1 Contemporary architecture is universal
Throughout the formative decades of Modernism, namely the architecture of the early 20th century, architects attempted to develop universal solutions to generic programs. Influenced by De Stijl and Bauhaus ideas, architects such as Mies van der Rohe, Rietveld, Le Corbusier, Gropius and Breuer, developed archetypes, or prototypes to be emulated. The Case Study House Program, developed in the postwar by Neutra, Saarinen, Eames and Koenig, among others, was an explicit attempt in the same direction. Contemporary architects have followed in the footsteps of early Modernism, producing universal architecture that avoids regionalism, even if it adapts to a site’s topography and climate. A similar residential project could be built in different countries, if the site and program demands were similar.
2 Contemporary architecture is replicable
The building industry has evolved, incorporating more industrial processes – using factory-produced elements that require little work on site. The advances in documentation and visualization software have also enabled architecture to be defined almost entirely off-site, leaving fewer decisions for the construction phase. As a result, projects are no longer masterpieces requiring a master builder, but have become closer to prototypes for an industrial process that may be reproduced at faraway locations.
3 Architects own their copyrights
According to intellectual property laws worldwide, architects keep ownership of their copyrights, and clients are by definition granted a non-exclusive license for a single building. In other words, even when a design is the result of a private commission, the intellectual property for those design solutions belongs to the architect. The standard contracts by architect’s associations such as the AIA and RIBA avoid any exclusivity clause, so that architects can remain in full control of their copyrights. Similar to industrial designers and other creative professionals, architects may offer additional non-exclusive copyright licenses for their work and receive royalties. The architect may choose to deny any additional license within the country of the original project.
4 Architects are entitled to royalties
High-quality design is not remunerated accordingly, at least when compared with commercial and corporate architects who are paid the same, or sometimes more, for work that requires a fraction of their time expenditure. Design work could be financed more appropriately if architects would receive royalties in compensation for a copyright license, similar to the structure of other creative professions.
5 Replicating designer architecture
For many clients globally, even if they value design, engaging with a designer is a process with many uncertainties. As a result, clients often build mediocre projects that are available through highly commercial channels, developers and construction companies. If architects allowed a selection of some of the best contemporary projects to be licensed and replicated, more clients would have an option to build high-quality design.
6 Expanding designer architecture
The built environment is rapidly growing and the demand for new buildings is tremendous. Yet the majority of new construction—both urban and suburban— is often poorly designed. By offering a copyright license to replicate one of the selected projects, architects could improve the built environment at another location globally, gain exposure, and trigger more clients and developers to value design.