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“Aerial view” drawings were not practice of architecture

Preparation of feasibility studies by two non-Oregon-licensed architects did not constitute the “practice of architecture,” and placing a “license pending” status on their website was not a violation of the practice act, the Oregon Court of appeals ruled February 24 (Twist Architecture & Design, Inc. v. Oregon Board of Architect Examiners, 276 Or App 557 (2016)).

Reversing and remanding the case to a trial court that had upheld the discipline of the two architect owners of Twist Architecture & Design, the appeals court did agree with the state Board of Architect Examiners that it had correctly determined that the company, registered in Washington State but not Oregon, violated the law by advertising Oregon architectural projects on its website.

The feasibility studies at issue, termed “schemes” prepared by Twist, portrayed aerial views of possible development on three properties, drawn to scale and including boundaries, surrounding streets, buildings, parking spots, and trees, with some dimensions and square footages denoted.

When the board proposed disciplining the architects for practicing without a license, an administrative law judge found that the drawings contained no “foundations, floors, walls and roof, footings, columns, posts, girders, beams, joists, rafters, or bearing partitions.”

The board disagreed, noting that the schemes included “shadowing and shading” to differentiate the walls from the roofs of the buildings. The appeals court accepted the board’s interpretation of the drawings, but disagreed with the board on whether the drawings amounted to the practice of architecture because they did not relate to actually planned buildings.

Under the practice act, the court noted, the goal of architectural practice is “actual construction of buildings,” not planning for a building in the abstract. The board’s desired interpretation would include any activities undertaken in contemplation of erecting a building, no matter how removed from actual construction, and “such a broad reading of the statute” is unwarranted.

The second major issue had to do with the mention on Twist’s website that the owners were “Licensed in the State of Oregon (Pending).” The board considered this a violation of the statute and rule. But the court disagreed: “The statement that Callison and Hansen had pending Oregon licenses did not indicate, or tend to indicate, that they were Oregon architects or practicing architecture in Oregon. We are unpersuaded by the board’s reasoning that the term ‘pending’ indicated that licensure was imminent.”

The court noted that Webster’s dictionary has two definitions for “pending” and both signify that an objective “has not yet been accomplished, regardless of how quickly it might be accomplished in the future.”

While reversing and remanding the case, the court said it agreed that Twist’s inclusion of the phrase “architectural design” under photos from the two projects did support the board’s determination that Twist was claiming to practice architecture in Oregon, and were violations of the practice act.