Perpetuating a Misconception

Do we have an obligation to stop perpetuating a misconception that we know is out there?  Or is it ok to keep it going, because it’s easier to gloss over it, instead of stopping conversation to correct the misconception?

Nope, I’m not talking about the girlfriend of a certain football player from my alma mater.  I’m talking about the misconception that someone who has a degree from an architecture school and designs buildings is an architect.

Now, there’s a difference between cocktail party conversation and written articles that reach a wide audience.  There are social skills and then there are conversation stoppers; there are manners on one hand and truth in journalism on the other hand.

I recently emailed with a newspaper writer.  He had written an article about the beautiful remodel of a home, and in it, he referred to the “architect” several times.  The designer of the remodel appears to be in the middle of taking his licensing exams, but does not appear to be a licensed architect.

I wrote to the writer that I felt compelled to inform him that a design professional cannot be called an “architect” in Colorado unless he or she is actually licensed as an architect in Colorado, and that although a licensed architect is not required for design work on a house, only a licensed architect is allowed, by law, to call him- or her- self an “architect.”

The writer wrote back that he knew all that, but in his mind, and in the mind of almost all readers, since the design professional has a degree in architecture, he’s an architect.    

What is the writer’s obligation as a journalistAccuracy, or an article that flows like a cocktail party conversation?

What is my obligation as a licensed architect?  I have been told by the Colorado arm of the American Institute of Architects that it is my “duty as a licensed architect to report anyone that is using the term architect and is not licensed to the state licensing board, per the licensing law.”

The architecture profession does a great job of letting the profession know that intern architects shouldn’t call themselves “architect” until they’re licensed.  But the architecture profession doesn’t do a good job of getting the word out to the general public.  And I believe that this can cause problems for consumers.

Here are a couple of recent posts of mine about this issue:

“’Sunset Review’ of Licensure for Architects”: and

“Really?!? ‘Who Cares Who’s a Licensed Architect?’”

If anyone (besides Manti Te’o) has suggestions for me, about how to continue to correct misconceptions, while continuing to practice good manners, please let me know.  I’m really at a loss, here.

6 thoughts on “Perpetuating a Misconception

  1. Hard to know where to start reining this in when most classified ads for “architect” these days are for computer programmers. Also confusing in the minds of many since “P.E.” and “AIA” are not synonymous, and a person can be licensed but not necessarily a member of the AIA. Focus needs to shift from limiting the possibility of incursion into our discipline to expanding or involvement in the others.

  2. I too am dismayed at how the IT industry has literally commandeered the term. I still remember the time I heard the movie line “I am the architect of the Matrix.” The only thing that makes it a little less objectionable is that in IT it is more often used as an adjective or modifier of another term, rather than as a primary noun.

    That being said, it still is disappointing how a writer can say, “I know that but…” (i.e. it doesn’t really matter). Would-be doctors and attorneys who try that are publicized as frauds in the same media that thinks it is a small matter for architects.

    Can we henceforth address each other as Master Builder O’Sullivan and Master Builder Bishton to clarify things?

  3. Pingback: What Do Architects NOT Do? | Comments From a Spec Writer

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