Protecting the term ‘architect’
Dear Editor:As a practicing, licensed architect, and president of the California Architects Board, I read with interest the article about Jack Johnson and his use of the term architect in his run for the Aspen Council. While the court case evaluated that use in the context of free speech, it does not – and should not – change the latitude of the use of the term “architect” in the context of professional practice.It seems to me that it is important to take the matter further, and to do so the following questions should be answered by Mr. Johnson and by your readers:First, what is Mr. Johnson’s intent as far as professional practice is concerned? How long is it since he graduated from an accredited architectural school (or began working in the profession)? Does he keep a full-time job in an architectural office? If he is not now working in an architectural firm, how many years of full-time work in an architectural office does he have? Has he begun the process of getting licensed? Has he taken or passed any of the ARE sections? In short, does Mr. Johnson intend to become an architect?Second, how does Mr. Johnson conduct, or intend to conduct himself in his new seat of power? Any of us who have appeared before a planning commission or a city council knows full well the challenges of that situation. As Mr. Johnson has aggressively pressed his right to use the term “architect,” what authority will he project to professionals who appear before him? Will he use his “architectural” experience to unduly influence other council members to his point of view on professional matters? It is one thing to argue red versus blue, but what about basic design intent and the application of professional judgment. Will he impose his own vision on projects brought before him? I would have cause for concern in appearing before someone pushing so hard to call himself an architect – when he is, in fact, not one.Finally, while it is easy to understand the desire to call oneself an architect after graduating from an architectural school, and getting that valuable diploma – a great accomplishment – it does not take a great deal of imagination to understand why the title “architect” needs to be protected. The title is bestowed once a candidate for licensure has shown the completion of the basic level of experience required and passed the requisite tests to demonstrate the ability to protect the basic health, safety and welfare of the public. Remember, incompetent practice can lead to damage and loss of life. The practice of architecture is serious business. Students and interns surely have the vision to see and understand that once they have taken all these steps, and earn their licenses, they too will want to protect it and protect their distinct right to the title of “architect.”I look forward to Mr. Johnson’s response to these questions. If he can demonstrate an active intent to become what he claims then we can move on. If he cannot convincingly (and with evidence) show his pursuit of an architectural license – and our board sees many who abuse the practice, then in my personal opinion he could be viewed as a fraud.Jeffrey Heller, FAIAPresident, California Architects BoardSan Francisco
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