Not everything at weknowmemes.com is either accurate or helpful, but the image below nails it when it comes to architecture:
Not only is it funny - and yes, I do wish I could play with Legos for a living - but it accurately captures a real problem that architects have:
No one seems to know exactly why architects are important.
I could spend time writing about the long list of skills in which an architect must be proficient. I could also discuss the job descriptions of the various positions that must be filled in order to round out the practice of architecture (such a discussion is available at Life of an Architect). But that would be only to describe an architect's function, not his purpose. One or more job descriptions simply tells you what architects do, not who they are.
Consider the following hypothetical conversations:
1. You: "So, tell me about yourself."
Lawyer: "I'm a lawyer."
You: "Oh, so you argue..."
2. You: "So, tell me about yourself."
Soldier: "I'm an officer in the US Army."
You: "Oh, so you kill people..."
3. You: "So, tell me about yourself."
Architect: "I'm an architect."
You: "Oh, so you design buildings..."
The first two conversations are ridiculous. A lawyer may certainly argue as a part of his job, but that does not describe who he is. A soldier may be called upon to kill another person, but that is not why he considers it a high calling to be an officer in the armed forces. We do not, in general, consider professionals to be merely the sum of their duties.
The third conversation, however, happens all the time. Why?
Architects wear a lot of hats, arguably more than most professionals. We have a lot of skills with many corresponding duties. Yet, all of the things an architect does serve who an architect is, which is, in fact, quite simple:
An architect guides and protects.
An architect guides the owner, for whom he acts as agent, through the process of creating the kind of space they require in a safe and legal manner, whether it be for residence or for business. In so doing, an architect also guides the physical development of a community by balancing the owner's needs and desires with the context and direction of the owner's community.
An architect protects the owner from the consequences of poor decisions, incomplete knowledge, and financial overrun. In so doing, an architect also protects the public by balancing the owner's interests with the safety and well-being of the owner's community.
A lawyer is not a hired arguer. He argues to obtain justice.
A soldier is not a hired killer. He fights to defend the helpless.
An architect is not a hired designer. He designs so as to facilitate a beautiful, functional, and safe community.
Above All:"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."1
- David, ancient king of Israel and accomplished guide and protector
Did You Know...?All architects are held accountable to a set of rules of conduct published by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards(NCARB). These rules establish guidelines for architects' competence, compliance with laws, and professional conduct.2 In other words, architects are held publically accountable for the way they do their job!
Footnotes:(1) Psalm 139:14 ESV
(2) National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. 2012-2013 Rules of Conduct. http://ncarb.org/~/media/Files/PDF/Special-Paper/Rules_of_Conduct.pdf