Both the owner and architect have critical roles to play in a project. The relationship
between the two persons should be clearly defined to deter potential disputes that are bound to
arise in implementing a project (Johnston 93). Over the years, architecture has assumed a
powerful position; as a result, placing it at the center of any legal disputes that may arise. The
architect is considered the ultimate decision-maker and the person that coordinates the project's
overall implementation (Norouzi et al. 11). Architects act to provide a balance between the needs
of engineers, builders, project owners, and planning experts (Johnston 93). These people play an
essential role in implementing a project, but their positions are prone to conflict. In the early 20th
century, these people were the hope of giving birth to a new civilized society. The urge to be the
main participants in giving birth to a contemporary, civilized society led to the unfolding of
contention by architects and the other stakeholders. This paper evaluates the relationship
between the architects and owners and discusses possible solutions to disputes.
In most instances, architects were expected to create artistic works that that could last for
generations. Owners have placed pressure on architects to design state of the art models with
little regard to the visible constraints. Architects have assumed this role that has resulted in
frustrations and discontent. However, legally this is not the role an architect is supposed to play.
According to the law, the architect is the owner's agent and acts on behalf of the owner (Norouzi
et al. 11). The architect initiates the project and oversees the project from start to completion, as
agreed with the owner. The responsibilities of the architect are purely on the design and as
defined in the contract.
As the architects were shaping their marketability in the early 20th century, they focused
on producing handbooks related to their profession (Johnston 93). These handbooks aimed to
educate both the architects who were new to the field and the project owners who play a critical
role in the architects' development. Among the popular handbooks produced was "The handbook
of Architectural Practice" (Johnston 94). In addition to the handbooks giving readers knowledge
on architecture, they also suggested skills that could make the architects better in managing their
business. The handbooks played a role in making some architects lazier as they worked only to
meet the handbooks' satisfaction rather than engaging their skills in better production (Johnston
The handbooks had been initially embraced by many, but later some deviations emerged.
Some ethical stakeholders suggested that the handbooks had performed an extra task of giving
the project owners the required procedures to execute their projects. The owners needed the
flexibility to come up with a standard approach for their projects. The question of whether an
architect had to comply with the handbooks entirely was also of concern. The fact that project
owners were becoming popular in this field with the help of the handbooks could limit the
architects from deviating from them (Johnston 95). The contents of the handbooks had created a
narrow path for the architects and their profession. The fact that the project owners had some
knowledge from the handbooks could raise the alarm if any architect failed to comply with the
handbooks. As a result, some architects from Boston rose to dispute the handbooks. The act of
bringing their professions into publicity could become a legal weapon if not carefully
The occurrence of conflicting issues in client-related professions is highly probable, and
the expectations are even higher when the product in question involves the delivery of a service
(Norouzi et al. 37). The relationship between project owners and their architects is no exception
regarding this issue. Unlike in modern society, back in the twenty first century, the laws
protecting both the client and the architectural field's service provider were not well elaborated
(Oak 60). Cases arose from situations where some clients claimed that the quality of work done
by the architect did not meet their expectations. Settling such issues in a court of law was an
inconvenient task. The owner's demands might not be making sense in most cases. In other
situations, the architects are accused of not protecting owners from bad contracts while in some
instances, the architects tend to delay projects. There are situations where owners have high
expectations and these expectations are not met by the architect. The owner might feel that the
quality of work is inferior due to errors and omissions. An architect may end up doing a job that
meets the owner's satisfaction rather than meeting the required standards. Sometimes the
relationship between the architect and the owner is characterized by a lack of faith in the other
Tom Thumstack emphasizes the project owner's essence to understand the task and
expectations (Johnston 96). The failure to understand this had seen some erroneous appointing of
tasks that ends up being regrettable. It is crucial to know that the architect can take part in
producing a detailed project (Figure 1.1). This role is just one of the many tasks of architects.
They also have the capability of acting in a consultant position. The senior architects practice this
where their juniors in the field come to seek their expertise form of advice.
Figure 1.1: A detailed architectural design retrieved from
In most cases, these architects work in joint ventures when serving their project owners
(Norouzi et al. 51). This approach protects their rights against the project owners' violation since
the project owners will have to deal with the agents rather than direct interaction with the
architect. Tom Thumstack also argues that architects can work in what he describes as "hybrid
arrangement" and, in the process, have to incorporate numerous buildings to similar design but
with different or same builders and project owners (Johnston 103). In the current days, this
would have been referred to as estate development.
Coming up with the correct criteria for selecting an architect to perform a given task is
inevitable. Looking at the early 20th century, two criteria that were widely used when
determining the architect directly and selecting based on the competence of the architect
(Johnston 105). For a project owner to make an immediate consideration, there must have existed
a strong relationship between him and the project owner. But this was just a narrow path that
often leads to failure. Considering that the architect was in the capacity to act for and on behalf
of the project owner's interests, any failure in the line of duty will only impact the user (Norouzi
et al. 11).
For this reason, direct selection is considered as highly “suicidal.” The selected architect
might fail to meet professional requirements. This possibility then called for the use of
competency-based selection. In this method, architects took part in completion, which could
determine their ratings. This method was preferred since it used a fair competition in which the
competent architects are of more preference. In as much as this method sounds to be fair, current
architects are not submissive to it because they considered the possibility that some project
owners gain in the process of the competition without having to pay for the expertise received.
The method hardly exists in the current days.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has stood up in recent days to fight for
architects' fair payment (Oak 53). Architects are well-thought-out to perform vital tasks like the
detailed drawing of the project, drafting the stuff to participate in the project, acting as
consultants, and supervising the project on behalf of the owner. Some greedy project owners
often ignore these tasks and tend to pay poorly with the perspective that the job is only "small
sketches" that cannot spend a lot. It is fortunate for the current architects who are protected under
the AIA. Back in the days, a handsome pay for the architectural duties performed was a dream.
There was a real struggle to receive fair payment. In the early 20th century, a method was
suggested to determine the fees charged by an architect. The fee was to be calculated using a
given formula. The formula had to be based on the total costs incurred during the project
construction (Johnston 115). As time advanced, this was under threat again. Formation of joint
ventures and organizations necessitated the fair pricing. This outcome was informed by the need
for organizations to make payments to other employees. The effort was a positive one since it
overcame the bullying of architects who work solo by the project owners.
A contract is a written legal binding of two parties that expect to gain from each other
fairly. The relationship between the architect and the project owner must be legally written down
and elaborated clearly to serve both parties (Oak 58). This contract cannot be through word of
mouth but must be a written agreement. It gives room for a clear understanding of the
relationship's expectations without compromising one of the parties. In the late 1880s, the
uniform contract was introduced (Johnston 115). The agreement drew a clear illustration of both
the architect and the project owner's expected relationship and obligations.
Figure 1.2: Conventional American Institute of Architects "Integrated Project Delivery" (IPD)
multi‐party agreement contract relationship diagram. Source: American Institute of Architects.
Architectures cannot work independently in the field of construction; instead, they
require the expertise of professionals like builders, engineers, and planners (Johnston 94).
Constant consultations are necessary among these fields (Figure 1.2). The central player is the
architect. Initially, architects and builders worked alongside each other. As time progressed,
engineering emerged from the two. Before it gained much familiarity, people found it
challenging to identify the difference between engineering and architecture. In the current days,
these two fields have emerged to be very different. Whereas engineering is a science,
architecture is both a science and an art that also brings in a business aspect. Many architects
have supervisory power over all these consultants. But in some limited cases, project owners
require that the architect be experienced in numerous fields, thus eliminating the need for
consultants. This idea was positively embraced in the early 20th century. The idea of having an
all-round could be useful, but in current days, according to the American Institute of architecture,
such small risks could yield in regrettable consequences. The project owner is, therefore, advised
to incorporate other consultants that the architecture may require (Johnston 125).
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Relationship." Asian Social Science, Vol 11, no. 5, 2015. Canadian Center Of Science
And Education, doi:10.5539/ass.v11n5p108.
Oak, Arlene. "Performing Architecture: Talking 'Architect' And 'Client' Into Being". Codesign,
vol 5, no. 1, 2009, pp. 51-63. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1080/15710880802518054.