The Truth About Being an Architect – Redux



A friend said to me a few years back. Architecture is a great profession and a horrible business. After about 25 years in the field I still agree, with a caveat. What’s great about the profession is the history of architecture, what it is, what it can be, and most of all, what it exposes one to in life. What’s also great about the profession are good clients, design freedom and projects you’re proud of. Architecture is about many things. It’s about invention, form, story, and hopefully inspiration. It’s also a life long pursuit filled with learning a variety of skills related to philosophy, sociology, psychology, material science, engineering, mathematics, history, and construction. Architecture has the potential to enrich anyones life and I encourage most people that ask to pursue it as a career or depending on age or income, as a hobby. With that said, the business of designing buildings, running an office, or staying solvent can be quite challenging. In my experience, and judging by the experience of others, the education of an architect prepares one to mostly become a designer. However design is not what most architects do day in and day out. The truth is, design is just a part of what architects do and unless you’re an exceptional designer or the firm’s principal, you may be in for a shock. The architect’s job involves lots of technical drawing, writing, research and learning — particularly in the beginning. It also involves lots of coordination and organization — if you want to be successful you better be conscientious. Eventually, being an architect also requires people skills. If you’re lucky enough to manage a job some day the architect interacts with lots consultants, contractors and their subcontractors. However, the architect’s most important job is to manage the client. And all that really means is setting expectations and keeping clients well informed — but believe me, it’s sounds easier than it is. The architect also needs to manage their business and employees if they’ve got them. And hopefully clients are paying their bills and new business keeps coming in. One friend calls it, “feeding the beast.” The business can also get quite challenging if clients aren’t paying their bills or the office gets bogged down with the litigious aspects of the job. All this is to say that the architect has lots of jobs and lots of challenges that may leave very little time for their favorite job — design. But I suspect, most jobs have their ups and downs. And that’s why architecture can be a great profession but as I like to say more and more, a challenging business.

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