comments 38

I am not an architect

After I landed in Vancouver yesterday, I opened up my inbox and found a cease and desist letter on behalf of the Ontario Association of Architects. The OAA had an issue with me using the following text description on my blog: “I’m an architect-trained and tech-obsessed real estate developer based in Toronto.” More specifically, they had a problem with “architect-trained.” They were of the opinion that I was “holding myself out as an architect.”

When I wrote that text description many years ago, I was actually trying to be sensitive to the fact that, because I’m not licensed, I’m not allowed to refer to myself as an architect. I hold a professional master’s degree in architecture, but I do not hold a certificate of practice in Ontario. The text description I chose was actually meant to communicate that I’m a real estate developer who cares deeply about and sees the value in great design.

The OAA and their lawyers clearly read it differently. So I have removed the derivative “architect” language from this blog. Frankly, it’s not a big deal to me. And in the almost 6 years that I have been writing this blog, I don’t think anyone has ever reached out to me thinking that I was a practicing architect. To be clear: I am not an architect. In case any of you are curious, here is a copy of the letter that I received.


  1. David Supple

    Wow. I want one of those! I would think having your masters in an accredited institution would allow one to state the TRUTH – that you were “trained” as an architect. The fact is that unless the architect becomes more than just a designer and is accountable for the product of a building there will be no need to write these letters – as society will pass them by. The architect was in charge of building for all but the past 100 yrs or so of history. The architect is self-inflictedly being marginalized by reducing their role. And by the way – this is just a byproduct of the highly theoretical educations we received in “accredited institutions”. Thank you for touching on this in your blog – would love more on it! @designbuildmovement

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Trebecca

    Looks like you just received confirmation that you put out great content on a daily basis, and the right people are talking about this blog. More to come as you make waves in laneway housing!
    Congrats on your recognition by the OAA! Joking aside, take a look at your bio at the bottom of the page (“Posted by…). It looks like you’ll need to update your WordPress bio as well to be in compliance.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jordan

    I am a licensed architect and I love your blog. Your architectural training is evident in your interests and the work you do. It’s unfortunate that more architects (or those trained as architects like yourself) aren’t leading more development projects–the process has too much impact to be done poorly. I also appreciate your sensitivity to the use of the word architect in a way that only a sympathetic, unlicensed professional could be.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Michael David Spaziani

    What nonsense. A total waste of resources and not in the interest of architecture. Keep up your great work and observations about development and design. Better than most archit_cts! Sorry I can’t use the real word. I might get a letter.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Bill Robert

    Your blog is awesome, and they are jealous of it. These are typically the sort of minds we don’t want anymore in this industry.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Richard Whittle

    Brandon, I have been reading your content for several years and never thought you made yourself out to be an Architect. You clearly have a passion for architecture and have educated insight into what is remarkable and outstanding. This letter does not take away from the excellent content you have been putting out and I hope this is not discouraging you from continuing (I am sure it is not!).

    I find the cease and desist letter petty and actually motivated more by a superiority complex, lawyering and perhaps envy than anything substantive.

    Thanks for your dedication in sharing you ideas, insight and articles through this blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oliver Hartleben

    Paraphrasing one of my profs: “There are many architects without licence, but there are also many licences without architect.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well, aren’t they a pompous group. Now, if we can just get architects to stop considering themselves planners, and especially “urban” planners in their practices. I thank you for your often astute observations and cogent discussion of urban development. You inspire many of us to do better in our respective communities.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sami Kazemi

    The profession of architecture as we know it is being threatened by disruptive innovation and changes in market and project delivery, and what is the OAA doing about it to future proof our profession? They are sending a cease and desist letter to someone promoting good city building and value of design on their blog!

    As an architect and a member of the OAA I don’t see how them sending you this letter is helping me or my profession?

    Liked by 1 person

      • Sami Kazemi

        I don’t know their stats, I don’t think they’re losing membership though, architects have no choice but to join if they want to practice architecture. So membership doesn’t provide an indication of how effective or popular the OAA is amongst architects.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Doug Pollard

    I was a legitimate member of that organization for (I think) some 30 years or so and I never rose to the level of having full respect for it. This sort of silliness is part of the reason why. I assume someone somewhere complained to them or a member without enough work and/or with time on their hands did so and they felt compelled to spend some of their members’ dues on this issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. KO

    Perhaps the OAA should have simply hit your “Contact” link and informed you of their concern in simple note – jumping straight to a threatening cease and desist letter seems a tad bit over the top. Great use and the fees collected by the OAA…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Max Vo

    Seems like a waste of time and resources on their part Brandon. You are doing a great job as a developer who cares about design – keep up the great work my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Lloyd Alter

    As a former OAA Vice President, Regulatory, albeit a long time ago, I think they should have just sent you an email instead of lawyering up.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Abiodun Adepoju

    If you describe yourself as an architecture-trained person, you should not have any problem instead of architect-trained. Your contributions to the built environment through your write-ups.are remarkable, kindly keep it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Scott Baker

    Wow, it is as bad in Toronto as it is in New York City!
    It’s a different world today, because of technology, and the traditional architecture training, apprentice for years track is threatened.
    I worked with a licensed Engineer and Sketch-Up expert to design and create the largest concept building in the world. Now that we are getting a little bit of momentum, it was the subject of an article/interview in a couple of local media outlets. Here’s one:
    A realconnex listing is here:
    I call myself a Building Designer on all the places where a title is required, and carefully correct anyone who assumes I am an architect – I have no training at all in that.
    Fortunately, and critically, we have a written letter of intent from a world-renowned architect, who wants to work on the project.
    I took a seminar given by two lawyers who represent clients who “cross the line” and they said I am safe to use those terms, but have to be careful.
    These days, I am more the promoter of the project,working with two Developers. I try not to let people think I’m a Developer either, because I’ve never developed anything, but since the project is so enormous, and the developers I’m working with so mid-sized, people tend to assume that anyway. Being a Developer, as you know, does not require a license, for now.
    One has to wear so many hats to get a building built – whatever you call such a person – that it’s hard to imagine what such a license would require. Political acumen? Investor connections? An understanding, if not the practice of, Architecture/Engineering/Construction/ and probably a dozen other trades?

    Technology has made it possible for a single person – or two in my case – to create any kind of concept building, inside and outside, without needing a degree, or a large team. Building still requires 100s or even 10s of thousands, in my case, of people, and, ironically, specialty architects are more in demand than ever. That seems to be where the Architecture field is heading – towards the kind of highly skilled specialties that demanding buyers require now. There’s plenty of jobs for everyone willing to adapt.

    Liked by 1 person

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  17. Jonnel

    This is fascinating. The title “architect” is also protected here in New Zealand, but this looks more of a semantics issue from the OAA and not you misleading the public that you’re an “architect”. You can still practice and produce “Architecture” if you hold a Design Licensed Building Practitioner though, just call yourself anything (designer, architectural designer, draftsperson) but an Architect. There were talks locally here in NZ that the “title” should be re-defined to included everyone engages in the practice of Architecture. I have a feeling though that “producing architecture” would be another item that the local NZ Institute of Architects will be looking into.

    Nonetheless, this does not take away from the wonderful content and developments you produce. Keep it going. Your blog/emails are a perfect pairing for my morning coffee. 🙂


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