College of Architects. What are they for?

History of the Colleges of Architects.

Professional associations date back to the middle ages. These Colleges or professional association were created in Europe in the eleventh century with the figure of the craft-guilds, and associations of workers. In Spain, the qualified associations began at universities, where graduates grouped themselves with the intended aim of defending their interests. The first Colleges that commenced operating in Spain were those related with the medical and the legal professions.


Regulation of Professional Colleges

The legislation which regulates the Colleges of Architects is the Law 2/1974 from 1974, although this decree has undergone many changes it has more o less maintained the same originally structure.


The Spanish Constitution protects the creation of professional associations in its article 36 it reads: The law shall regulate the peculiarities of the legal status of Professional Associations and the implementation of professions with university degrees. The internal structure and functioning of all Colleges must be democratic.


These professional associations in Spain play various roles:

a) To ensure the improvement of the professional activity of their members by ensuring their freedom of action in their professional practice. b) Order and promote, within the framework of current laws, professional practice. c) To represent and defend the general interests of the profession, particularly in its dealings with public authorities. d) To defend the rights and interests of their members. e) To ensure compliance with the ethics of the profession and respect for the rights of society, etc.


Supervision of the projects.

The Colleges impose a control of the work that the members generate e.i. all official projects produced by architects in Spain are supervised by the  respective College of Architect making sure that: The author of the project is a registered architect. That the projects produced by their members are checked for the correctness and completeness of the documentation and that all the information is in accordance with the current building norms and regulations and therefore provides a mechanism for quality control.


Professional Colleges are not free of criticism from both the professionals and from the general public. The professionals criticize Colleges membership for being too expensive and for being compulsory to practice the profession. Colleges respond by saying that membership allows control and monitoring that otherwise would not exist, but their opponents say that most professions do not have compulsory licensing, and their work is overseen by the local authorities anyway as in the case of architects.


Many newly qualified architects claim that the initial fees needed to become a member, act as an entry barrier to join the profession. Although some Colleges provide reduced rates for recent graduates, this being the case in Murcia Alicante and Valencia, as far as I know, but others require payment of thousand euros before being accepted when newly qualified professional have no income.


Having the work checked by the Colleges has also been criticized as an act of control to prevent the intrusion of other professionals; others argue that it strengthens the quality of their work. But their opponents argue that the university is responsible for certifying that a professional is sufficiently trained, while the local authorities also provide a control to comply with legal formalities. In this way, the checking of projects would become an unnecessary procedure, which only serves to fund the Colleges.


Aspects relating to the fixing of fees or advertising are also often recurring criticism of these professional bodies. However, I must say that since 1997 the official establishment of minimum professional fees have been forbidden by law. The architect is free now days in setting his fees.


The relative recent law 25/2009 of 22 December, the so called Omnibus law has taken away much power away from all professional associations in Spain such as the College of Architects as amend various laws to adapt to free access to carry out activities in this country.


However, I think that the dilemma is to achieve a balance between protecting the public interest maintaining and enforcing a high standard of training for architects, keeping an ethical code of practise in the profession, and acting like a cartel or a trade union for the members of the profession providing a corporatist environment which impedes any intrusion into the profession.


Institutions of a similar nature exist in the United Kingdom created by a Royal Decree (royal charter) to organize the exercise of professions, the Royal Institute of British Architect (RIBA) although similar to most characteristics to the Spanish Colleges of Architects, however in UK it is not compulsory to belong to the institute to practise the profession neither do projects by architects have to be checked by RIBA or any other institution before is passed to the local authorities so that in theory, any one could draft an architectural project.


It is estimated that in Spain there are about a million and a half of all types of professionals affiliated to Colleges.


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