May I ask why?
Aah architecture. The grand old profession of Wright, Sullivan, Mies and Kahn. The ability to shape cities with one’s own hands, to change lives and alter the course of history. To be Howard Roark of the Fountainhead, dreaming of blowing up your own creation because the client, a necessary evil of the profession, doesn’t share your noble vision.
So very romantic.
And so very wrong.
In the last five years the profession has shed about 60,000 jobs. They’re not coming back. Firms lucky enough to have a backlog of work make up the manpower shortage through technology. Profit margins, traditionally minute in the best of times are non-existent. Consolidation of mid-large size firms is rampant and sole-practitioners are an endangered species. The construction industry is not far away from engulfing architects in the construction process because architects use building information and drawing technologies like CAD, Revit and BIM. We’ve been commoditizing the profession for the last 20 years. That tide is not turning.
Our colleges and universities still eschew teaching the business of architecture, and graduates are ill prepared to deal with the realities of a profession in decline. And don’t dare ask them to draw. A pencil? What’s that?
Then of course there are the clients. The noble benefactors who embrace the architect for his vision, his ability turn their dreams into reality! More likely they’ve shopped around, solicited ten proposals then negotiated two or three firms down to the coveted 3-4% of construction cost fee that fits so well into their bottom line. And the architects fight tooth and nail to see who’ll reach the bottom first. Work is work.
Here’s my advice. Architecture, in its most pure form, is an art that few can understand, enjoy and appreciate. It is exhilarating.
It is not nor should it ever be a job!
It shouldn’t be bought and sold. Be passionate about all design. Architects are inherently creative. Pursue creative collaboration with other design professions. Cross pollinate. Design objects, think creatively at all times and tell everyone you meet that design matters. But practice “architecture” for yourself. Design spaces for yourself. Live in them, work in them, and dream in them. Don’t sell your ideas, your soul, your heart, to anyone. Be selfish because they don’t get it.
If you have to find another way to support yourself.
I’m sure Starbucks is hiring.
Robert Vecchione is an architect/designer and principal of the multidisciplinary firm Cobrooke Ideas-Architecture-Design (www.cobrooke.com)