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Praise to the architect


Published in

Diario de Navarra

Carlos Naya

Director from School of Architecture of the University of Navarra

It may seem pretentious for an architect to praise the figure he embodies, but at this moment I consider it especially necessary and timely. Normally, the social perception of the architect identifies him too quickly with his most essential function: making houses, constructing buildings.

But already at this point we begin to sense that this task, that of understanding what an architect is, is more complex than it might initially seem. The architect is a well-defined professional figure with a complete and complex training that prepares him for his primary task: to design buildings. Designing is an exciting and difficult task, which involves imagining something future from the deep knowledge of a changing reality and defining the means for that imagined something to become material.

This activity involves many and very different chained actions: from the deep historical knowledge and a great ability to analyze situations to make the right decisions to an important technical training involving the knowledge processes and methods needed to build a reality as complex as it can be to build buildings or areas of a city. Nowadays, in addition, our architects broaden their knowledge by training in subjects such as business management , real estate or land markets, human resources, or issues related to sustainability and the environment, energy and so on.

Undoubtedly, our architects stand out for having a particularly good training : broad and generalist, combining their creative abilities with technical skills. For this reason, we can say that our architects are highly qualified professionals.

Perhaps motivated by architects themselves, in recent years we may have been identified with less attractive models: architects with wasteful and disrespectful attitudes towards other people's money; or "star architects" who are looking for fame and success staff (although sometimes encouraged by other interests of society itself).

Perhaps also for this reason, at times it has been possible to have in mind that architects have been responsible, at least in part, for the real estate crisis and the economic woes we have suffered recently. And we are also sometimes labeled as frivolous or are little taken into account in our own institutions.

On the contrary, I would like to claim from here a very different professional reality. That generalist training that we have mentioned is what gives architects, to a greater or lesser extent, a broad vision capable of addressing the solutions to complex problems, such as urban problems, and of defining creative, accurate and effective proposals. The important thing is vision: the ability to see the world through a transversal view, as opposed to the myopia that comes with an excess of specialization.

It is precisely this quality that was highlighted by the initiative of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, called The New European Bauhaus. And that is why, from the very beginning, this initiative aroused our interest. In her first manifesto the president indicated the need to give a voice to those professionals with a generalist and open vision such as architects, artists and designers to consider together the construction of a better Europe, following the example of the original Bauhaus 100 years ago.

This is coupled with the ingredients of beauty, sustainability and inclusion that the president proposes for the entire work of the future.

As I was saying, we architects are very well trained and we have that general vision. And, therefore, we are prepared to be architects and much more than architects. From here I would like to show my gratitude and admiration for all those who have put their professional lives at the service of society by collaborating with others from the public administration or the private business to build or manage the society we inhabit.

So there are countless municipal architects, urban planning managers, government technicians, managers of public and private companies; also those engaged in politics (I wish there were many more): mayors and councilors of European cities, MEPs (currently there are two MEPs architects, one of them Spanish), directors general of national and regional governments. And a long etcetera.

Special recognition should also be given to all those who have taken care of our architectural heritage, an area in which Navarra is absolutely exemplary. And finally, of course, to all the architects who have dedicated themselves to teaching at different levels, from training primary to university.

This time yes: "It's not geniuses we need...", but architects!

The important thing is vision: the ability to see the world through a transversal gaze, as opposed to the myopia that comes from excessive specialization