Curious History

Curious History

History of Architecture Design

The history of architecture design is as old as recorded human history and as unique as every group of peoples that have existed at any time in history.  Architecture tells of the stories of the people who live in the buildings to their social meanings.  The greatest architect builders throughout history have managed to create structures that continue to amaze and inspire us hundreds and thousands of years after being built.


While architecture as a practice has been with human society since the earliest phases, the idea of the professional architect has only existed since the 1700s.   Prior to the 1700s, any person with skill and talent could become an architect by reading, self-study, performing an apprenticeship, or becoming a favorite of the king or nobility.  Simply, these ‘architects’ simply were good at building structures that didn’t fall over.  With the 1700s, the emergence of formal schools in Europe for the study of architecture, such as the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and began a new level of professionalism, yet this education was not mandatory to become an architect.


By the 1800s, we see the development of the professionalism that would promote the architect builder as a proper profession.  American Richard Morris Hunt had the foresight to see the need to create a professional body governing the architects of America, and he created the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1857.  The goal of the institute was to promote architecture as a respectable profession with standardization based in improving the scientific and practical means of architecture.


The professionalism of architecture began as ethics and conduct of members improved the design and planning process.  A contract and policy system emerged from these architects, and training was conducted in order to show what was to be expected in the performance of the professional architect.  One of the most novel ideas is that the AIA doesn’t issue licensing for architects so architects choose to be bound by the rules and regulations of the architects.


Education for architects also emerged as schools like MIT, Cornell, Columbia, Tuskegee, and many others all had formal programs by 1881.  Currently there are over 100 schools that have accredited architecture programs that standardize the education of new architects.  Like the legal and medical professions, this standardization and accreditation meant that architects across the country were learning the same materials and applications leading to great competence in the discipline.


In 1897, Illinois passed state law requiring that all practicing architects in Illinois be licensed by the state meaning that basic competency in architecture was met by license holders.  Eventually, other states and the federal government required licensing of architects resulting in the creation of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.  This movement is significant, because during this period of American History we see the development of the large skyscraper in the urban skylines.  These structures required more architectural expertise than any previous structure, and in order to accommodate urban desires for vertical living, architects needed to be held to high standards.


By meeting these new standards, architects could now produce the plans and drawings to the home builder who assumed the second aspect of the pre-1700 architect that designed and built the structures.  The home builder became the one who took the ideas and made them reality.  Working in conjunction with the architects, the building process has now reached a level of professionalism where clients engaging in the building process can feel confident that their ideas can be realized.

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