Architecture: A foolish dream?

I’ve had quite the discourse with a new coworker on the subject of Architecture in the past few weeks. You see, we were contracted to a company that has laid off more than 60% of it’s Architecture workforce. Two more people exited left this week and it got us talking about licensing, pay, graduate degrees, and transferring education and experience from international sources. Like me, this colleague got his Architecture education and some of his experience outside the United States.

Now someone was just talking about one of the people who left to practice Architecture, and I could not help but overhear his comments. (He was quite loud and it didn’t help that he was standing less than 10 feet away fom me). The gentleman griped that he advised the young lady who left to not pursue architecture as it was a foolish dream. This big box firm has been doing little more than outlying construction contracts for more than 3 years, and all their architects and interior designers had been drafted to perform tasks far outside the architecture field. After this young architect took the time and effort to get licensed, stayed with the firm doing non-arch tasks until getting laid off, and now getting full-time architecture employment, her efforts are being labelled as a foolish dream. While the recession has (in my opinion) reverted the way American architects do business to the days of the Master Builder, I don’t believe or agree that the desire and pursuit of Architecture practice is no more than a foolish dream. Allowing the bitterness of disappointment in the industry, wages, licensing process, and our lobbyists to poison our outlook AND our actions does no more than pour gunky sand in a gaping wound. The speaker had indeed been burned by the profession, and it was evident in his speech(with examples of course) that he felt betrayed. It is important for people to still recognize that life is similar to a cyclic rollercoaster. It’s not always up, or down, slow, or fast.


3 Responses to “Architecture: A foolish dream?”

  1. June 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Let me go on record as saying that pursuing an Architectural career is honorable. It is not a foolish dream. We older practitioners, while always speaking accurately about the profession, must guard against such overly negative statements.

    You are right about the cycles of life. A wise man once wrote; “There is a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones” (Ecclesiastes 3:3,5)

    For those of us who keep the faith (by embracing the technological and social changes that have always shaped the built environment) there will be a great time of gathering stones, so to speak; a grand time of building up.

    • 2 archiwiz
      June 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      Thank you Collier. It is indeed important for the older practitioners to be careful when giving career advice in this field. I don’t think my generation expects to hear that it’s all roses and candy, but painting the outlook completely black does us no good either.

      Balancing the good WITH the bad presents a realistic outlook, on life, and any chosen field. And in the end, if you are truly passionate about something, your ability to pursue it will become a/the reward in itself. And yes, there is a time for everything… And I hope we can wade through this season of famine, as it were, until the season of plenty again.

  2. June 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I have been in the profession since I got out of college in 1979. I always considered myself a pragmatic, nuts and bolts type of architect, not as I call them “an architect’s architect”. I don’t consider myself an artsy type of guy. When I reflect on these past years I have come to realize some things. 1) Architecture is a passion, not a job. 2) Architecture is a way of life. I tell my kids that most people work the week to get money for their weekend. Weekends get in the way of my job. 3) I’ve never done this for the money. Mine you, I know I need to earn enough to support the family, but great wealth is not the motivating factor, nor is fame or recognition. I would rather sit in the back and do construction documents than go to a public meeting. As I explain to my kids, which I explain a lot to them ( ages 25,23, & 21). I want to be the second string lineman on a football team that plays for 15 years rather than the star running back who only plays for 5. The important thing is playing the game. I also tell them to get a job they like, because some days your job will suck and it makes it easier to take if you like what you do. The final thing I tell them is “If your good at what you do, you will make money, regardless of what it is you do”. All these are applicable to my architectural career. I am a one man office and I work for mostly contractors and developer doing commercial buildings and upfits. I’ve never won any awards, but my clients keep coming back and I get most of my new work because of word of mouth. I’m no FLW, but I would hope to be one of the last architects standing, as I would fight to continue to do what I love. I am a very, very fortunate man!
    Lastly, it is all about relationships. I started on my own in 1987. I have tried to build up good realationship with my clients, hoping that if things ever went bad they would have enough work to keep ME a float. 2009 almost did me in, but I survived. I consider the people I work for friends, first and clients seconds. I decided as a senior in high school to become an architect and once I did other majors or jobs were never an option. I usually don’t rant like this. Thanks for listening. I’m proud to be an architect. (yes my website needs work!)

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