What will the architecture profession look like in 2025?

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What will the architecture profession look like in 2025? According to the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) think tank Building Futures new survey, we have a tough road ahead of us. The year long study asked, who will design our built environment, what role will architects have, and how might practice change by 2025.

Our global economy and the economic recession have effected our business practices and the RIBA has taken a look at how these factors have transformed our profession and what trends we may see continuing in the future. The survey suggests that not only will architecture firms have to focus on a financial and business approach rather than predominantly design-led offices, but also company names are predicted to drop ‘architect’ altogether and insert ‘spatial agencies’ and ‘design houses’.

Courtesy of RIBA

“In order to compete against the cheaper workforces from the emerging markets and the financially savvy mega consultancies, the architect must learn to speak the language of the client particularly to become financially literate.  In addition to financial literacy, the client-savvy architect must be able to see beyond ‘building a building’ and offer a service that embraces the client’s broader aims – becoming a problem solver as well as a designer.”

Even more concerning is the projected shift in size of an architecture firm, multi-disciplinary mega practices are the anticipated new norm. The medium-sized 50-120 employee firms based mainly in London are at high risk to be squeezed on fees and acquired by larger firms becoming extinct to the profession altogether.

Parts of the industry that could remain relatively stable according to RIBA are the small local general practice, the international star architects, specialist niche practices, and the traditional regional delivery driven practice.

“A number of practices we interviewed were planning to formalize the diverse services that they offer,” said the report, “too many architects were carrying out pre-project work for free, claiming this would never happen in any other profession.”

Courtesy of RIBA

The demand for architect services within the UK has continued to decline, suffering a 40% reduction since 2008, and the survey also predicts architects will be forced to branch out to other areas of the construction industry. The report added, “the RIBA would then have to redefine what an architect does in order to fit better with the 21st century reality of the profession.”

Interviewing architects as well as engineers, builders, and students the RIBA survey also suggests that UK designers should anticipate new competition. Foreign architecture firms from both Asia and the Far East, as well as luxury fashion houses such as Gucci could possibly flood the market in the coming years creating difficulty for existing architecture practices.

Courtesy of RIBA

“An architect needs, as a matter of urgency, to be able to sell their skills with reference to cost to be of use to the client. The profession must face up to the reality that the context within which it now practices has changed so dramatically that the skill set required must also shift – financial skills should now be considered core.”

Although the results of the survey are a bit daunting, there is an evident opportunity to actively participate in shaping the development of the profession.  These circumstances provide an ability to not react after luxury fashion houses start designing mixed-use skyscrapers, but rather be a player within the future of a profession that could provide “opportunities for architects [that] have never been greater”.

Source: RIBA think tank Building Futures report

Cite: Minner, Kelly. "What will the architecture profession look like in 2025?" 08 Mar 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 Aug 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=118441>

14 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    Truly most architects or firms presently running dont have bushiness plans!
    u tell them of business school knowledge and they say its not necessary!

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Another signing over of responsibilities to the market. Architectural practices will change to design houses and spatial agencies basically because architecture will stand for nothing and whoever pays the money will get what they want: expect taller wider and increasingly irresponsible buildings in the future as well as the disappearence of the RIBA.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The architecture profession is simply oversaturated with graduates of architecture schools, people that are willing to work despite the low pay–in short, people that really want to be architects. Whenever you have an oversupply of people in any profession, pay rates are going to drop until enough people decide they don’t want to be in that profession anymore. The fact is, when new buildings of any consequence are built, there is an architecture firm heavily involved in the process. That has been true for the last 100 years, and that will continue to be true. The only question is this: “will the need for architects continue to be outpaced by the supply of architects?”

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I find this interesting. I started an architecture firm two years ago and have been so busy that I have had to rewrite my business plan twice for unexpected expansion of the firm. In even supposedly bad economic times for architect’s, we’re doing relatively well. The mistake I see here in comments is what actually constitutes an Architect. I just did a presentation on becoming an architect to HS students and through my research for it I found that there are only 102,000 Architects in the US. That is tiny compared to other professions (950,000 doctors and over a million lawyers, engineers – too many to count). The problem as I see it is the need for stronger regulation on what can and cannot be done in the building industry with or without an Architect on board. Too much work is currently being allowed to be done by those who are not qualified to do it. The idea that a fashion house could be allowed to design a skyscraper is almost sickening. There is way too much involved in the proper development of a design that in all likelihood would be missed or disregarded if the work is allowed to be generated by non-architects. This is where I find that the AIA and professional associations of other countries have failed miserably. It is time that true Architects stand up and press our governments on why it is so important that actual Architects develop our built environment so that laws and regulations can be put in place to make sure that it happens. With that the standards for becoming an Architect need to be increased even beyond where they are now.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +2

      The situation it’s definitely frightening!…i totally agree with J! the major problem it’s that there are too many non-architects raising up buildings like it’s making a toast!!

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