The Rise Of Architectural Designers

In my recent post ‘5 dangers Quacks pose to architecture’, I described Architectural Designers as Quacks and there was a handful of verbal (more like written) resistance to my assertions on my social media post. Perhaps, I was wrong – maybe my post didn’t give these individuals the amount of recognition they deserve.

For those who may not know, even though the term ‘Architectural Designer’ has a broad meaning, it can also be used to describe architecture graduates who have, for personal reasons or circumstances been unable to get licensed to practice under the name ‘architect’.

According to a post on Quora :

Architectural designer” may have the exact same education, training,  etc. as the architect. But this person has not taken or passed the registration exam. They cannot provide a set of “sealed” documents that are required by many municipalities to get a building permit for a construction project. They may have been in the architecture profession for many, many years or just came into the profession and have a degree in design…. All of this is not to say that an “architectural designer” is not capable of doing a job as well as an “architect” but the designer has to meet a certain set of qualifications and education to hold the title of “architect”


Interestingly a good number of people who practice with the appellation – Architects, aren’t one. In fact, the statistics in Nigeria of registered architects with the Architects’ Registration Council (ARCON) are about 6,000 in number, while the unregistered graduates from unofficial sources are over 30,000 and counting.

Thus, there is an army of unregistered Architectural designers who, to be fair to some of them are as knowledgeable and skilled if not better designers than some registered architects. But for reasons best known to them have been unable to come into the fold as architects.

Whether it is fair to say they are Quacks or not may be arguable but the fact that they are needed to be part of the professional body of architects isn’t.

I spent the last weeks reading Cap A19 (Nigeria’s Architects’ Act) and observed that the right to practice architecture in Nigeria appears not to be regulated but the right to use the name ‘architect’ is. Which makes it very difficult to prevent or limit encroachment into the profession.

Moving forward, you may be surprised to know that a few of the highly successful and famous individuals in our cities offering architectural services are Designers and not Architects. You may also think that this is only in Nigeria, No, it happens all over the world.

By law, practicing architecture doesn’t make you an Architect. Instead, what does is fulfilling the statutory requirements laid down and subsequently get registered.

Whether designers should be automatically absorbed into being architects has always been a contentious issue. But as it stands today, you must fulfill the statutory requirements.

It is a loss to the professional body that individuals who should be easily registered aren’t. Even though you can’t fully excuse the system, a part of the blame should also go to the Designers themselves, because it isn’t impossible to get licensed after all a good number of their colleagues are getting licensed. That’s not to say it isn’t difficult.

A few reasons that may circumvent the registration of Architecture graduates from my experience are as follows;

  1. Early distractions – mostly when fresh graduates start earning big without being registered.
  2. Outright lack of interest (it’s rare but it happens)
  3. Having not tried hard enough – the process can be frustrating and tiring and giving up is sometimes the easiest option
  4. Misinformation
  5. Realizing the importance of registration too late at which time you feel too old to start over again.

Whatever the case may be, I would advise that you shouldn’t give up. it’s a common saying that “a house divided against itself can’t stand”. Architecture needs more architects in its fold. The professional body will be strengthened when we have more architects. Even if you may not like the conduct of the body, you can’t make changes from the outside.

It shouldn’t be news to all that architecture as a profession is under serious threat of encroachment from other built environment professionals – our own professional colleagues as well as engineers, project managers, draftsmen and worst of all, outright quacks can desirous of a piece of our cake. This is why architectural designers can’t be one on this list.

In summary, some architecture graduates (registered or not) are generally knowledgeable in the fundamentals of offering architectural services and with practical experience can operate effectively as an architect. However, these operations are better conducted in a regulated environment. Most Architectural Designers deserve to be called architects but they have to scale the little hurdle set by ARCON just like other professions.

Some designers may not bother under what nomenclature they are addressed but I am convinced that anyone who reads architecture wants to be an architect. Sadly, it would be illegal and deceptive to call yourselves an architect without a license but that is not to say you are a Quack.

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5 thoughts on “The Rise Of Architectural Designers”

  1. Good day, I am a student of Architecture and my school’s accreditation is a little on the inconsistent side. I want to know how this would affect me registering after I am done with school. How much more complicated would it be for me as opposed to someone who finished from an accredited school? I’ve been following this blog for a little while and I see so much value here. I would really appreciate your thoughts. And I love this new website design! It’s so nice.

    1. Hi Menan, thanks for the compliment.
      If your school doesn’t have professional (ARCON) accreditation at the time of your graduation then it means that your degree certificate won’t be recognized by ARCON. Since ARCON is in charge of registering architects and regulating the profession then unaccredited graduates would face a tough time seeking registration. I don’t know if there is an alternative path offered by ARCON for these graduates to get registered so you may want to speak directly with ARCON. The NIA on the other hand has an alternative path, so speak with them as well.

  2. I was oppurtuned to be part of that project. That design was a clear departure from the cubist leaning philosophy of SAOTA. The layout is basically simple, but the knowledge of building materials and technical collaboration made that hugely possible. Our environment clearly limits us in nigeria

    1. Rightly put Chuckle. Like you said our environment clearly limits us in Nigeria. I often wonder what the way out is.

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