Watchdog apologises for saying Renzo Piano "not entitled" to be called an architect


Renzo Piano

News: the UK's government-appointed architecture watchdog has apologised for saying that Renzo Piano (above) and Daniel Libeskind are "not entitled to be described" as architects.

Last week the Architects Registration Board, which polices use of the protected title of "architect" in the UK, told Building Design magazine not to describe Piano and Libeskind as architects, as they are not registered as such in the UK.

Following a complaint from a UK architect, the board sent the publication an email stating: “In the light of BD’s readership I would ask that you avoid referring to Mr Piano and Mr Libskind [sic] as ‘architect’s [sic] in any future publications.”

In a clarification published on the ARB website, the body's registrar Alison Carr said that "a significant number of concerns" had subsequently been raised about the matter, adding: "We should have been more cautious so that we get the right message across at the right time, and for that I apologise."

ARB was established in 1997 to police a new law - the 1997 Architects Act - introduced to protect consumers, maintain professional standards and keep a register of practicing architects. Only fully qualified architects registered with ARB are allowed to use the title.

"The whole thing is ludicrous," BD editor Amanda Baillieu told Dezeen. "Renzo Piano is an architect. He trained in Milan. You can read it on Wikipedia."

Baillieu added: "You have to protect consumers from people who pass themselves off as architects - but anyone can put in a planning application. They should protect the function [of an architect] not the title."

The letter from ARB to BD referred to three articles, including "one referring to Piano as architect of the Shard and another about a new project by Libeskind in Hong Kong" and states that: "All three articles make reference to either Mr Renzo Piano or Mr Daniel Libskind [sic] as ‘architects’, however, as they are not registered with the ARB they are not entitled to be described as such."

BD reported reported on Friday that the letter, from ARB professional standards manager Simon Howard, says that it is "OK to call Piano an Italian architect".

  • mems

    Right! Who is that “Renzo Piano”? Italian architect?! Never heard of him… We could also say that someone doesn’t have the right to be called intelligent, couldn’t we?

    • misterE

      Absolutely, and further more, does anyone else feel that this makes us (British) look like a total bunch of pretentious snobs? It’s a rediculous farce to claim that the architects act’s main role is to protect the consumer. Its clearly to protect established architects from being undermined by less qualified but often more talented individuals.

      • Melshimber

        The architect traditionally protected the general public by offering advice and independently adjudicating between the public and the builders or suppliers (ie consumer protection). This is generally based on the assumption that the general public don’t build frequently and need support to protect them from pitfalls associated with building, ie. architects were employed to protect their interests!

      • Matthias

        Architects organise themselves into guilds to protect their business. It’s not about talent. These organizations make sure that you can be recognized as an architect after 1) you pay to go back to school for extra educational credits and 2) pay a lot of money during the accreditation process. Example: with a masters degree certified by RIBA and 10 years of experience, you can’t legally call yourself an architect in the USA before you get accredited and licensed. It’s normal.

  • Raymond

    ARB are right to protect the use of the term ‘architect’, but they are also being pedantic. No one seriously questions Piano’s right to call himself an architect. On the other hand, Libeskind hasn’t earned the right to call himself a draughtsman, much less an architect. He’s the absolute worst.

  • jamesmcbennett

    At the AA, one tutor got in trouble for saying ‘architect’ on the brief. The ARB asked him to change it to ‘architect in the state of California’. Similar to above.

  • If they really want to protect the “Architect” profession, they should stop software/web designers from using Information Architect (etc).

  • Colonel Pancake

    Can we please drop 'Great' from the beginning of Britain, as the country's petulant slide into a parody of its former self fails to satisfy the protected standards of such a distinct title?

  • Andrea

    So Sir Norman Foster is not an architect, but an English architect.

    • arthurmani

      Andrea, I don’t think you understood what this is about: In the British press there are laws to respect when writing articles and one of them is that the title “architect” refers to someone registered with the ARB (architects registration board). Norman Foster is registered with ARB so the press can call him an architect. This is a British thing, so it won’t apply to the rest of the world. Just a legal thing to protect architects in the UK as it is a very hard title to get and many people use it abusively. Nothing prevents someone who is offended by that to register. It is just a legal procedure. I do think it is good that architects are protected by law.

      • Bruno de Paris

        Arthur, you are right about this being a British thing. Still, it could be as well a French, Italian, American (you name it) thing. Actually, ARB might have considered the option to reply to the original complaining member that “registered” architects, regardless of where they are registered (as long as the registration is “recognized”?), have the right to call themselves and be called architects.

  • arka77

    This is what we should be concerned about. Baillieu is right!

    Baillieu added: “You have to protect consumers from people who pass themselves off as architects – but anyone can put in a planning application. They should protect the function [of an architect] not the title.”

  • emre

    Le Corbusier, Mies, Scarpa and Ando are not architects at all then… Diploma and title do not make you an architect. This approach of ARB reminds me of the manners of Beaux-Arts Architecture.

  • 3DD

    Does every single architect in the world now have to register with ARB that British press can call them architects?

    • Luca

      Interesting point. So, just to extend the discussion here, following "a complaint from a UK architect", in every article, book, conference, lecture, paper, DVD, TV Program, magazine, taking place in the UK, whenever the world "architect" is mentioned to address an internationally operating architect, this is wrong?

  • alien

    I’d understand the whole issue, if they had been called “British architect”, but as I far as I know this not the case.

  • SP.FA

    I know a few qualified architects that don’t know anything but to speak hot air. Protecting the title is not necessarily protecting anything. Stop being a bunch of box-tickers!

  • Jason

    Libeskind’s tenuous claim to being called an architect hinges on his wearing thick rimmed ‘Corbu’ glasses. But then his ham-fisted designs totally undermine his case.

  • Austin

    I was right with the BD until …..BD editor Amanda Baillieu told Dezeen. “Renzo Piano is an architect. He trained in Milan. You can read it on Wikipedia.” ….. there goes incisive, serious journalism …. its all on Wikipedia so it must be true!

    • David

      I think the editor was citing Wikipedia to imply how common that knowledge is and how easy it is to look up his credentials, not that Wikipedia is the foundation for the publication's research. The general public might find it harder to find such information for an architect that is not so widely publicized.

  • faboulous

    Isn’t there agreements at European level for an architect of a member country to be recognized as such throughout the union?

    This is patetique.

  • Arturo

    I know Daniel Libeskind's wife, Nina, hired another architect to design their home in New York. I guess she doesn't consider Daniel to be an architect either. Looking at his parade of cliched wedges and shards, I can't say I blame her.

  • well the article was wrong.
    Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Studio Daniel Libeskind were the respective architects; and you can be sure those entities were registered appropriately.

    Renzo and Daniel should be upset that the attribution was not to their offices (rather than them as individuals).

  • melanie

    As long as they stick to calling themselves architects and bloody well stop referring to themselves as artists! That has always bothered me.

  • Aaron

    What’s wrong with calling an architect an artist? Sure, an architect is not a liberal artist, that we can agree on, but architecture is a form of art, combined with engineering, just as Richard Wagner.

  • Peter

    Has anybody ever checked wether or not BBC’s Doctor Who actually holds a PhD?

  • Seb H

    Sorry, I’ve just seen this today, but I have to say how ridiculous this is.

    If people like, for instance, the late Mies van der Rohe, who indeed never trained as an architect, or Renzo Piano, who is registered in Italy, but does work internationally, are referred to as ‘architects’ in books or magazines, then this shouldn’t be the ARB’s or anybody else’s concern. The same applies to people being called ‘software architects’ or when politicians are called, for example, the ‘architect of the German reunion’ (like Wolfgang Schaeuble) etc.

    HOWEVER, when some contractor, builder or draughtsman uses the term ‘architect’ in order to get work, then the ARB is supposed to take actions against him. Nothing more and nothing less!

  • michele

    I feel somehow that’s right…Renzo is not an architect: he is The Architect.

    Thank you Renzo, your exhibition in Milano was one of the best ever.

  • Davide

    Actually I remember that Carlo Scarpa never completed a degree in architecture.

  • Question master

    Renzo can lift a pen, but that doesn’t mean he can advise you on procurement routes and more to the point, it doesn’t mean that he has to carry appropriate PII cover in the UK. Maybe critics should read the ARB code of conduct and practice before commenting?

  • Marc

    So how about calling them “unregistered architects”?

  • Jbone

    Ah, the British with their refreshing elitism. I think English architects outside of the UK should be called “Queen’s architects”.

  • xzhou

    there is no need for ARB to be so pedantic. A qualified architect is and always will be an architect, regardless of nationality. ARB is carrying the imperialist legacy which should not be encouraged in the profession of architecture!

  • Richard Altavilla

    Ask an informed Britain: who is viewed as Britain’s greatest architect of all time? The answer Sir Christopher Wren, an autodidact, whose buildings have stood the test of time. Is this a double standard? Great buildings are not the result of licensed architects but of great designers as history has proven over and over again. Some organisations if they had it their way would destroy the creative abilities that God has instilled in men so as to keep alive their own egocentrism.

    As for protecting the public, it’s not the registered architect that does that, but the building codes and standards, the local governing authorities with their planning protocols and the numerous consultants that the architect is so reliant upon. Every architect – be it registered or unregistered – has to comply with these rules for their submissions to be approved.

  • Miguel

    During my time working in Oxford (as a Mexican architect), I was in a colleagues meeting with British and other international architects, a young and recently “qualified” architect from the area happened to meet my female friend from Brazil. In the intent of approaching her or maybe impress her, he asked if she was a “qualified” architect. Her answer made my day and erased the complete satisfied expression from this guy’s face, she just answered: “I AM SURE I AM MORE QUALIFIED THAN YOU”.