Do We Need Fewer Architects?

Courtesy of Wikipedia/Library of Congress

In an article by the Architects’ Journal, Tony Fretton is quoted as saying there ought to be fewer architecture schools in the , with more difficult entry requirements and a higher failure rate. “There should be a shortage of architects in the ,” he says, “fewer bad architects, fewer good architects”.

Citing Switzerland and the Netherlands as countries which do well with just 2 or 3 major architecture schools, he believes that architectural education should be concentrated into just a few schools in order to give students more access to the best tutors.

Read more about Fretton’s proposal after the break

Fretton’s argument is particularly relevant in the UK right now, as the Architects Registration Board (ARB) is considering a radical change to the process of architectural education. In a separate opinion piece, the AJ’s editor Christine Murray says that “the current system is flabby, and, at £9,000 a year for tuition fees, flabby isn’t fair.”

She points out that the current education system leaves little opportunity for graduates saying that “too many of these students are simply unemployable.” This would certainly seem to support Fretton’s argument that we should be producing fewer architecture graduates in the first place.

However, it is interesting to note that in many developing countries, such as Thailand, there is a severe shortage of architecture graduates, as revealed by this article in The Nation. Perhaps one response to the current crisis in UK architectural education is to better prepare graduates to find work abroad (and, judging by the popularity of our post “The 9 Best Countries for Architects to Find Work,” many graduates are already making this leap).

Should there be fewer architects? More architects abroad? Let us know what you think in the comments below…

Cite: Stott, Rory. "Do We Need Fewer Architects?" 31 Jul 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 26 Nov 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=408887>
  • Duo Dickinson

    yes. sadly.

  • rwhtx

    Fewer bad architects? No argument there.

    But instead of fewer good architects we need more. It’s the “great” architects — or at least those that think they are great — we need fewer of.

  • Jason Wagner

    Every year architecture schools pump out way more students than the profession can absorb.

    I don’t know if there is a good solution. If someone wanted to study architecture it would be a big shame to deny them because of quotas. But without quotas they would get to go to architecture school but ultimately wouldn’t be able to work in the profession anyway. :(

    • Justin

      I don’t think quotas is the issue, at least initially. If there were only a limited number of graduations per year however, or each year 10 percent of students were cut from the course and their degree redirected, that would really step up the competition for who wants to be an architect. At my school it is way too easy to pass, unfortunately I think it is all about schools getting heaps of numbers, to get heaps of money.

  • Mark

    Much like how licencing got started, the call for harder schools and more selective entry to the profession, comes from existing architects. Its not about quality or safety, its about limiting your competition.

  • Cplants

    Yes, fewer architects with more difficult entry requirements and a higher failure rate in schools… yes, if the salary comes with it !

  • bobo

    I’ll try to post again…

    …more good clients, builders and regulators would get my vote…

    …in my observation and experience, with all the forces seemingly working against good design, I’d say owners generally get the quality of building they deserve…

    • Jayster

      Then you’re just palying along…

  • J

    People need buildings when they need them. If you have a shortage of architects, people will reduce whats within the Architects scope of power; enabling non-licensed professionals to take over the responsibilities of an architect. Wasn’t Spain exploring the idea of allowing engineers to take on the role of the architect?

  • Daniel Stilwell

    No is the simple answer! We just need better Architects, those not fuelled the “starkitect” lifestyle. We need to go back to the days where Architects were well respected and valued, the days of the grand European tour and bring back Romanticism! Days of nurture and Architectural fruition that isn’t a cacophony of misleading buildings but ones that are accepting of the environment and people it is for!

  • as

    We need everyone to understand world has changed, and the architect must face different problems now, we don’t need fewer architects, we just have to make everyone understand again our importance

  • Cem

    Architecture schools need to prepare students so they are employable. Many leave with little knowledge of a how a building will work and are lost in the real world when they finally find a job. The universities only care about the end product. Pretty things to put up on walls.

    An overhaul of the system is needed. Too much conceptual stuff gets in the way nowadays.

  • DWatterworth

    As a semi-recent graduate (4 years), the idea of a glut of architectural graduates all competing for jobs solely in the architecture profession in the strict sense is totally unrealistic. Many of my peers were seeking jobs in related fields such as construction management and industrial design among a few where the thought process, skills and work ethic can translate directly.

  • darin

    I don’t think that “fewer” schools is necessarily the answer for the simple, and real, concern that fewer schools limits the possibilities for different approaches, outlooks, attitudes. We need schools that allow students to find their own passionate paths – be that sustainability, common-good, or corporate practice. Those different paths REQUIRE different mentors, and different mentors REQUIRE different educational surroundings. The teaching of architecture demands some level of “do architecture like this.” It seems to me that we continue the tradition of “apprenticeship” whereby a young un- or less-educated pupil “mimics” his/her mentor. I would argue that (though, perhaps, they should) architecture programs do not support enough differing approaches. Limiting the number of schools could, in theory, lead to a localization of thought-model in each school, but then – the result is even more dire, because the pupil has but one opportunity at his/her own particular training. No, the answer is not fewer schools. The answer is fewer “me, too” schools, allowing for an opening-up of more varied opportunities.

  • lama gharaibeh

    when you start searching for a job you will think it’s a pyramid as we go up the opportunities will be less but for a hard worker you just need to be honest and work in a correct way, convince others then you will find out that the top is flat and everybody can have a place at the top.

  • Sara

    Indeed, lots of Architecture Schools in the UK. More international job bridges need to be built for new graduates. There is so much space to build on Earth.

  • JvFragstein

    As a recent graduate I’d agree that schools certainly need to integrate ‘real-world’ conciderations into students projects (maybe not to begin with but as they progress to final year) I was lucky enough to go to a place which had begun to do this and it certainly helped getting a job. However restricting people studying in what they want to do isn’t right, it might be a case of highlighting how architecture and how it interacts with other disciplines could help students ‘side step’ into other careers where their training could prove to be more effective.

  • Pedro Grilo

    the general population should have more access to good architecs. that’s it.

  • SEXIST MAN

    The obvious problem, like with most professions, was the induction of women.

  • kevin tientcheu

    Pressure seems to be around students and the job market but aren’t schools also part of the problem? The issue of “good” or “bad” architect really comes down to how they where actually instructed back in college in my opinion. We could just shut down a majority of the schools that did not make it on the “best architecture programs” list and see if things get any better. I find it a little insulting at a certain point that some would so vaguely suggest it. I totaly agree that opportunities after graduation are few and that maybe there should be less architects, but I personally find it pretentious when I read things like “entrance into architecture school should be made more difficult.” as a solution to the problem. What architecture student can say that he/she did not pour sweat and blood in design studio after being accepted in at a school? Or will we now stop people from getting degrees they want because they might not find a job later? This issue must be addressed in a holistic manner. Yes the US might need less architects, “good” or “bad”. I think we should be careful however not to throw out ideas to bring that about so hastily one facet of the issue and not the other.

  • silicon m

    This argument sounds good at first glance however, speaking as an architect working in Australia, we need to better develop the legislative role of the architect along with education for the community at large as to the worth of an architect. In my mind Architects, ‘are not in control of a body of knowledge’ as say doctors or lawyers or engineers and scientist etc are. Anyone it seems can become a builder or developer or designer of buildings and they do. This is not helped by television show that develop and renovate buildings in a certain time frame for sensationalised earnings and high tv ratings, giving a false appearance every one can become an architect and produce without the knowledge or understanding , of history, philosophically, ethics and good design principles let alone the miriade of other considerations needed to produce great architectural design. I think the last statistic I saw, give or take a few percentage points, showed less than 5% of all buildings built in Australia are built using architects. How sad is that. Why isn’t every building built using an architect?
    Don’t say cost because the money you pay an architect will still need to be paid somewhere for those services, or at least for the corrections that may be required. If more architects where used, there wouldn’t be an oversupply and the profession may bee seen with a lot more worth.

  • Amber

    Fewer schools, More passion. There are 3 universities in my city alone that have architecture each with an initial intake of approximately 400 architecture students. Whilst you are blessed with a handful of passionate tutors and lecturers which can inspire the architects of tomorrow for every one of them there are at least six who are jaded and bitter. Whilst this causes more then a half of intakes to re-consider their decision it also produces many graduates who have already had all their hope in the profession dashed and can’t even work in the real industry. The world would be better of having a good few then a many worth nothing…

  • José López

    I would say that we need not only to educate ourselves as architects but to educate communities. Educate them about the role of the architectural services vs. non-architectural and the value of our practice. People still believe that an architect is a luxury item and in many countries (non-developed specially) general contractors or other professionals execute projects in a very poorly manner. This of course affects the overall quality of the communities. In summary we need architects and we need to make people value us.

    • Carlos Ferrán

      I agree with with José López statement. It is not a question of good or bad architects. If you graduated from an Architectural School I think you are fit for the job, specially on the high academic standards in these “difficult-to-survive” schools. Most of the problems architects face in carrying on with their careers, its the general lack of knowledge of the countries they practice and the citizen they serve. Understanding the amplitude of services an architect has to offer, is a fact. This confusion, let other professions to overlap, displace and even throw shadows, over our work. It is a collective responsibility of all architects, to inform, educate and be recognize to the countries and government which they serve and otherwise, to acknowledge the fact and obligation, to use architects for which these professionals are educated and foresee the purpose of their careers. As I see, the problem is global, even in my country Puerto Rico, the situation is the same.

    • Carlos Ferrán

      It is not a question of good or bad architects. If you graduated from an Architectural School I think you are fit for the job, specially on the high academic standards in these “difficult-to-survive” schools. Most of the problems architects face in carrying on with their careers, its the general lack of knowledge of the countries they practice and the citizen they serve. Understanding the amplitude of services an architect has to offer, is a fact. This confusion, let other professions to overlap, displace and even throw shadows, over our work. It is a collective responsibility of all architects, to inform, educate and be recognize to the countries and government which they serve and otherwise, to acknowledge the fact and obligation, to use architects for which these professionals are educated and foresee the purpose of their careers. As I see, the problem is global, even in my country Puerto Rico, the situation is the same.

    • Tim Wong

      Hi! I totally agree. This would be the case also here in the Philippines. I think this concern deserves a story in itself.

      It’s not the number of architects that is the issue. It’s more of creating a demand and value for architects and design.

      How would you suggest we can start a move towards this direction?

  • silicon m

    This argument sounds good at first glance however, speaking as an architect working in Australia, we need to better develop the legislative role of the architect along with education for the community at large as to the worth of an architect. In my mind Architects, ‘are not in control of a body of knowledge’ as say doctors or lawyers or engineers and scientist etc are. Anyone it seems can become a builder or developer or designer of buildings and they do. This is not helped by television shows that develop and renovate buildings in a certain time frame for sensationalised earnings and high tv ratings, giving a false appearance every one can become an architect and produce without the knowledge or understanding , of history, philosophically, ethics and good design principles let alone the miriade of other considerations needed to produce great architectural design. I think the last statistic I saw, give or take a few percentage points, showed less than 5% of all buildings built in Australia are built using architects. How sad is that. Why isn’t every building built with an architect?
    Don’t say cost because the money you pay an architect will still need to be paid somewhere for those services, or at least for the corrections that may be required. If more architects where used, there wouldn’t be an oversupply and the profession may bee seen with a lot more worth.

  • ilya

    Great idea. Regulate the number of schools, make some schools illegal, push students to study architecture underground. What about starting policies on admitting only white males with large bank accounts? I haven’t such dumb ideas in a while. Why not burn some books while you at it?

  • kassavas

    Not everyone who study architecture ends up as architects. Only a small percentage of architecture graduates in Thailand work in the field, a lot of people succeed in other fields. What architecture teaches the students is more about the thought process that can be adapted to something else that meets their interest. If a lot of students are interested in architecture, then it’s not bad if there are more institutions to meet the demands. Perhaps they want to study architecture to become something else. I think it’s more to do with providing opportunity, but perhaps not with such high tuition fees in less elite universities.

  • Shea MacDougall

    The problem is everyone thinks they’re an architect. The education is great because it teaches you how to communicate and realize inspiring visions; if you can do that then call yourself an architect, you’ll never be without a job.

  • Magda

    Tony Fretton should takie into account that the Switzerland and the Netherlands are rather small countries thus there are not that many architectural schools. But I definitely agree with the problem of too many- as said in the article- unemployable young architects.

  • jayster

    I guess Tony Fretton’s point is valid, but, it sounds like a one-sided opinion to me.
    Architects have the reponsibility to promote the service they provide so that consumers turn it into a priority. The relationship between architect / developer / builder should result in quality space for the general public to consume. Higher design expectations from the consumers is what Architecture needs.

  • George Valdes

    There needs to be an overall strategic repositioning of what it means to be an Architect. If we educated students to appreciate the use of design thinking (what Architecture Schools actually teach through design studios) to help respond to any number of complex problems we’d remove the needless expectation that you need to actually become an Architect at some point in your career. This subtle shift in pedagogical perspective would train a whole generation of architects to embrace what they do best (i.e. the representation of complex relationships, negotiation of those complex relationships to structure organizational patterns, etc.) in order to re-invent the definition of “architecture”.

    It’s not that we need to limit the students that study architecture — we need more people to be in love with buildings! — we just need to remove the cultural baggage that comes with not practicing architecture (designing buildings). Because to be honest, the worst thing about architecture education as enforced by boards of accreditation is that there is way too much focused around the production of buildings — hard to beat the trend of continued fragmentation of the design process with more and more consultants at hand — and not enough focused around any of the other skills that will prove powerful in the real world. Where are the discussions around company culture? Business Models? Client Negotiations? Public Relations? Risk? In a world in which everything can be outsourced, its time for Architects to explicate their value as strategic organizers.

    There is a lot I should have unpacked more eloquently here but currently, I’ve started a meetup called in NYC called Architecture and Entrepreneurship http://bit.ly/19bV9lP to talk about these issues and more.

  • Kevin d

    I did the bulk of my arch education in a very traditional program tracking through with 45 classmates for all 5 years the entire undergraduate college was small at less than 300 total students. I was allowed a year out of residence and attended UC Berkeley, which had an integrated “environmental design” program with arch, landscape, urban planning all rolled together into a program with more than 800 students combined. I was thrilled by the advantages of a bigger program with a wider diversity of students. I was also surprised by a much larger gap between the stronger and weaker students in my studio course, despite UC Berkeley being a far more rigorous school than my home institution. Adele Naude Santos was the dean of Berkeley at the time and I asked her about the disparity of talent and the overall size of the program. She explained that arch/design school is not exclusively about training future practitioners, but that the intense design school ciricculum is primarily about teaching students how to think and problem solve, skills she explained are vital to numerous allied professions. She went on to say that arch/design school trained real estate developers, politicians (since so much of what they do on a local level is land use), even land use attornys, etc. would be hugely beneficial to communities and society at large. This made sense to me that the training is valuable even if the students don’t ultimately end up as practicing Archs. 20 years out of school this has played out for my graduating class of 45, one is a pro arch photographer, another a land use attorney, another an animator for Disney, and one doing in-house graphics for a large Fortune 500 company. Several stopped practicing to start their families, in the end only about half the class is still in traditional architecture, but I have to think the others are able to apply their training and problem solving skills to other important parts of their lives. I came to the conclusion that limiting arch/design students is not worth the benefits of having less competition.

    • kevin tientcheu

      I would agree but while it is true that architecture teaches how to be better problem solvers in various circumstances, it might not be that easy to get a job outside of the field nowadays. The high unemployment rate might point at that. It might not be that safe to rely on going into adjacent careers when some people actually spent their years in college for them specificaly. I personaly see the issue two ways. One is on the problem of good and bad architects to which I say schools might want to adjust their curriculum. Harder selection with same education might not make much of a difference especilly in this field that can often get very subjective. The other problem being the surpopulation of architects, Harder selection could be a way to shrink it. However a more complete solution would be to look at the industry and see where things are going so that the formation of architect can be adjusted because there are already many issues at that level. Alomg with that shaping a profile for prospects that would make it competitive might get us somewhere.

  • D. Whit

    Yes. There are entirely too many architects in this country also.

    Please ask each architect to feel free to take an interior decorator and a social media specialist with them when they leave. Thank you.