History is witness to the many ups and downs we go through in our lifetime. Wars, terrorism, natural disasters, accidents, etc. have always been part of the society. These devastating natural or human acts, although disastrous, bring the affected people together. The inevitability of rebuilding communities follows. That’s when architects are needed the most.
Not very far behind security and medical professionals, architects are the leaders that make a positive difference in the society through rebuilding or uniting efforts. Although architecture can at times be a cut-throat profession with architects competing to win the limited amount of paid work available, at the time of disasters these same architects can be seen working hand-in-hand in all parts of the world doing pro-bono work to serve the people. Those are the citizen architects that are truly fulfilling the oath they took when they first got their license, and those are the true stewards of the built environment.
Architecture can have a powerful impact in the aftermath of a tragedy. Whether in the form of a memorial, or a healthcare or security facility, or any public service building, architecture begins to serve those in mourning or rehabilitation. A single building can have the strength to drive the rebuilding of communities and cities around it. A single building can turn the economy around and bring work to a city. A single building can invite tourism into a city, and a single building can survive through the ages and live to tell its tale a century later. Multiply this impact with the number of architects living in a city and the number of buildings each architect is designing, and the value of architects begins to surface.
But does getting an architect’s license make one a leader? Simply because someone is an architect in a project team doesn’t make one a leader, especially in the collaborative team environment we live in today. Going to an 8-5 job and occasionally getting CE credits doesn’t make one a leader. Making a positive impact in the community through architectural or non-architectural service makes one a leader.
It is during the times of turmoil when we are reminded of what purpose we serve in the society as architects. Are we in this profession for winning awards for aesthetically pleasing projects? Are we in this profession to win accolades for our service to the profession? Or are we in this profession because we want to help people in a way that gives them the strength to face the challenges of daily life? If we could just remember the oath we all took as architects and make it second nature, all of us are not far from becoming citizen architects. Being an architect doesn’t automatically make one a leader, but architects can be leaders.