Viewpoint (August 01, 2005)

As much as this issue is a celebration of the 50th anniversary for Canadian Architect magazine and the work that it has represented over its lifetime, emphatic recognition should be given to those who have devoted their lives to architecture over the past 50 years. Our profession is comprised of both great personalities and unsung heroes who have spent countless hours, if not their entire professional lives toward the goal of producing good buildings. Not only architects, but interns, graduate architects, draughtspersons, technologists, renderers, letterers and students should be credited as contributors to our built heritage. And by association, long-suffering friends and family who have supported their loved ones’ dogged determination should also be recognized. To engage in the madness of critical deadlines in the search for perfection (technical, aesthetic, or otherwise) entails personal sacrifices that are not always rewarded in a world where a 50-person office is still defined by a couple of individuals.

The cult of the architect’s personality has been around well before 1955. However, 50 years ago, the barriers to entry in developing an architectural practice were fewer than they are today. There were no NCARB exams, intern log books were not being held hostage by employers, and licensing fees were less, in real terms. Architects could open an office right out of school. The costs of doing business and managing risk were different: liability insurance and its premiums were not a prime concern for a young firm; competition was not as acute; clients accepted more risk on commercial, retail and residential construction. Since then, life has changed dramatically but many of the systemic problems of running an architectural practice in 1955 remain to this day, and include issues such as employee retention, building technology, economic cycles, client relationships, fees, and working with consultants. In 1955 there was no CAD and no internet downloading of specifications and details to use as a skeleton for a given project. But then again, buildings were far less complicated than they are today.

It should never be forgotten that it takes several individuals to support the singular name that usually takes credit for a given project. A multitude of variables such as client, budget, code challenges, timelines, or inexperienced and disorganized architecture teams can derail a process and turn the potential for good architecture into a forgettable experience. It takes a skilled team to ensure the success of a project at every stage. Historically, it has been this magazine’s goal to document all facets of design and construction to explore not only the theoretical underpinnings of traditional practice but to discuss alternative approaches to architecture from a variety of perspectives that will appeal to many levels of experience and responsibility.

And just as an office has a team of individuals who contribute to the work being produced on an ongoing basis, so too does this magazine. In addition to the editorial staff and contributors, our publishers tend to the business of keeping our magazine afloat. Our creative, production and circulation departments ensure that the magazine is assembled, printed and delivered to our readers. Take the opportunity to reflect on the people behind the buildings that you have come to appreciate in this country. As we all know, architecture does not create itself, but requires the diligent efforts of many devoted workers who practice the craft associated with architecture, and for them, we are grateful. Ian Chodikoff