Christine Murray, editor of The Architects' Journal, has written an open letter to the public trying to explain what architecture is for. This is in response to a survey that shows, shockingly, that the public has very little understanding of what architects do.
Murray's explanation is that architects design buildings that really work, and that will continue to work over time. 'A builder will build you a home, an architect will make you a home,' she concludes. It is a brave attempt to tackle a definition that can never be fully resolved, especially in a world where there is increasingly a difference between qualifications and the roles that people play. Non-architects are designing buildings (pace Thomas Heatherwick); architects and landscape architects are carrying out urban design; everybody is having a go at products. It definitely needs doing, even though no solution will be perfect. Good architects bring a certain magic and rigorous thinking projects that is hard to define but important to recgonise.
I have tried to tackle the problem from a different angle in a book with the rather hubristic title '10 Principles of Architecture'. It looks at what the defining considerations are in the design of buildings.