//THE ARCHITECT// The role of the architect

//THE EVOLUTION OF THE ROLE OF THE ARCHITECT//The role of the architect has changed significantly from antiquity tothe present. Back in ancient Rome the architect was a generalist. He had awell-rounded professional knowledge including graphic and mathematical skillsrendering him able to prepare the cost overview and construction specificationsof projects. (Chapman Taylor, 2018) In ancient Greece the architect wassimilarly responsible for the design and construction of a building. The Greekword architektonas was derived from the word Archi which means ‘head or chief’and ‘tekton’ which means builder therefore combined the two words describe thearchitect as the ‘master builder’. (Berman, 2003).

 The industrialisation of the 19th century, brought material andtechnology evolution, extending the scope of design tasks as new buildingtypologies like apartment blocks, schools and fire stations appeared. (ChapmanTaylor, 2018) Innovative technologies and techniques led to specialisation.’Steel beams for multi-storey buildings, elevators, plumbing, ventilationsystems, central heating, and electric lighting all began to be incorporatedinto the construction projects of the time’. (Jones, 2006) The master builderfailed to sustain his expertise in the various aspects of the building process.’Sub-contracts began to be written between the builder, or general contractholder, and the individual trade experts.’ (Jones, 2006) As a consequence themaster builder failed to integrate the trades towards a constructible andefficient design solution. As a result two sub-roles were born ‘the designer’and ‘the builder’. This separation was the first step in the fragmentation ofthe industry we experience today.

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(Jones, 2006)  During the 20th century the legal requirements of construction projectsand technical complexity have escalated to such a degree that new specialistfields of engineering and design became necessary. (Chapman Taylor, 2018) Thebuilder role was fragmented into contractors and sub-contractors includingmanufacturers and suppliers. The architect began to assume the responsibilityof various areas of specialisation, such as structural design, mechanical andelectrical design. Nowadays, the architect will incorporate in the team evenmore specialised consultants, such as landscape, interior, acoustic and firesafety consultant (Woods, 1999).

 // HOW DATA WILL TRANSFORM ARCHITECTURE//Progressing towards the 21st century the role of the architect continuesto change even more. Venice Biennale 2014 told the story of an architecturewhich is evidently impoverished of architects, foreseeing a future wherebuildings begin to speak for themselves. (Davis, 2014) The main exhibitiontitled ‘Elements of Architecture’ was curated by Rem Koolhaas who designed thespace as if visitors were entering a museum showcasing various taxonomies ofreal size architectural elements. (Davis, 2014) Each section/element likewalls, doors or windows were organised in such a way as to show how their formand structure evolved and adapted throughout architectural history in the contextof the technology evolution. (Davis, 2014)  The exhibition clearly conveys the message that the architect’sinfluential power is diminishing as building elements become productised.(Davis, 2014) Originally a window was a physical element carved out of thebuilding by the architect.

Nowadays the engineers design it, the corporationsmarket it and then a façade consultant selects it on behalf of the architect.(Davis, 2014) It seems like the architects are becoming supporting actors on astage where the technology is the protagonist.   According to Rem Koolhaas for the past 5000 years architectural elementswere deaf and mute, this means our fireplaces, doors and windows have been’speechless’ fixtures inside the house. We could open and close them, but theycould never reply on whether too much wind was coming through or too much UVlight. Koolhaas through the Biennale expresses the belief that our buildingsare in the process of learning now. The exhibition incorporated future trendslike autonomous vacuum cleaners that clean the floor, computers tracking peopleflow through the installations and via thermostats adjusting the temperature ofspace. The common characteristic of all these future elements is the ability tocollect data from the built environment.

(Davis, 2014) Data have changed dramatically the way we interact with the world beingthe strongest by-products of the 21st century. Almost all our activities todayincorporate the production, storage and exchange of data, when we requestdirections in google maps, when we swipe our card to buy things or posting onsocial media and sending an email. This is Big data. Several innovative gadgetsin our built environment known as Internet of things devices like thermostatscollect data and provide feedback ensuring the occupant comfort while savingenergy. (Davis, 2014) Koolhaas predicted that every element that makes up abuilding will start to collect, analyse and react to data in the future.(Davis, 2014) These data becoming available have lead city governments to beginto use them to plan and manage their cities more efficiently turning them into’smart cities’ (TMD STUDIO, 2017)    

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