A recent project I was involved in took an unusual turn when the main contractor went into administration. We were duty bound to give the client assistance and advice on the best course of action. Unfortunately this advice was ignored. The client’s decision was partly due to the influence of Grand Designs and the lack of clarity of the benefits of an Architect to the viewers. This includes the clients in question who took this even more common stance.

This client decided to go it alone. No design team, no contractor and no architect. However, we have had regular phone calls for advice. We gave them our opinion as a professional to try and maintain our standing with them, ensuring our professionalism. A dawn of realisation occurred with them that they needed to sort out any problems. The reality sank in of a lack of vision, programme and cost control – all of these issues created a stressful situation. A project that is over budget and late – even when dismissing the design team to save a few pennies!

The AJ Writing prize 2012 posed a question – Do Architects have a duty outside of satisfying Clients? Architects are bound by the ARB code of conduct. Set within the code are the core duties, these in principle are to satisfy the Client(s) but also ensure as professionals we achieve the highest possible standards. This is true for a small extension right up to multi million pound schemes. Each individual project should be treated with the same responsible approach.

What the portrayal on Grand Designs does is simplify the role of the Architect to completing drawings, occasionally doing a model or picking a tile. Even just wearing black. It does not do enough to highlight those duties an Architect will complete to ensure a project runs smoothly and stress free from inception to its completion. This then allows the clients the peace of mind and a degree of separation from the harsh reality. In addition, gives them the professional opinion and abilities an architect possess.

An architect would have trained for 7+ years to achieve a professional level to undertake the demands of completing a project. A set level of competence is required to allow them to practice, act as a professional and complete the duties given to us – all governed by ARB and RIBA.

A recent debate and poll undertaken in the industry highlights what ARB and RIBA should be promoting to clients – employ an architect, use an architect, and it’s always better with an architect. Our perception to clients and the protection of our identity and role are crucial for us to be a major part of the changes being pushed through by this government. Grand Designs or not, we need to ensure we as professionals are indespensable!