Is architecture still a myth?

When someone asks what teachers do, there is an obvious truth in the unanimity of answers that they teach. Same goes for doctors, who are widely known to cure sickness. This, however, is an overgeneralization, as both have different majors and specializations. Most disciplines are with similar faith, but the responses are also not generally wrong.

It is a little bit more complicated in the case of the architect.

Architects themselves cannot pinpoint what they do in a simple phrase. Drawing buildings, designing buildings, building buildings. Drawing, designing, and building buildings. It is still not enough to broadly represent the work of an architect.

A simple phrase means an understanding that successively affects the profession’s merit. Though it is contestable to say that understanding alone can alleviate value, one still cannot patronize what one does not comprehend. This complication shows more in the extreme perceptions of the architect.

On one side, you can do without them. They are an additional expense that just presents the clients’ ideas in a fancier manner. On the other extreme side, it is the architect that should be called as they know all, being accountable for almost everything and indefinitely if building operations are to be considered.

This is still parallel to what architectural critic Reyner Banham mentioned in his essay 33 years ago. He likened architecture to a black box that tries to fit everything, evading with its exclusivity the opportunity for understanding and criticism but may just be nothing but mystery.

Yet, being understood is the least of the problems of the freelance practitioner who continuously looks for projects, the employee who has deadlines, and even for other Filipino architects. A single phrase answer, though, seems to be a simple step to take. It is a possible gateway to ease the extreme misconception of the architect’s work and value that mirrors the profession of architecture that operates like a myth.

* * *

Ar. Kamille Kym Olympia is a part-time professor at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and the Technological University of the Philippines Manila. She is also a partner of the Boring Studio Architecture, which specializes in art outputs, offices, and restaurant projects. At present, she resides in Dessau, Germany to finish her thesis term on the Master Program COOP Design Research under Anhalt University of Applied Sciences and the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation in cooperation with Humboldt University Berlin.