Who is an architect?
Published On January 23, 2014 » 4756 Views» By Hildah Lumba » Features
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By Imasiku Kamayoyo

In last week’s article we looked at “Defining Architecture in Zambia.” This week we ask the question: Who is an architect?

Here is an attempt at the definition.

From a dictionary point of view, other words which could be used to mean the same as ‘architect’ are words such as designer, draftsman, draftswoman, planner, engineer, builder, originator, or inventor.

In a general sense we all can in one way or the other be originators or inventors of something. The words draftsman, draftswoman, and engineer perhaps come a little closer to what we are looking at. Quite often the architect is called the engineer.

In Zambia, it is not unusual to find a member of the public referring a ‘draftsman’ or ‘draftswoman’ as the “architect”, a confusion similar to that of the architect sometimes being called the “the architecture” or “the architecturer”. (We know of course now that the correct term is “architect.”) Given the previous article’s simple definition of ‘architecture’ being the “process of providing a convenient and comfortable environment for human activities” we can then say that an architect is the person who makes that possible.

An architect, just like an engineer, requires to be trained before he or she can undertake the work of designing or planning of buildings in order to provide that convenient and comfortable environment.

In Zambia, the institution that trains architects is the Copperbelt University’s School of Built Environment. The training is a 5-year programme at the end of which a student satisfying the examiners graduates with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. We will not go into detail on this now, but rather allow the relevant people, to do an article on this subject in the near future.

From a legal or professional point of view, the regulatory body that looks at the practice of architecture in Zambia, the Zambia Institute of Architects (ZIA), just like other professional bodies, ZIA comes in to regulate the practice of architecture. From this stand point, there comes the real definition of an architect as contained in CAP 442 of the Laws of Zambia.

According to CAP 442, in order for a person to be registered as an architect, he or she needs to meet the following qualifications:

Be a resident in Zambia.

Attain the age of twenty one years.

Hold a bachelor of architecture degree or its equivalent recognised by the ZIA Council.

Pass at least two years of post graduate practical full time employment under the supervision of a registered architect.

Pass the professional competence examination conducted by the ZIA Council.

Pay the registration and membership fees prescribed by the ZIA Council.

Other details pertaining to this subject may be obtained from CAP 442 of the Laws of Zambia. Important to highlight here is that a person not registered by the Council shall not establish a practice as an architect or be a partner in any architectural firm, practice or offer his services as, or hold himself out to be, a qualified architect consultant or advisor, adopt, use or exhibit the titles “architect”, “registered architect”, “project architect,” “consulting architect or any other term of similar description; or do anything likely to lead persons to infer that he is a registered architect.

Looks like this group of people are meant to work alone! Not quite! In as far as the technical aspects of the design and production of architectural drawings, the architect works with and normally supervises others like architectural technicians or and draftsmen or draftswomen. Additionally, a graduate, will, as mentioned above, be under the supervision of a “registered architect” for at least two years in order for them to qualify to sit for the professional competence examination (PCE) which once one passes, they then qualify for registration.

A registered architect may set up a practicing firm in accordance with the provisions of the ZIA Act. He or she would in that case be the overall person, but in order to effectively run the practice, the registered architect, would, normally, have people under him who he or she has to manage or supervise, and these will include architects, technicians and draftsmen as well as other support staff depending on the how the firm is set up.

Other registered architects could be part of the firm as senior architects or partners depending on the particular internal arrangements. In government or government-related institutions or departments, there could be a number of registered architects with other professional or and technical people under their supervision, and having various titles in line with the establishment.

So one may ask the question as to what registrations the other technical personnel with whom the architect works or supervises obtain; are they professionally affiliated to the Zambia Institute of Architects?

The answer is that currently only registered architects are members of the Zambia Institute of Architects, but perhaps moving forward, as the indicators already appear to show, the Zambia Institute of Architects is considering to start to register technicians and draftsmen and draftswomen, as members of the Institute.

This will involve revising or updating the relevant legislation to provide for the inclusion of the relevant categories of membership.

Currently CAP 442 defines a “registered architect” as “a person registered under section twenty eight and engages in the planning or supervision of and erection or alteration of a building exceeding one hundred and twenty square metres.”

With the steady economic growth that Zambia is registering, the need to provide adequate and proper infrastructure, in this case, buildings, to facilitate for that growth, goes without question. Therefore the need for qualified and registered architects, as designers, becomes an urgent matter and by the same token, the need also for the relevant professionally qualified technical support personnel such as technicians and draftsmen and draftswomen.

In conclusion and in answering the question, “Who is an Architect?” it will be appreciated that the required definition involves, in a nutshell, two processes; one leading into the other; the first being the academic qualification obtained from an institution of higher learning, and the second and “final,” the professional qualification obtained from the professional body regulating the practice of architecture in this country. One has to be a “registered architect” in order to legally, qualify to practice architecture in Zambia.

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