Architests live in a world of their own. Membership of the profession isclosed. Methods of work are not divulged to building users or shared withcollaborators in the bilding industry. Architects have unique methods of re-warding success,their physical environment is highly specialised, theyhave developed a number of private languages. But this culture has beenchallenged in the last twenty years. Economic recession, social protests andmedia exposure have theratened its self-sufficiency. This paper discussesthese changes and some of their consequences for individual architects' ap-proach to their work. The development of the building industry will be outlined. The political con-text has been transformed. The welfare state and affluent socety with itsprogramme of housing, schools and hospitals largely designed in public sec-tor offices has given way to an enterprise society with an emphasis on officeand retail structures, privatised practice and competitive design consul-tancy. Professional firms have been restructured, consortia created, con-tracts reconsidered, energy consumption questioned. Small and large firmstake differing financial risks.The questions which have faced the profession in creatinga role for its mem-bers will be discussed. Architects have seen themselves as artists, a gentle-men with a social responsability and as entrepreneurs. Ethical issues havebeen raised and alternative role-models proposed. Relationships with gov-ernment and regualatory boies have altered. Codes of conduct have been re-vised and conditions of employment have changed. Practice overseas broughtmany of these questions to the fore: practice in urban renewal demonstratestheir importance at home. The credibility of the design professions is at is-sue.This period has seen the end of concensus concerning the modern movement.The debate over the need for rational solutions and the need for individualexperssion has been reopened but not resolved. The search for symbolicmeanings has been extended and regional languages of arcitecture have beenadopted. Aesthetic authority has been challenged by lay taste.The paper will attemp to show how individiul architects and the firms theywork with have attempted to cope with these unceretainties in everydaypractice but yet maintain a worthwhile vision of their work and its purpose.