Dr Hector Sikazwe, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2021

Today, we start a series on the Zambian Architect and what it takes for them to set up a practice. The series is based on the experiences of Dr. Ar. Hector Sikazwe in his years as a professional which span over 25 years in both Private and public sector in Zambia, the United Kingdom and many other countries. He currently runs his own Architectural consulting firm Apex Business management Consultants Ltd, in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, where the firm conducts research in novel technologies in the construction industry.

Starting an Architect’s firm from scratch is not easy. Many young architects take a different tact by working for established firms and using the knowledge and connections from that position to leverage the launch of a new firm. Their first clients may come from relationships built during their time as an employee. Another different path for an Architect to own their own firm is to work their way through the ranks in an established firm, becoming a partner and ultimately taking the reins and responsibility for that firm. Only a few lucky Architects ever get this route right. It takes too long. One has to be so loyal to a point of imbecility. The secret to getting noticed is for a young Architect to build their own platform from which to launch their start-up before taking the leap. This is usually done by building a foundation of relationships, connections and resources that would eventually support the Architect. This helps a lot to provide the basis on which to build their new firm and get them noticed.

Defining “Architect” Zambia has an infestation of people who are able to produce glossy and attractive pictures of buildings using 3D software that is also abused immensely. These people have great talent and can impress the most naïve that they are qualified Architects, architectural professionals or even famously call themselves just “Architects”. Unfortunately, Architects are more than just designers. “Anyone who designs a building without any construction knowledge is an artist or a designer; they are not an architect.” One will then ask who then is an Architect? The matter is relatively straightforward, the word “architect” is a protected term of reference under CAP 442 of the laws of Zambia. Under the Zambian law, only ‘architects’ are only legally allowed to call themselves ‘architects’ if they are adequately qualified and have been admitted onto the architects register administered by the Zambia Institute of Architects registration and membership Committee. This person will be referred to as a “registered architect” or simply an “Architect” and that means the term can only be applied to a person who is registered under section twenty-eight of CAP 442 and is defined as a “person who engages in the planning or supervision of, and erection or alteration of a building exceeding one hundred and twenty square metres.”

The ZIA Council, on the recommendation of the Registration and Membership Committee issues a practicing certificate to every architect or company registered under section twenty-eight. Currently all registered Architects in Zambia are distinguished from non-registered professionals by a pocket size photo identity card that has details of the Architect and current status of registration.

Membership categories The ZIA Act currently provides for five classes of membership namely:

1. Corporate Member – to be registered under this class of membership, must be resident in Zambia, has attained the age of twenty-one years and holds a bachelor of architecture degree or its equivalent recognized by the Council. They must also have completed at least two years of post-graduate practical full-time employment under the supervision of a registered architect, must have passed the professional competence examination conducted by the ZIA Council, and has paid the registration and membership fees prescribed by the Council.

2. Honorary Member – Must be nominated by the ZIA President and approved by the ZIA Council based on distinguished practice in the architectural or allied profession; or rendered exceptional and important services relating to the architectural or allied profession.

3. Life Member – must be a retired corporate member, and a person who has made outstanding contributions to the professions.

4. Foreign Member – A person who decides to practice the profession outside Zambia and, except for not being resident in Zambia qualifies to be a corporate member.

5. Student – A person may on the application to the council be admitted as a student member if he is undergoing post graduate period of training in any industry connected with architecture or an allied profession

ZIA Council regulatory role and SI 106 ZIA Council is the sole regulator of architects and any person on the ZIA registration list is bound by Statutory Instrument No. 106 of 1999 that contains the Zambia Institute of Architects Code of Professional Ethics and Conduct and Conditions of Engagement that has Regulations, 1999 ‘Architects Code: Standards of Conduct and Practice’. This SI sets out the minimum standards of service an architect must provide.

Appointment of Architects

Prior to appointing an architect, it would be prudent for Clients to check if the prospective architect is listed on the list of Registered Architects which would also highlight if there were any disciplinary actions against them as that which could avoid a dispute later on down the road. This is important because an architect is held responsible for the conception, execution, and successful completion of a building.

The Architect, person specific
Architects are optimists. With their optimism, Architects are considered to possess positive vibes. Optimism is a form of positive thinking that includes the belief that one is responsible for their happiness and that more good things will continue to happen to them in the future. So, Architects see things that are not yet there and as such provide the world with imagination and visualization of the future. Imagine what it would be like to have no Architects!

The world without Architects would not be what it is. The world couldn’t survive, anticipate and prepare for an unknown future and imagine what is not there. Imagine a world of pessimist designers, planning for the worst. That’s the world without architects. Architects plan in thin air and bring to life what would normally never be fathomed by an ordinary man. Architects balance multiple intelligences.

Architects do what they do because they are passionate about architecture and design. Despite the rigours of school and the relative lack of money to be obtained in the field, architects that have been in the field already for some time do what they do because they love to do it: plain and simple.
Invariably, Architects work not just because they’re required to gather tally, and document their continuing education credits, they are predominantly curious beings in the best sense of the word. Architects want to know it all, and that means everything, and are almost insatiably thirsty for knowledge. Well, one would say, that is a good thing because they need to know it all. People trust those endowed with knowledge.

That is why we need Architects. It’s a job requirement and for some a liability if they get into it for the wrong reason. Architects use all of their faculties when they design and document including spatial intelligence that can only exist in a sick mind. Architects are not normal. Other than that, Architects are strategists. They ask tough, penetrating questions, seldom taking assignments or answers at face value.
“A career in architecture, as one parent of an architect put, is a never-ending learning experience with a myriad of “career spokes” springing from the hub of the core disciplines. The architect takes it upon himself/herself to continually learn and grow, remaining throughout their career a student not just of architecture but of life as a whole. They reframe questions that are lobbed at the world. They go about their work less as object designers than chess players or basketball coaches parlaying the playbook.” (Sikazwe,2018)

Next week, In Part 2 we will look at a few attributes that must be present in an Architect to remain relevant and correctly ensure their practice is taken in a serious matter.