Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa
Volume 82, 1954-55
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Section K—Chairman'S Address
Relative Problems of the Two Professions

That a country as small as New Zealand and so remote from the accepted centres of Western civilisation could build up a population of two millions within a little more than a century is probably not very remarkable; that this same country could, at the same time, fashion a society having living standards which are the envy of not a few other countries is, however, creditable; but that such a country could within so short a period take her place with credit alongside other countries notable for their scientific advancements is, in my humble opinion, unique. That this is so is undisputed, but at the same time it is regrettably true that there are many New Zealand-trained scientists who are no longer residing here. They have sought the broader fields of opportunity overseas. Is it inevitable that, in a young and quickly developing country whose education standards have been developed to the stage of producing scientists of such high attainments, it should lose so many from its shores? Maybe in certain branches of pure science our training and research have extended to the stage where their full and unrestricted use finds no opportunity in a country where immediate financial returns are sought from these scientific labours. It is fortunate, of course, that this does not apply to every branch of scientific endeavour. Our researches in the medical and agricultural sciences are producing men of world calibre and in most cases we are, with Government encouragement, retaining them in this country. In our own particular fields of architecture and engineering we have in our University Colleges academic courses comparable with most of those overseas, but there still appears to be some permanent movement out of the country, particularly in engineering. Speaking with greater knowledge of the profession of architecture, I can say that the drift overseas of young architects so noticeable twenty-five years ago, has been reduced because facilities for higher education which now prevail have largely removed the need for overseas training. Nevertheless, it is true to say that the taking of any professional academic course is but the laying of the foundation for a superstructure of experience, and who would deny any student of the practical arts and sciences the broader vision which is to be gained by working and observing in larger and older countries. It seems that most New Zealanders have the inherent quality of an ordered self-reliance which gives them an advantage and a reputation overseas and to some extent this must account for their success and, possibly, their later reluctance to return. In cogitating upon this question of academic teaching standards equating the practical absorption of its trainees within the country, I am left with the interesting thought that if our training in both professions were to be extended to more advanced standards, should we not find the permanent drift increase?

In our gathering here this morning we are representing the two allied professions of engineering and architecture, thus making a joint and several

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contribution to this Eighth New Zealand Science Congress. As professional men whose activities come within the scope of this Congress, we heartily support such gatherings as affording valuable means of inter-professional discussions of common and related problems. Your organising Committee, who has been putting in so much good work to ensure the success of our combined participation, agreed early in its deliberations that, on this occasion, the profession of architecture should bear the major responsibilities. This has meant that, as one at this time holding the office of President of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, I have become promoted to be your Chairman. At this point, therefore, I must record my appreciaion of the honour thus conferred, not so much as a personal issue, but of the compliment paid to my Institute. I can assure you that it is with due humility that I approach this duty, and it is my sincere hope, as I know it is yours, that the contributions to be offered in the form of papers and the deliberations that should follow, will be productive and mutually beneficial. We architects welcome this opportunity, for in former times the engineer and the architect were not separate professions—it is only the greater complexity of science and invention which has brought about the specialisation now dividing them. We welcome the opportunity to study our problems side by side with the engineer and in relation to other scientific and social activities.

My very recent experience in Australia, together with that which accompanies the executive responsibility of office, has high-lighted in my mind a consideration of the extent to which the public recognises the twin professions. This recognition or any lack of it is not, of course, a matter of grave concern, nor one that should deflect us from our appointed paths of duty. Nevertheless, the matter of public relations is a problem common to us both and I shall return to this point later on.

Turning our minds to what must have been the scene a hundred years ago, we have the mental picture of a trickle of sturdy and purposeful pioneers from the Old Country percolating on to the shores of this land, penetrating the bush, spreading far and wide and, with increasing tempo, finally flooding this virgin country with the waters of what we are pleased to call civilisation. I wish I knew more of the history of land surveying in New Zealand, but it has always struck me most forcibly that our pioneers showed great foresight in establishing so early the foundation of what must now rank as the equal, if not the superior, to any system of land titling in the world. Here is a branch of civil engineering which has established itself in the public esteem beyond all question and, of course, it has been achieved largely by its own good works. I suppose to some extent it was the rocky coastline, the winding rivers and the turbulent nature of our topography that gave cause for care and accuracy in our first triangulations.

These same circumstances and conditions were, no doubt, responsible for promoting the sturdy growth of the other rugged branches of civil engineering Road and railway constructions were confronted with extraordinary difficulties and in recent times the enormous expansion of the State Hydro Department has created a wide field for the experience of still more branches of engineering. And, again, due to the peculiar character of our country, we see opening up with characteristic vigour a fresh avenue of exploitation in the latent power of geothermal steam. Here, surely, is an enterprise ideally suited to the close co-operation of scientist and engineer.

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As with all newly developing countries when the civil and social standards are in the crude and formative stages, the art and science of the architect were not in great demand. The need to clear land, form roads and span the rivers was very pressing, and left little scope for anything more than the frame buildings which sufficed as rude shelter meantime. With the growth and expansion of the cultures it was inevitable that more care, foresight and beauty were called for and at the turn of the century we see that the architect had come to be recognised. The status of this profession is to-day comparable with those in other similarly placed countries. It is now able to take its rightful place among the professional ranks. Its sturdy growth was well grounded upon an Act of Parliament and later strengthened by the introduction of an examination system and later again by what is now a well-established School of Architecture, whose standards compare well with those overseas.

In choosing the title that. I have for this address, I admit to venturing upon ground which in earlier times the two professions walked together. Naturally enough, when exploring beyond my own particular field of architecture, I tread carefully for fear I become bogged down with matters beyond my comprehension. Nevertheless, being registered in both professions. I think I can claim to be reasonably neutral. By using the word “neutral” I do not infer that the professions of engineering and architecture are two opposing forces. Unfortunately, there are a few practitioners in both fields who seem to think so, and express their feelings with some disdain. These criticisms always have the effect of saddening me, as, fundamentally, they are unjustified, and in my mind spring from a failure of the one to realise the professional relationship and scope of service of the other. We all realise that the activities of the two professions overlap and it is this common ground that gives opportunity for discussion and encouragement for mutual respect. At this stage it seems appropriate that, from this equal vantage point, we should look in both directions to appreciate by exact definition the function and scope of each profession.

The field of the architect can be fairly well defined, but that of the engineer does not appear to be so easy. The motor mechanic, for instance, may claim to come under the generic title of engineer and in the final analysis he may be right. There appear to be so many categories of engineers that a comprehensive list would require considerable compilation. Recently, however, the definition has been considerably narrowed to the three-tier consideration of artisan, technician and professional engineer and it is under this last mentioned broad classification that the engineer, as the architect knows him, comes. Recently, in our contemporary Journals, there has been reproduced the definition of “Professional Engineer” from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and on consulting many other authorities, I can find none that is more explicit. This is very much the same with the definition of the word “Architect” and so, without apology, these definitions are again repeated. The word “Architecture” is taken first—

Architecture is the art of so building as to apply both beauty and utility. The end of architecture is to arrange the plan, the masses and the enrichments of a structure in such a way as to impart to it interest, beauty, grandeur, unity and power without sacrificing convenience. Architecture thus necessitates the possession by the designer of creative imagination as well as technical skill and in all works of architecture properly so called these elements must exist and be harmoniously combined.

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Now we come to the Encyclopaedia Britannica's definition of the word. “Architect”—

An Architect is one who is skilled in the art of architecture, designs buildings, determines the disposition of both their interior spaces and exterior masses, together with the structural embellishments of each and generally supervises their erection. Formerly the architect was often active in all phases of erecting a building from the project to the various details of construction. To-day with the growing tendency towards specialisation and the increase in the size of buildings, his designs are executed by various agencies—engineers, contractors, manufacturers, machines, etc.—and his success to a large extent depends on the proper co-ordination of these elements.

Lastly, from the same source, we reproduce the definition of the title “Professional Engineer “—

So diversified are the services required of professional engineers through the wide range of industries, public utilities and governmental works, and in the discovery, development and conservation of resources, that men of extremely various personality and physique may achieve success. Qualifications include intellectual and moral honesty, courage, independence of thought, fairness, good sense, sound judgment, perseverance, resourcefulness, ingenuity, orderliness, application, accuracy and endurance. An engineer should have ability to observe, deduce, apply, to correlate cause and effect, to co-operate, to organise, to analyse situations and conditions, to state problems, to direct the efforts of others. He should know how to inform, convince and win confidence by skilful and right use of facts. He should be alert, ready to learn, open-minded, but not credulous. He must be able to assemble facts, to investigate thoroughly, to discriminate clearly between assumption and proven knowledge. He should be a man of faith, one who perceives both difficulties and ways to surmount them. He should not only know mathematics and mechanics but should be trained to methods of thought based on these fundamental branches of learning. Organised habits of memory and large capacity for information are necessary. He should have extensive knowledge of the sciences and other branches of learning and know extensively those things which concern his specialties. He must be a student throughout his career and keep abreast of human progress.

Having been endowed more or less completely with qualifications and capacities requisite for a professional engineer and having developed them with the aid of educational and other institutions and contacts provided by civilised communities, the engineer is under obligation to consider the sociological, economic and spiritual effects of engineering operations, and to aid his fellow men to adjust wisely their modes of living, their industrial, commercial and governmental procedures, and their educational processes so as to enjoy the greatest possible benefit from the progress achieved through our accumulating knowledge of the universe and ourselves as applied by engineering. The engineer's principal work is to discover and conserve natural resources of materials and forces, including the human, and to create means of utilising these with minimal cost and waste and with maximal useful results.

I think most engineers and architects will experience a sense of humility in the face of these definitions. The complete and lengthy description of the engineer indicates the very wide range of diversified though kindred sciences and crafts that go to make up the framework of professional engineering. As for the architect, he is very largely confined to buildings. Buildings to house people at work, at rest and at play. Buildings for religious devotions, for intellectual and social intercourse and instruction, even buildings to house and commemorate the dead as well as the living, to house the animal in captivity as well as his human counterpart. The architect is also very concerned with the relationships of buildings, their contiguity, their association in use, form, style and colour, their relative fitness, not only in themselves and to each other, but to their community and its growth and requirements. The architect's thoughts and activities therefore must overlap the realm of town-planning and many architects make it their business to qualify either wholly, or in part, in this cognate subject. Similarly the architect must traverse the whole range of

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the construction field not necessarily to become expert in any one or all of the many sub-divisions, but to know their uses, their application and their limitations. This applies not only to the field of materials, but to their composition and assemblage, either individually or in combination. Especially does it apply to the many and diverse structural forms which are the tools of his design processes, also to the various engineering developments in heating, ventilation, lighting, refrigeration and the like. In his work he becomes both composer and conductor and his instrumentalists are all the various specialists and craftsmen in the engineering, building and scientific fields. And so it is that with all the work in the erection of buildings, the man trained in architecture must coordinate and direct the several issues.

As with town planning so with these other activities, the architect must be free to travel out of and beyond any narrow range of conservative and restricted design procedure. For this reason there are some who study and even qualify in certain fields of engineering. Furthermore, the architect's interests extend into the community affair of building by-laws; the formulation and impact of these are his grave concern—he is the only advocate the building owner has.

In common with other learned callings our two professions have problems which can be roughly divided into two categories, comparable to the distinctions known to the politician as “internal affairs” or “external affaires”. By this is meant that each society has problems related to its own growth and development affecting its members individually and as a corporate body, but there are those other questions which go beyond the immediate sphere of their own professional applications and impinge upon the scope of others. If the experience of the engineers is comparable with that of the architects, it can be said that most of our combined problems are related to people and activities beyond our own combined membership. Eliminating those problems which I have chosen to term the “internal affairs” of each institution, it follows that the problems of an external nature facing the two professions are either those peculiar to each or common to both. Having considered, by definition of the individual, the scope of work covered by either practitioner, we see that the technical ground most common to both is within the structural field and to a lesser extent in the other specialised branches of engineering which occasionally make impact upon the work of the architect. This overlapping involves both professions in ethical relationship, which, to my mind, is due for review. The related problem for both of us to give earnest consideration to is that of public relations—a matter referred to earlier. There is the problem of our members in Government and local body employ—their status both relative and individual. There is the question of fuller recognition by the Government of the private consultant. There is the common problem of our exact relationship with the building industry considered as a whole. There is the important question of education and qualification, a question that has become somewhat momentous in both professions over recent years—furthermore a question which relates to the changing scene of professional service. There is also the related problem of registration based on qualification—both of the architect and engineer—and all that this implies.

These are but a few of the relative problems of the two professions. I am sure my audience can add to this list and I am equally certain that it would be difficult to reach agreement on which of these common or individual problems

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lems is thought to need prior attention. My own view is that our own relationships and those with the public are of primary importance. I have become somewhat shocked over recent years by the ignorance displayed by public and press alike on the function and standing of the professional engineer and architect. The prestige of these two professions is not as high as their training, skill and service merit and they lack the recognition that is rightfully theirs. Our colleagues in law and medicine are to some extent held in awe. Delays and failures are not tolerated in our professions. If the engineer or architect cannot produce the infallible design overnight he is castigated by an employer entirely ignorant of the design process by which he has to work. It should also be borne in mind that, with practically every project, the designer is working on a prototype—a structure which will ultimately be exposed for public criticism. Those in the motor industry are allowed their failures behind four walls before arriving at the perfect model, which is, of course, wilfully outmoded the following year, and it is a complete sample of one of the products now known as “consumer goods” to be selected, bought and paid for at the option of the consumer.

As professional men not receiving the full state and public recognition that is enjoyed by law and medicine, we suffer a little from inferiority complexes and are shy of our work and ourselves. We cannot cure our public relations overnight, but, quite obviously, unless we ourselves do something about it, no one else will. It seems to me that the two professional bodies should join forces, even if only to a limited extent, in a campaign to educate the public, not by any blatant advertising, but by persistent and dignified use of the press, losing no opportunity to illustrate and prove the work and worth of those who design to suit individual and special needs, by encouraging members to enter the lists of public and semi-public bodies, by either individually or jointly promoting, criticising or even praising a community or national project, by pressing an issue with State or local body with combined or separate deputations and making public pronouncements where appropriate, and above all, by uplifting where possible our own level of service.

Our mutual relations must also be improved. There are too many issues in common for there to be any jealousies or carping criticisms and it is my sincere hope that more frequent interchanges of ideas can be promoted to create a greater unity of outlook which must result in mutual benefits and improved status. I notice from the report of the Third Congress of the International Union of Architects held at Lisbon last September that architect-engineer relations were discussed It may be of interest here to quote a part of the resolution of this topic:

The more productive the collaboration between architects and engineers, the greater the progress in building construction. It is recognised that the profession of architect is distinct from that of engineer and that each is free to seek the collaboration of the other when this is considered necessary. The definition of their respective functions should form the subject of an agreement between them. The training of the architect should enable him to speak the technical language of each specialist engineer, while the engineer should learn to appreciate the meaning of architecture.

A forward move in professional relations has been made within recent years in Australia. The Royal Victorian Institute of Architects in 1947 negotiated and reached agreement with the Melbourne Division of the Institution of Engineers of Australia for the more effective co-operation of the architectural and engineering professions. The opening clauses of this document are so very

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much to the point and applicable to this country that they bear repeating. The first three clauses read as follows:


The professions recognise their increased responsibilities arising from the scientific, technical and aesthetic changes in the design and construction of buildings and engineering works. They declare their agreement that the best result can be achieved only by the full use of properly qualified specialists in all the various departments of architecture and engineering required by modern construction.


The two Institutions agree that it should be considered unethical that any firm style itself “architect and engineer” (or the plural) unless one of the partners is a registered architect and one of the partners is a chartered engineer.


It shall be considered a professional courtesy that a firm or an individual accepting engagement as an engineering consultant shall in no circumstances accept appointment as an architect in the capacity of principal in any branch of architecture; or vice versa.

The foregoing remarks apply particularly to the private practitioner, but this same sense of mutual understanding and respect must be strengthened among salaried officers on the one hand and between that class and the private practitioner on the other. While the institutions primarily exist to promote and further the arts and sciences of both architecture and engineering they have, in these times, a duty to their members both private and salaried alike, and it seems to me that in order to create better unity between engineering and architectural officers in both Government and local body employ, a joint committee of both professions should debate the several issues to an amicable conclusion so that any representations on grading and salary are made with a united front. The division of authority that appears to exist in certain Government departments and local bodies resulting in one class of practitioner or the other suffering a sense of frustration because his sphere of influence and authority is improperly circumscribed, is another of the vital issues requiring a solution.

This matter of Government and local body employment leads us into the related problem of salaried position as against private employment. It seems that all modern societies, and I speak of the democracies only, are tending to the greater employment of the professional classes to cope with the ever-widening nature and extension of State and local authority activities. If this is inevitable, and I do not for one moment say that it is or it is not, then it behoves both engineers and architects to attempt to control this evolution by an ordering of its gradualness. The further recognition and employment by the State and local authorities of the private practitioner would help considerably in this regard, and at the same time be of benefit in stabilising employment generally.

Another problem to which I have referred is our common relationship with the building industry. Among the ranks of the professions a decade or so ago there was an attitude of independence, isolation and remoteness from all other sections of the building world. Under the influence of the present day social order, this is being supplanted by a feeling of closer co-operation. This is as it should be, but I feel that we of the designer-supervisor class, responsible from the initial stage in accepting an instruction to create physical objects— bridges, buildings and the like, and then originating their design and ordering their erection—should take a lead in creating a greater unity among all units of the industry. At the moment we see the Government making valiant attempts to co-ordinate all the factors involved in the erection of more houses for the people. Their efforts have been commendable, but a solution to the

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bigger issue of better integration in the industry as a whole would get to the root of the problem. To play our part to that end we have a common problem and a common responsibility. We must be prepared to lead and to be recognised as the leaders in all that concerns structures from the training of the artisan to the production of the materials for our work.

To solve the problem of education and the related one of registration in the two professions will take many years of thought and study. Even then it can be imagined that this difficult question will be a continuing one in an attempt to keep pace with the continually changing scene. At the moment we see the architectural profession involved with an educational evolution, we see the engineering profession functioning through three separate channels, we see systems of registration in both professions which are not uniform and which overlap and in many cases conflict. Resolving these problems satisfactory to the majority and beneficial to all can come about only by sane and wise counsel prevailing.

In setting out these few problems which face the professions to-day, I am more than ever convinced that we will find their solution only around a common conference table. The day of independence of action and critical isolation is long past and it behoves both professions better to preserve and improve their prestige to come closer to grips with matters of mutual concern. Each profession has a proud heritage and upon this worthy past can be built a proud future realistically geared to a modern world.