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  • Writer's pictureTimothy Hill

Architect Ethics

Updated: Apr 29, 2022


I wanted to write on this subject because I’ve seen a lot of confusion outside of the profession, & inside for that matter, about what an architect does & what the overarching priorities in any architectural design process are. The AIA stands for the “American Institute of Architects” which is a nonprofit organization that advocates for architects. They do this by providing resources that help generate awareness & education about architects. The AIA is organized at local, state & national levels & they provide resources like contracts, risk management courses & many articles for anyone wanting to learn more about architects. Now on with what I really want to talk about here today which is – priorities.


The AIA calls them their “Canons of Ethics”, & I like to simplify that term to understand them as ‘priorities.’ I believe priorities is a more accurate term because like design projects, it shows there is a specific logic as to why they are ordered a certain way. The 6 priorities of the AIA with descriptions are pictured in the headline image of this blog & briefly described in my own words as follows:


  • #6 Environment; The ENVIRONMENT is important to architects because that’s really the essence of design. If we didn’t make it a priority to take care of the environment, then that would hurt our own ability to thrive. We would be like a potter who hated clay & mistreated it somehow. The environment is what we want to mold into something useful & beautiful.

  • #5 Colleagues; I feel like this is obvious because we need each other to be successful no matter what walk of life we are in. This one is important to me specifically though because the business of architecture can become competitive which makes this an even more important priority to counteract such a ‘not-so-nice’ force & to make sure we are building one another up instead of the opposite all the time.

  • #4 Profession; This, like colleagues, is also obvious because without a profession, we would not be able to do what we do. This one reminds me of the old saying “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” I for one am very grateful to my profession. Being grateful is important for the longevity of any line of work.

  • #3 Client; The CLIENT is also the hand that feeds us even more literally because having clients is how we get paid. Notice however, that the client cannot be the #1 priority. That’s because our profession is not based on money. It is rooted more firmly on protecting the health, safety & welfare which leads to the 2nd priority.

  • #2 Public; The PUBLIC is so important because that’s who we want to protect. With accessibility, now often referred to as ‘universal design’, we are often trying to design for the greatest number of people in the simplest & best way possible. That means you have some handicap parking spaces near the door, many no step entrances to public buildings, some handicap accessible toilets in each restroom & so on.

  • #1 Art; The highest priority is the hardest one to wrap your mind around. It is the ART of architecture, which is really described by the AIA as “the body of architectural works.” This means that we will strive to contribute originality & not copy or mimic things with the hope that we can truly enhance the built environment & further the profession.

So that’s the top 6 ethics of an architect in a nutshell. I hope this has been helpful to you. You can read more about the canon of ethics if you are interested here https://www.aia.org/pages/3296-code-of-ethics--professional-conduct. There’s also a link to a very detailed version of what I discussed here on that page. #PrioritizeYourLife


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