Daniel S. Friedman, FAIA
Mary Simpson/UW CBE Advancement Daniel S. Friedman, FAIA

What is the future of the architecture profession? Daniel S. Friedman, FAIA, dean of the University of Washington’s College of Built Environments and president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, responds.

Obviously things are changing very fast. Most practitioners I talk to predict fewer jobs in conventional offices coming out of the recession; most worry about a continuing loss of control over design; and yet most see new opportunities managing carbon footprints and energy. Designing sustainable environments in turn generates new programs of research and drives new policies surrounding urban growth, water, health, transportation, infrastructure, and density, which are rapidly reshaping our core compositional vocabulary. The public needs our expertise, if only we can figure out a way to win its trust and imagination with something besides swagger architecture.

I doubt we’ll achieve lasting influence over the built environment unless we move the professional curriculum in a radically new direction. I hear principals of large firms express more interest in funded research, project delivery, and hybrid services. I hear administrators talking more about alternative careers, which begs assumptions underlying regulation. Soon we’ll need to decide how much it matters that less than half of all our full-time tenure-track professors are licensed, and whether or not we care that fewer and fewer students and interns value registration.

Architecture as a profession is still in formation, and the shape it takes is bound to look much different than past models. The discipline of architecture continues to exert a powerful influence on our professional discourse, which is why the curriculum will always be a battleground. Whatever we’re becoming, we’re likely to be more integrative, more pragmatic, more innovative in our application of novel materials and methods of manufacture, more attentive to building performance, more invested in politics and culture and social equity, and more expansive and variegated in our application of design reasoning across diverse scales of production and experience.

I remember something the urban economist David Perry said to me a few years ago when I asked him to explain the difference between architects and planners. He said, “When architects put something physical into the world, they think of their job as done; when planners put something physical into the world, they think of their job as just beginning.” David’s distinction is fast becoming a thing of the past. Today’s architect thinks of building more as system and less as an object. Tomorrow’s profession will be increasingly systemic and contextual, with composition and construction steadily following suit. As told to William Richards.

To hear from more architects about the future of the profession, and to contribute your own voice, visit architectmagazine.com/AIA.