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NYT: Architecture Down…My Response..but not out

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NYT: Architecture Down…My Response..but not out

| architecture, architecture jobs, Hiring trends, starting a business, unemployed architects | March 08, 2013


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Last month, the New York Times published an article discussing how while college is a great investment, a major in Architecture is not one.  Because the unemployment rates for architecture graduates were the highest, that was the major to make the enemy.  Let us forget the fact that the return on investment is not only higher than majors such as anthropology and archaeology whose median was $28,000 as well as the fact that journalism was not very far behind on unemployment numbers.  Architecture is the enemy.

My response to this is two-fold: For one, it is a horrid recession for all majors as well as all graduates. Personally, I met a woman with two Masters in Government who has had to start her own freelance writing business to get food on her table.  This is not the time to point fingers at anything, let alone educational factors.  Secondly, like every major a person chooses, they must be passionate about it and ready to work in any avenue to survive. I see many majors today in the same boat as struggling actors, taking acting classes during the day and trudging through  auditions…but one day find their break. Like every art-related career path like architecture, this is the life we chose.  Statistics don’t make passion, people do.

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About the author

After working at various design practices on a full-time and freelance basis, and starting his own design firm, David McFadden saw that there was a gap to be filled in the industry. In 1984, he created an expansive hub for architects and hiring firms to sync up, complete projects, and mutually benefit. That hub was Consulting For Architects Inc., which enabled architects to find meaningful design work, while freeing hiring firms from tedious hiring-firing cycles. This departure from the traditional, more rigid style of employer-employee relations was just what the industry needed - flexibility and adaption to modern work circumstances. David has successfully advised his clients through the trials and tribulations of four recessions – the early 80’s, the early 90’s, the early 2000’s, and the Great Recession of 2007.

One Response to "NYT: Architecture Down…My Response..but not out"
  • Bradley March 8, 2013

    They have been writing these articles attacking architecture since the recession began. And at first I felt the same way, that it was just getting picked on because it was the hardest hit profession. But then others started looking deeper into it. And while the average salary for architecture may be better than other professions, the cost of the education is not. More and more articles are popping up showing how it just doesnt have the return on investment (moneyor time) that other majors have, even if the starting salary isnt so great. I believe it was Archinect that produced a story a few months back (and I am rounding/estimating the numbers here) but the average student loan debt was around $26,000. For architecture majors it was close to and in some regions over $40,000. Factor in the time requirement that it has and the level of commitment it takes (my college didnt allow certain double majors or participation in athletics for architecture students due to the time commitment) and that slightly higher average salary doesn’t look nearly as rosey. The architecture education system is also not doing much to prepare graduates for real world positions, utilizing 5 years to do experimentation while doing very little to create solutions to real world problems (see the “award winning” work from Columbia that suggest we should build elevated buildings between other buildings in NYC to solve a future housing shortage, cutting off all natural light, air, street life, etc. etc.). It is ideas like these that are rewarded and promoted while pragmatic creativity is frowned upon. The education system of architecture is more concerned with creating the next Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaus, or Frank Gehry then it is in creating quality, well rounded, solutions oriented architects.

    I am not sure what the fix is, but as long as that investment/reward gap continues to grow we will see stories like this more often and we will see less people entering the profession. And while that may be great while we are all scrambling for positions now, it casts a dark shadow on the future of the profession. Both the profession and the education system of architecture are in serious need of repair. The AIA does very little to protect the profession while charging a very large membership fee in comparison to other professional organizations that require a lower fee and do more to lobby and protect it. Professions that are related but did not nearly take the hit that architecture did.

    This profession has made a steep decline. In part to clients wanting cheaper and faster buildings while sacrificing quality and in part to the giving away of much of the profession (private home builders, planning, interior design, urban design) to other specializations. And unlike many of those other professions I have listed few architects have as many backup options when things do turn sour. We like to think that we are able to do planning, graphic design, etc. ect. but when there are dedicated professionals looking for those same jobs the likelihood of us doing them lessens. Compounding all of that there is increased pressure to freelance the profession and hire mercenaries. That may be great for the few that want to work from home, or do not mind changing places every 6 months, but it does little for people wanting stability. Until this profession remedies these issues (and there are a lot of them) its perception by the general public as well as prospective young professionals will continue to drop like a rock. While the recession didnt help, the realization of what the profession of architecture is evolving into is the main reason why 2/3rds of my graduating class either opted out of the profession or returned to graduate school to transition out of it.

    Architecture is an art, but only a tiny fraction of it. Any practicing architect knows that art makes up maybe 10% of the profession. CA, DSDC, contracts, etc. etc. are science and business. And in regards to those portions of the profession passion will only get you so far. Maybe we do need some sort of great purge to recenter the profession, but it will require a lot of other fixing too in order to ensure its future.

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