Renzo Piano is not an architect

© Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Well, according to the UK’s Architects Registration Board (ARB) he isn’t.

Last week, received an email from the ARB asking them to refrain from calling Renzo Piano and Daniel Libeskind an architect, since “they are not registered with the ARB they are not entitled to be described as such”.

The statement said: “BD referred to two eminent individuals as architects – neither of whom are on the UK register. This is one of a number of peripheral areas, and architects often contact us when they are concerned about the use of the title ‘architect’ in the press although no breach of the legislation in fact occurs.”

Even though Simon Howard, the board’s Professional Standards Manager, stated that it was “OK to call Piano an Italian architect”, BD’s editor in chief described the request as simply “bonkers”.

BD has refused to abide and “will continue to refer to Renzo Piano, and Peter Zumthor as architects – registered with ARB or not.”

We’re curious, what are your thoughts?

Reference: BDOnline

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Renzo Piano is not an architect" 09 Oct 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
  • intellectualpropertylawyer

    zumthor and piano should be be called architects. definitely not liebskind though. he is terrible by all accounts, knows nothing of structure and epitomizes the endless ego-indulgence of starchitects loathed by all TRUE practicing architects.

  • Sudar Khadka

    So do they mean that there are no other architects in the entire universe except those registered with the ARB?! How conceited..

    • Tim Reagen

      BDOnline is British publication. This whole controversy is happening in the UK realm. Notice how they provide the exception that it was “OK to call Piano an Italian architect”. They are stating that they are not British architects..

      • Andrea

        I think it’s all about some British people hidden complex when it starts floating. The British Museum is full of stolen heritage but I guess it’s ok for the ARB to still call it a Museum, even a British one!

    • Christopher Waller

      Sorry Sudar …not conceit …it is a criminal offence under the Architects Act 1997 [Ref ] to call someone who is not registered with the Architects Registration Board an “architect”. It is just a really stupid law!

      • Sudar Khadka

        Thank you for the link, read through it. It is as you say a stupid law. But it does highlight the problem of “territory” and the validity of that law in an online setting. Granted BDOnline is a British publication as Tim has said, but the article was posted online for the whole world to see. Whose domain is that then? Is it still relevant only in the UK? Is it illegal to call someone an architect online? I am no expert on this topic, I do not have the answers, but its something to be thought of in an increasingly globalized world

  • David

    Aren’t they registered as architects in their home countries? Or if you go to another country where you are not registered you are no longer an architect? Since when failing to register in the UK denies you of your proffession?

  • gtodohoo

    why not? the irony was the person should be crowned architect for what he/she is doing not because some people founded an association then draw a circle, which who passed the tests can step in to the circle; while people who don’t play the same game being excluded. architect like Renzo Piano, he already claimed himself an excellent architect by his work around world, by this moment if you said he is not an architect?! come on! sounds like a big sour grape.
    on the other hand, the association should keep tracking unregistered and registered architects for legislation purpose.

  • bLogHouse

    Libeskind is an architectural fluffer…

  • Nathan

    I’m pretty sure Brunelleschi didn’t even have an accredited five year degree so that would mean you couldn’t call him an Italian architect. I guess from now on he will be the building designer responsible for the Florence dome according to the ARB.

  • Dennis Moss Jnr

    Architects only started practicing as “professionals” relatively recently really. All the greats up to the early twentieth century functioned without institutes and regulations. They were “master builders”. Mies, Wright and Corbusier weren’t registered either, nor did they have official university degrees. The preciousness about the title of “Architect” is a recent thing, but it’s more necessary now than before – it’s a way of protecting the profession and upholding certain standards. Targeting a great architect like Renzo is ridiculous though. Give him an “honorary registration” and be done with it!

  • Darren

    Putting scholarship offers aside,

    Not every single talented people afford to do courses like Architecture you know?

    Tertiary education is not necessity and not at all means you able to do what you studied.

    If Renzo Piano and these architects mentioned can’t be called as architects, it’s a shame they are doing better than a lot of so called registered architects out there.

    Really. “Bonkers”

  • Robbert Harte

    according to new legislation in europe, when you are registered as an architect in one country, it also applies to the rest of the union.

    not sure though if the UK joins in in this.. apparently not

    • Luigi Mussardo

      Sadly.. UK always pretends it’s above every other nation…

    • Michael H

      Robert Harte, UK is quite tough when it comes to registering. I’m currently working in London. I did my degree in Denmark but went straight to London afterwards and never registered as an architect in Denmark. I realised that it isn’t that easy to register as an architect in England so I thought that it might be easier to register in Denmark and then transfer it. But after a lot of emailing I was informed that this isn’t possible. You are referring to ‘the new legislation’ …do you know how new this legislation is?

      • Robbert Harte

        I got my degree in Holland and am currently employed in Belgium. I believe it came into effect early 2011.

    • Deborah

      I am an Italian architect, registered in my country. When I moved to UK I just had to pay the membership to ARB, but there is no need of additional exam.
      I think Renzo Piano and some others should just pay a membership…

  • Daniel C

    Glad to see that things are going so well for architects in the UK so that the UK’s Architects Registration Board can indulge themselves in such ridiculous matters such as this one.

  • D Baylee

    I’ve never considered Daniel Libeskind to be an architect. I always refer to him as a blustering jackass.

  • KG

    Daniel Libeskind is a poseur. I could never consider him an architect.

  • michael m

    i wasn’t aware until now that english architects did architecture.
    thank you for pointing that out.
    in that context it makes sense then that d. libeskind, p. zumthor and r. piano should not be called architects.

    • ann v.

      thank you for this fabulous laugh of the day michael m!! as for the ARB….gimme a break…..or rather “get a life”.

  • Asia

    The crap Daniel Libeskind produces is not architecture; ergo he is not an architect.

  • Andrew W

    I’m assuming the inability for architects to transfer registration from other EU countries comes from different responsibilities for the architect? For example, U.S. architects have a much larger range of responsibility than, say, a French architect in the technical aspects of the work. Does the same problem hold for UK professionals?

  • Eric in Colorado

    Multiply this craziness by 50 and you have the situation in America where Architects are licensed state by state. Some states have laws saying a person may not use the title ‘Architect’ unless they hold a license issued by that state and they have prosecuted people for simply using the title. It boils down to the situation under which the term is being used. If one presents themself for a contractual situation, i.e. to acquire a project, then they must be licensed in the state where the project is to be built. If they are simply describing they way they make their living the restriction is not usually so strict.

    • Robert

      The U.S. is pretty big and diverse! Designing in dry earthquake prone California, rainy Washington, and hurricane windy Florida are very different tasks that require specific knowledge.

      Some Sates in the U.S. are also easier to get licensed in. If you are advertising your services in a State, you must be licensed in that State.

    • Marvin McConoughey

      True, the USA does have formal state requirements to title oneself an architect. It is likely an inevitable trend that governments require formal training to earn the title. The field is becoming ever more complex. Perhaps the profession should consider breaking the title up into multiple groups–residential, skyscrapers, etc.

  • Annie

    Renzo Piano and Daniel Libeskind cannot call themselves or promote themselves as architects in any country, state, province, etc, in which they are not registered, in which registration is required. If people refer to them as architects, whatever, so long as they themselves are not advertising and working under the title “architect” in those places in which it’s illegal. That’s also true all across the US not only for architects, but interior designers. Designers work very hard meeting requirements for licensing, just as doctors and lawyers do. They deal too much with the safety of other people to not have the profession regulated.

  • Micrav

    These people, by their work, have proved they were great architects and architects in UK should acknowledge this. You know, in reality architects are designers specialised in architecture… In some countries, architects have the responsability of the calculations, the structure, in others, no. So you can say he is an architect, but not a registered architect of the BD. And move on, make him an honorary member of BD and forget about it.

  • B K

    My only comment on this is that they are not trying to slander these architect’s names, but rather, it is more of a question and point of the black & white notion of obtaining the specific title of “Architect”. However, I would point out that this is more prevalent to the example of how the title of “Interior Designer” is tossed around the “Interior Decorator” field. In this case (and that of an Architect), the three “E’s” which are Education, Experience, & Examination, are required in order to be a licensed professional. This should definitely be recognized and differentiated for the amount of time, work, and effort that has been put into obtaining this title. It is no different than having a title of “Lawyer” or “Physician”…it would be like a Physician Assistant or a Nurse claiming the title of full blown “Physician” (of course with all respect to both parties). I do not fully agree with this question of integrity of Piano and Libeskind, however, I do agree with the notion of correct entitlement and the recognition of this deserved title.

  • R. in Washington D.C.

    I am in the process of taking my ARE exams for NYC, but not currently licensed. However, I have 5 year bachelors degree in architecture and a Masters in architecture and urban design. With 8 years of experience working in architecture offices I have been an integral part of over 30 projects across the US and find it very frustrating that I cannot legally, officially refer to myself as an “architect”. But. But……Can someone with a law degree refer to themselves as a lawyer without having passed the bar?….
    How do we move forward in elevating the profession of Architect if we cannot answer this question?

    • ThisAintKyle

      Just do it! F*ck what ‘they’ tell you. YOU ARE AN ARCHITECT and it’s up to the CLIENT to decide to use you or not. THE MARKET will tell you if you’re a good ARCHITECT or not – and your continued success or failure in serving clients will be the result.

    • B K

      “R.” – that is a great point and I wonder the same thing about the profession of Architecture as a whole. I do not question the validity of anyone’s skills or reputation, this including Piano, Libeskind, and yourself (or any other qualified professional), however, I do question how we can create a staple for the Title of Architect. Like you pointed out, you cannot be a Lawyer without having passed the bar, and you can not be a Physician without passing multiple exams and becoming licensed. I believe Architects spend a great deal of time and money and sacrifice in order to enter into a profession which can be considered a social service (social impact as well as the overall lower income that this profession caters compared to others). However, to response to “ThisAintKyle” – believe it or not, but this question and concern for our overall profession’s image and the blur between entitlement is pretty significant whether you personally seem to not agree or care at all.

  • giorgio

    ARB – ridiculous and out of time! now i understand why UK is still a monarchy!!!

  • Steve in London

    The ARB are excercising the limited power given to them by a law that misses the point – in the UK the title “Architect” is protected but not the role. You can call yourself a building designer and do, with no experience, what someone has spent years training to do. The problem lies not with the ARB but the ridiculous piece of legislation that protects a word and not a valuable public service. Personally, I don’t care if the village idiot wants to call himself an Architect or not, as long as he’s kept at arm’s length from the process of designing buildings. A person can call themselves the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. That doesn’t mean they have any power. Why is the argument stuck on the title rather the quality of certain “Architects’” work or lack thereof.

  • AlfonsoH

    If this logic is followed, that means that neither Corbusier not Frank Lloyd Wright qualify as architects, because they never went to architecture school. The same BS happens in America. The ARB are idiots…..

  • onvn

    Architecture still happens without architects. Stop being pompous ARB!

    this is perhaps the most irritating thing about architecture.. the profession. architecture is a disciple, not a profession, in my book

    • onvn


  • Igor Reyes

    I hope I never become an architect…..

  • Heywood Floyd

    Maybe Foster should only be called an architect in the UK then?

  • Vlad

    Yeah, and professions such as “system architect” or expressions like “he was one of the architects of 9/11″ are acceptable…..

  • Troy

    I don’t know anyone who considers Daniel Libeskind to be a real architect anyway. Why should the ARB treat him any different?

    • Marvin McConoughey

      I consider Daniel Libeskind to be a real architect. But your comment prompts this question: what criteria should w use to determine if an architect is real–or not?

  • Walt

    To the ARB: Quid quo pro, Renzo Piano ® , Daniel Libeskind ® ,your name ® . This would make things interesting.

  • architecty

    Interesting comments here, particularly ‘Architecture still happens without architects’ this of course is true and it is clearly ridiculous that the ARB should request that Piano and Libeskind not be referred to as Architects. However after all our hard work through 7+ years of study it is right that we protect the title of ‘Architect’ it does far more to stop charlatans and dodgy dealers from ripping off their clients than it stops genuine architects and designers from being taken seriously. Piano and Libeskind are definitely Architects but don’t let this sensationalising story distract you from the importance of protecting the title of ‘Architect’.