The Good Oil
There is little uniformity internationally on the regulation of architects. That the term 'architect' is not a simple label easily transferred from one nation to another can be seen by examining data for the numbers of architects per capita. In some countries we find extremely high numbers: Japan, Italy and Greece each have over 1,300 architects per million inhabitants. Is there really that much more building design going on there than in, say, Chile, the UK, France, Australia or Hungary, each with around 500 architects per million? Could Canada, Poland, Russia, and Korea—all of whom have less than 300 architects per million—really find work for all those other architects if their numbers were quadrupled to Italian proportions?
One of the striking things about architecture is the tremendous variety of ways in which different countries have decided to regulate it (or not). Some countries, such as Australia at the present, will let anyone do the work of the architect, and only restrict the title of architect. This is also the case in the United Kingdom, Turkey, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
In some places, such as most of the American states, both the title is regulated and also the work done. Only those people with the title architect can do the work of an architect (you can find out more about the American system from NCARB ). Even here there are many exceptions: California, for example, lets anyone design small-scale residential buildings. This is exactly the market in which Australian building designers find most of their work.
A very few places have even tighter restrictions. In Austria, not only do you have to have a degree from an Austrian university, but you must also be an Austrian citizen to practice. No foreigner can be an architect in Austria: it's an all-Aryan profession.
How you acquire the title is also quite variable. In many countries anyone with a degree in architecture is entitled to call themselves an architect, even if they have never laid a pen to paper: Belgium, France, Egypt and Peru do it this way. The Japanese, on the other hand, require no degree, and only ask for a few years training in an architectural office, followed by an examination. In Korea you don't even have to finish high school, but you must complete 14 years of practical experience. Graduate with an architecture degree, though, and this reduces to five years.
Again, what you need to know varies from nation to nation. Australian architects would be considered defective in those countries whose education imparts a lot of structural engineering knowledge to the architect. Spanish architects deal with highly technical buildings, such as industrial plant, that English-speaking architects tend to leave to engineers. Similarly, architects in the Benelux countries produce technical drawings that would be handled by engineers in Australia. Norwegian architects also invariably handle town-planning, which is left to a separate occupation here.
Finally, in quite a few countries there are neither any restrictions on who can use the title architect nor on the sort of work that people can do. They have adopted the same approach to the architect as Australia has to the accountant. In Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden, they have decided that as long as the buildings accord with building regulations, they don't really care who designs them.