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6 February 2019

Larry Malcic on Why the Changing Architectural Profession Will Continue to Thrive

In a guest column for Architects’ Journal, Larry Malcic, who recently announced his retirement from HOK’s London studio, extols the timeless role of architects in shaping cities and the public realm.

Here are excerpts from Architects’ Journal:

On the environment in London three decades ago:

“At my first client meeting in London 30 years ago, the client kept asking the advice of the quantity surveyor and deferring to his opinion. When the meeting ended, the QS explained to me: ‘The client sees me as the person who saves his money, and you as the chap who wastes it.’ This was a common view at the time. Architects were eyed with suspicion or even scorn—necessary dilettantes in need of strict control.”

On how the perception of architects has changed:

“Three decades later the important role architects have in shaping cities and the public realm is better understood and respected. Architects are celebrated for their ability to give identity and prominence to cities and communities; building design is a popular topic. Architecture is as much written and talked about as fashion, often using similar vocabulary.”

On today’s threats to the profession:

“Building information modelling, parametrics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality—the computer-based tools that expand the architect’s ability to conceptualise and visualise ideas—are dramatically changing the nature of our practice. Small, nimble and individualistic practices now compete with large, more established organisations. Large practices experiment with new methods of project design and delivery as the architectural profession seems to gravitate to these two ends of the spectrum. General contractors, engineering giants, project-management firms and specialist advisers are employing technology to devise new ways to cherry-pick services that once belonged to the architect, creating more competition.”

On why he remains optimistic:

“The architect’s currency has always been ideas. Building provides shelter but architecture gives physical form and visual meaning to the activities of life. The tools of technology and fluctuations of business are minor compared with the undiminished need for humane buildings and habitable, sustainable cities conceived by personal passion, optimism, knowledge and imagination. The architect’s job always remains unfinished.”

Architects’ Journal