The Changing Role Of The Architect

It has been a while since the architect was the master builder and was the ultimate authority for any building design and construction. A lot of factors contributed to this change;
The industrial revolution, new technologies, new materials meant the traditional craftsmen were not capable to handle the new complexity of the design and building industry.
We saw then the birth of engineers and other professionals to deal with specialist areas. Slowly a new role evolved, The Architect, a designer with limited responsibility for commercial, legal financial, management and construction issues. Architects became solely responsible for the design, leaving all other issues to be handled by a number of different professionals each one of them knew a bit of the picture but no one knew the entire story.
This eroding role of the Architect created a world of design and construction so complicated, full of  grey areas, interfaces and conflicts. It has become the nightmare of each person involved in the construction industry.
So to manage the process other management forms have evolved, among them;
-Design and Built, a design and construction process basically driven by the contractor and totally cost based. Although it is a sound process to control cost and time, it reduces the architect’s role even further. When the contractor is the client,  aesthetics and artistic expressions are not high on the agenda.
-Project managers and  construction managers who are basically engineers, quantity surveyor or administrators tried to fill the gap by becoming a communication channel between clients and architects removing  the architect even further from the end users and decision makers.
However none of these processes are really providing the control and total responsibility for the entire design and construction the master builder had! Cost overrun, delays, technical problems, defects, arbitrations and conflicts are still the usual scenario in the building industry.
Recently there have been some effort to revive the architects role as master builders. Is it possible, or a wishful dream?
I will explore what is really this revival efforts are all about and if there is a place for a modern master builder in todays world?


Dr. Chafia Ferhat,Ph.D.

Born in Constantine and graduated from Constantine School of Architecture and Urban Planning in 1984, then completed my Masters and PhD at The University of Leeds UK in 1989.

Joined RMJM International Design Group in 1991 and became managing Director in 1996.

Feature works include a large number of high profile buildings and projects: Dulwich International College, The Asian University of Science and technology, The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Harrow international School, Bangkok International Exhibition and Conference Centre, to name a few.

Dr. Chafia Ferhat founded Fenn Designers studio in 2007 and continue working with architectural projects, open spaces, urbanism in Asia, Middle East and North Africa. She also contributes to a number of architecture publications and spends some time as a visiting lecturer at Rangsit University, Chulalongkorn University, Thamassart University, KM IT.