One could argue that the profession of architecture has traditionally been characterized by patronage. Throughout the twentieth century, wealthy private clients have enabled architects to develop and realize their most significant work. Relationships between Edgar Kaufmann and Frank Lloyd Wright, Pierre Savoye and Le Corbusier, František Müller and Adolf Loos, and Phyllis Lambert and Mies van de Rohe are only a few of the many examples.
Today, the landscape of patronage is shifting. While the role of private clients is still central to the survival of the profession, an increasing number of architects and design practitioners are actively cultivating partnerships with not-for-profits, granting agencies, educational institutions, and other public organizations. At a moment when architects are feeling the urgent effects of sustained economic crises, facing both a surplus of practitioners and a dearth of clients, they are beginning to question the conventional belief that the only viable role for an architect is one that operates as a service-oriented professional in the employ of a moneyed client.