In May of 2005 the Chicago Tribune reported that John Pavlovich illegally used his old boss’s architecture stamp. For those of you unfamiliar with architecture, before starting construction in most municipalities you need to submit a blueprint stamped by an architect. The stamp makes the architect legally responsible for the building.

Of course, not just anyone can get an architecture stamp. That would be bad for the architecture business. In the past you could take a series of grueling tests and get a license. But now an architecture degree from an accredited school is required as well. It’s not quite clear to me why the degree is required—is the test leaving something out that gets covered in school? Oh wait… maybe the profession is just trying to restrict supply. It’s not like some professions are even subtle about it.

The public goal of the architect’s monopoly is to protect the public from unsafe buildings (a laudable goal). But John Pavlovich presented a problem—none of his buildings (admittedly derived from his boss’s designs) fell down. They worked. Everyone was happy except his competitors. If John could design safe buildings without an architecture license, what’s the value of an architecture license? Oh wait, Susan Hofer, spokeswoman for the Department of Professional Regulation says:

“The plans themselves were structurally sound because they had been done by a real architect.”

No, Susan, the plans are not sound because they were done by a real architect. A plan is structurally sound if a building built following the plan doesn’t fall down. That’s it. Sound designs are sound designs, no matter what their origins.

And of course, if the real goal was to build buildings that stood up, why halt construction, as Oak Park, IL did in 2004 to John Schiess when he forgot to renew his license. Did Schiess suddenly learn how buildings support themselves when he got his license back? From a public safety point of view, halting and restarting the construction makes no sense because the plans didn’t change.

Thanks to Susan Hofer we all know that an architecture license is needed if you want to build something that lasts.

It’s not as if it was ever done without one.

And sometimes, even when everything is properly licensed, things still fall down and kill people.

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