From Disinterested Expert to Marketplace Competitor

Jay Wickersham

Taylor & Francis

November 19, 2021

How Anti-Monopoly Law Transformed the Ethics and Economics of American Architecture in the 1970s

“In 1970, the ethical code of the American Institute of Architects defined a coherent framework for practice, one that had characterised the architectural profession in America and Great Britain since the mid-nineteenth century. An architect should not act as a builder or developer; his only payment was the client’s fee, fixed by a mandatory schedule. This ethical framework was the cornerstone for architecture’s professional project: establishing the architect’s status within the competitive market economy by assuring his expertise and disinterestedness. During the 1970s, two separate groups of critics—consumer advocates on the political left, and advocates for a deregulated laissez-faire economy on the political right—used anti-monopoly law to dismantle the ethical codes of architecture and other professions. By 1980, the American architect operated within a changed world. Architects could play any role in the building process and they could compete freely by price. The disinterested expert had been transformed into a freewheeling marketplace competitor. Over the subsequent 35 years, this ethical and economic revolution has contributed to the fracturing of the firm, the adoption of new information technologies, the globalisation of practice, and the emergence of new models of public interest architecture.…”