hanok (traditional Korean house) has disappeared during extensive urban development in 1970’s. It was historically developed in plan and used for one-story buildings only. With the new technologies and software a new chapter of development was opened for this hundred-year-old tradition.

Yong Ju Lee, the architect, transformed Korean “Hanok” into an impressive high-rise. I am truly fascinated by this project. It is very modern looking building, but at the same time, you can unmistakably recognize traditional Korean architectural style.

Examples like this demonstrate that modernization doesn’t necessarily mean westernization. It is an extremely hard task to transform vernacular design into modern, but it is definitely possible. Buildings like Hanok High-Rise only add to richness of the global architecture and stimulate new thinking.

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