The title of “perit” is the official title given to warranted architects, and civil (or structural) engineers. The term is of Italian origin, generically meaning “expert”. For a long time, the title has been in use, within the construction industry, to refer to the person knowledgeable on, and responsible for, the design and construction of buildings or other works. The term has a long pedigree. During the rule of the Hospitaller Knights of the Order of St.John, access to the professional status of “perit” was based on a system of apprenticeship, with some theoretical instruction in Mathematics and Surveying. The award of the title, effectively, depended on vacancies being available within the maximum limit of twelve “periti”, as prescribed by existing statutes, eg. the Vilhena Code of 1724.
This was a time when this person combined the roles that we currently ascribe to the architect, engineer, surveyor and estate valuer. In the 18th century, for example, a primary role for “periti and land surveyors” was to report, or adjudicate, on land disputes, to measure sites or lands, and to establish the value of rural or urban properties, or other damages and interests in buildings. The De Rohan Code of 1782 makes reference to “Periti Agrimensori” and “Periti Calcolatori”, attesting to this role.
The British Period
By 1806, ad hoc theoretical training courses were available in Malta. By 1828, for example, access to the title of “Periti Agrimensori” depended on successful performance in examinations, particularly in Land Surveying. During this period, there are also references to the title of “Periti Apprezzatori” (valuers). Around 1831-32, a two-year course, in Arithmetic, Geometry, Mensuration, Surveying and Valuations, started to be organized by the Collegio di Citta’, or Collegio di Malta.
In 1837, the Chair of Civil Architecture and Land Surveying was established in the University of Malta. In 1839, G.B.Pullicino MD, (son of the famous perit Giorgio Pullicino), was appointed Master of Geometry, Algebra and Land Surveying, at the University; he was responsible for the introduction of the first complete course for Architects and Land Surveyors in the University, covering studies of “Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Land Surveying, Planimetry, Stereotomy, Valuation and “Livellation””.
Following the publication of a new University Statute in 1898, the Faculty of Literature and Science was sub-divided into two sections, with Engineering, Architecture and Pharmacy included within the scientific courses. The course in “Ingegneria e Architettura” was elevated to the status of Academical Course in 1904, and in 1905, the School of Architecture was incorporated within the Faculty of Literature and Science, with its own Faculty Board of Engineering and Architecture.
The key development, in 1915, was the splitting of the Faculty of Literature and Science to create the Faculty of Literature, of Science and of Engineering and Architecture. The new Faculty of Engineering and Architecture offered the degrees of Bachelor of Engineering and Architecture, and of Doctor of Engineering and Architecture, as well as the Diploma of Land Surveyor and Architect, (translated in Italian as Perito ed Architetto). This was, however, not the first course which led to the degree of Bachelor of Engineering and Architecture; there are records that show that, in August 1913, there were six such new graduates.
In 1935, the Faculty was divided into three Departments: Architecture, Civil Engineering, and Municipal Engineering. This set-up remained unchanged until 1955. The concept of architect-engineer, although not unique to Malta, was rather alien to the post-industrial revolution anglo-saxon tradition of complete separation between the professions of architects and of civil engineers. There were some attempts in Malta, during 1945-1952, largely unsuccessful, to split the training of these two main disciplines. During the fifties, however, the first B.Eng. degree were in fact awarded to candidates who had initially registered for the degree of engineering and architecture, but who were invited to pursue studies in the UK, in the relatively new disciplines of electrical, mechanical and civil engineering.
In the mid-1960’s, the teaching of civil engineering disciplines was re-organized within a newly set-up institution, leading to a de facto geographical separation between the Department of Engineering, which offered B.Sc.(Civil Eng.) degrees at the Polytechnic, and the Department of Architecture, which offered B.A.(Architecture) and B.Arch. degrees, at the University, up to 1971. However, these developments were not reflected by amendments to the 1920 Architects’ Ordnance, which regulated the award of the warrant, and title, of “Architect and Civil Engineer”. In 1972, the University of Malta therefore had to re-instate the five-year degree of B.E. & A. (Bachelor of Engineering and Architecture), and to stop the other degree courses.
In 1988, the Faculty of Architecture and Civil Engineering introduced the concept of four specialized streams of study during the final two years of this degree programme, namely in architecture, urban design, structural engineering and infrastructural engineering. A further development was the Periti Act of 2000, which re-introduced the title of “perit” as an umbrella title for architects, and civil and structural engineers, to start the process of better aligning the local professional structures with those of the European Union.
In 2009, the Faculty changed its name to the Faculty for the Built Environment, and undertook a major institutional and academic re-structuring. There are currently two professional degree programmes offered leading to the award of the Warrant, the Master of Architecture and the Master of Engineering. The first candidates from these new programmes graduated in 2016, when the Faculty celebrated its 100th anniversary. More information about these programmes can be obtained here.
There are currently on-going discussions on further amendments to the Periti Act. One of the more significant changes will be separate lists for the two main disciplines of the profession. The “Perit Arkitett” will better align with the title of “Architect” in accordance with Directive 2005/36/EC, on the recognition of professional qualifications, and the “Perit Inġinier Ċivili” will align with Europe-wide standards on the training of civil engineers. This will facilitate the process of mutual professional recognition.