Mindshare could be skewed by a public that now understands architects all too well

Unlike law, medicine, engineering, and other fields that profess particular expertise (the genesis of the word “professional”), architects do not take an oath upon graduation or licensure. It is worth pondering, therefore, how and where architects get their moral bearings and what directions are inscribed on their life compass. In other words: How do graduates know what will be morally expected of them after graduation? What values and traits should drive the commitments society expects practicing architects to make1


It is interesting to note that four out of five of Gallup’s most respected professionals were those pledging themselves to high ethical standards. Conversely, the least-trusted fields have no oath—or, if they do, frequently seem to violate their promises of honesty and fairness.

Could architecture’s latest identity crisis be relieved by enacting a professional oath? Perhaps, but a promise isn’t a guarantee of moral integrity. An oath alone won’t turn a bad person into a good person. A binding oath is, however, a yardstick with which one can measure an individual’s actions and a profession’s worth. Metrics matter. A public gauge can encourage public trust.

How would an Architect’s Oath come about?

  • 1. Research commissioned by the American Institute of Architects showed “tremendous respect for the profession of architecture, but the public isn’t always aware of what architects do or how their work affects society.” Because most people rarely interact directly with an architect, the AIA initiated a campaign to increase general awareness of the profession.  Blueprint for Better, as the effort is called today, is a work in progress, but the positioning project may already be in need of revision. Mindshare could be skewed by a public that now understands architects all too well.