New Book by Professor George B. Johnston Explores History and Theory of Architectural Practice

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George B. Johnston has been a practicing architect, writer, and educator for over 40 years. In his new book, Assembling the Architect: The History and Theory of Professional Practice, Professor Johnston details the origins and history of U.S. architectural practice. The book unravels the competing interests that historically have structured the field and cultivates a deeper understanding of the contemporary profession.

Considered a perfect companion to the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, Assembling the Architect is a useful resource for practitioners as well as architecture students.

“By stoking a broader historical awareness of some of the unresolved tensions that have shaped architecture practice, it is hoped that students of architecture will be inspired by the challenge and potential of redesigning practice itself, to be innovators and agents of change,” said Johnston. “Long-time practitioners may also be surprised to learn about the sources of some of the profession’s most taken for granted assumptions.”

Focusing on the period from 1870 to 1920 when the foundations were being laid for the U.S. architectural profession that we recognize today, this study traces the formation and standardization of the fundamental relationships among architects, owners, and builders, as codified in the American Institute of Architects' very first Handbook of Architectural Practice. It reveals how these archetypal roles have always been fluid, each successfully redefining their own agency with respect to the others in the constantly shifting political economy of building. Johnston’s book hit the shelves in early 2020.

“In the coming decade, architects like other professionals will need to re-conceive altogether how to educate themselves and others, not for the singular profession as they have known it, but for the multitude of roles that increasingly automated practice will demand,” said Johnston. “Where professionalizing efforts of a century ago withdrew the architect from both the site of construction and its field of financial interest, new tools have the potential to thrust architects by whatever names back more organically into the heart of the action, into a multitude of pluralist practices where sharp lines separating project instigation, design, and execution are blurred. The challenge will be to avoid the kinds of professional uniformity that nineteenth- and twentieth-century professionalization incurred.”

In order to open a broader discussion around the themes of Johnston’s book, the Georgia Tech School of Architecture will be hosting the Reassembling the Profession Symposium on March 11. Click here to register to attend the symposium.

Click here to learn more about Assembling the Architect.


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  • Created By:cwagster3
  • Created:02/20/2020
  • Modified By:cwagster3
  • Modified:02/26/2020