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A fork in the road- to quit or continue architecture?

theflash2207

I'm nearing completion of my 3 year B. arch and I'm due to apply for the 2 year M. Arch within coming days. My time at university can only be described as torrid, from day 1 I was exposed to the excessive workloads, pressures and struggles of being a student of architecture and despite wanting to quit multiple times, I fought through the pain and I'm now nearing the finish line.

Issues contributing to my largely negative university experience include; Poor treatment of students by staff and promotion of a toxic culture, encouragement of unhealthy work practices (i.e the infamous all-nighter) through the sheer volume of process work required, articulation of critique in a manner that is demeaning and finally the ego of high-profile architects (it appears that to be successful one must develop almost narcissistic traits - traits which do not align with my own personal path of development). 

Through these experiences, I've become increasingly disillusioned with the viability of architecture as a subject and profession. It seems that there are some fundamental flaws rooted in the educational model which in my view are contributing to the decreasing societal relevance of the profession.

These issues have compounded to my current position, I now have to make a decision. Continue or leave architecture. In truth, my love for architecture has diminished and I'm tired, I feel that architecture school has become merely an exercise in persistence and resilience rather than a fulfilling educational experience. I still enjoy aspects of design, but do not think I can sustain another 2 years of bad experiences. Does it get better upon leaving school? I've done significant research and appears the work input to financial re-numeration ratio pales in comparison to other professions requiring less difficult qualifications. Would my time be better invested in an alternate field if my love for architecture is no longer there?

Cheers

 
Oct 28, 16 11:35 am
Xenakis

Its like SEALs  BUD/UDT training - you have to learn to do what it takes - the whole process requires rigid self discipline and no excuses - it can be like this in actual practice  - its necessary training - because when you are in actual practice and in a real -

If you have any doubts, now is the time to get out - its sounds like you don't like to sacrifice for worthwhile goals - go ahead take the easy way out and succumb to your weaknesses

Read Brian Tracy's " No Excuses" first before you pack it in -

Oct 28, 16 11:48 am
DeTwan

lol...smell like Stockholm syndrome to me...

Oct 28, 16 11:58 am

The profession is different from school. School is more fun...

Oct 28, 16 12:36 pm
square

get out now. Your tone in the post indicates you have little to any desire to continue. This is not an education and profession worth pursuing unless you love it  I will say though your program seems to be giving the education a bad name, and I think your assessment of the state of schooling/profession connection is unfounded.. the profession is losing relevance for many other reasons. The schools I went to for undergrad and grad were great atmospheres, with wonderful educators. There is always pressure (mostly generated by the students) to pull  all nighters.. I went through grad school with out pulling a single one. While some of the negative atmosphere/experience is surely generated by the program, your attitude might be partly to blame  

Oct 28, 16 12:37 pm
geezertect

Architecture involves a tremendous amount of time and effort for very little in the way of tangible rewards like money, job security and advancement.  The absolute only reason to be in it is for the love of it.  Take a few years off and do something else while you clear your head.  If you find yourself missing it, you will have your answer.  And if you find yourself NOT missing it, that will be your answer too.

If you have any doubts, now is the time to get out - its sounds like you don't like to sacrifice for worthwhile goals - go ahead take the easy way out and succumb to your weaknesses

Don't listen to this kind of crap.  It is not a character flaw or a sign or weakness to conclude that the path you are on is not right for you.  A career choice is a cost/benefit trade-off, just like anything else in life.  You don't need to stay with a bad choice just to prove that you can.  

Oct 28, 16 1:55 pm
Ose Etomi

Hey,

 

I had a very similar experience to you, you said you just got a 3 year degree, sounds like your in the UK. So what you described was exactly me, I went into Architecture school very optimistic and excited and slowly over my 3 year education I lost the love for Architecture. The tutors at the University I went to seemed to gain pleasure from putting students down and every crit we had at least 2-3 people broke down in tears

So following that I did the obligatory work for a year in Industry, which although wasn't bad, was boring. So I quit. I was completely done with architecture and went into other creative fields working for 3 years in Advertising, set design, architectural visualisation which were all fun and interesting but  what I realised was that a lot of the things that stressed me out about architecture were present in these fields as well. Late nights, short deadlines etc and in some instances (advertising) was much much worse. Anyway I had started to miss Architecture and was finally in a place where I thought I could return. So I applied for Grad school and I am currently doing my M.Arch in the States. What I can tell you though is the school you go to makes so much difference. Whereas the tutors in my undergrad berated students and made them feel small, the professors here are all so helpful and encouraging even the mean ones arn't that mean. There are still the occasional late nights but most of that is self inflicted and as for what I am going to do when I finish school, work for a firm that does small but interesting projects rather than glass boxes

Oct 28, 16 2:30 pm
Wahooarchitect

David Curtis spoke accurately, school was a more enjoyable time than most of my 43 years in the profession here in the USA. I don't know about abroad, but pay is generally lousy compared with other professionals with less education, job security is non-existent, and ego maniacs are all too common. Consider moving into real estate development : as a client you will be able to influence and foster good design much sooner and much more effectively than as the architect. Lord knows we all need more clients seeking good design. And you will make a ton more money, working more normal hours.

Oct 28, 16 3:46 pm
accesskb

Get out now.  Truth is there is stress in almost all jobs.  You'll have to work hard be it you become an accountant, get into finance, law, engineering etc.  Atleast you might be motivated to keep working when your pay is good in other fields and allows you to take vacations often to recharge and do other things to enjoy life.  Do you want to start with a 50k/year job in architecture or a 150k/yr job in a field like software engineering. ;)

Oct 28, 16 4:56 pm
tintt

Switch to pharmacy. Employment anywhere you go. Good salary. Professional work environment. Respect. Drugs.

Oct 28, 16 9:36 pm

People respect legal drug dealers. All the cars and cash without the possibility of going to jail unless you dip into your own supply.

Oct 28, 16 9:53 pm

But in reality, the road to architecture is long and tortuous. You really have to want it.

Oct 28, 16 9:54 pm
theflash2207

If you have any doubts, now is the time to get out - its sounds like you don't like to sacrifice for worthwhile goals - go ahead take the easy way out and succumb to your weaknesses

I'd appreciate it if you could refrain from making assessments on my character based on a small facet of information. I've accomplished many goals in my life all of which have required significant commitment. Is it a weakness to identify when the path you are on is not right for you? My interests are fairly multifaceted so there are various other avenues I could potentially explore.

lol...smell like Stockholm syndrome to me..

Perhaps to some degree, I actually withdrew from architecture after my first semester only to be drawn back in a year later. Whilst I've admitted my love for architecture has diminished, there are times when I see a beautiful work or drawing and become inspired, albeit these moments are fleeting. Perhaps this is what has sustained me up until this point. 

get out now. Your tone in the post indicates you have little to any desire to continue. This is not an education and profession worth pursuing unless you love it  I will say though your program seems to be giving the education a bad name, and I think your assessment of the state of schooling/profession connection is unfounded.

Sound advice, I believe that the program I'm involved in has some major issues. There is a 'beat them with a stick' mentality, largely passed down by the older generation of architects who are proponents of the 'that's the way it has always been done' teaching philosophy. Unfortunately, I've been involved in two different programs and this teaching methodology has been adopted in both.

The schools I went to for undergrad and grad were great atmospheres, with wonderful educators. There is always pressure (mostly generated by the students) to pull  all nighters.. I went through grad school with out pulling a single one. While some of the negative atmosphere/experience is surely generated by the program, your attitude might be partly to blame  

I have no doubt that there are great programs and staff members, I've met some exchange students from the US who have had largely positive experiences, unfortunately, in my country the experiences and stories passed down by the student community have been predominantly negative. 

I didn't pull an all nighter for my first 2 years, when 3rd year hit the floodgates were opened and this was not a result of poor time management, more so the immense workload. I have no issue having to do the odd all-nighter but when it becomes requisite to get through the work it is clear there is a problem. I've seen a few of my friends pull multiple consecutive all-nighters and end up quite unwell. I'd say about half our studio cohort has withdrawn in the final year of undergrad.

My attitude is simply a result of my experiences. 

Thanks for the reply Square.

Geezertect, I will take this on board, it is likely at this stage I will take time away from architecture and see how things pan out.

 I had a very similar experience to you, you said you just got a 3 year degree, sounds like your in the UK. So what you described was exactly me, I went into Architecture school very optimistic and excited and slowly over my 3 year education I lost the love for Architecture. The tutors at the University I went to seemed to gain pleasure from putting students down and every crit we had at least 2-3 people broke down in tears

Actually in Australia, but your experiences sound the same. 

Get out now.  Truth is there is stress in almost all jobs.  You'll have to work hard be it you become an accountant, get into finance, law, engineering etc.  Atleast you might be motivated to keep working when your pay is good in other fields and allows you to take vacations often to recharge and do other things to enjoy life.  Do you want to start with a 50k/year job in architecture or a 150k/yr job in a field like software engineering. ;)

This. At the end of the day, I could do something with equal stress but be much better off financially.  I feel that some of those involved in architecture (don't want to generalise here.... I'm sure not all are like this) become somewhat narrow in their range of interests in that everything gravitates towards architecture. I myself have a diverse range of interests and prefer a greater sense of balance in my life. 

Switch to pharmacy. Employment anywhere you go. Good salary. Professional work environment. Respect. Drugs.

Actually, have a friend who just finished pharmacy, their university has a well established internship program, interesting to see the differences in structure between architecture courses and those in health and medicine.

Thanks to everyone for the replies thus far...

Oct 29, 16 7:09 am
DeTwan

My response was to Xenakis' initial response.

When ppl start talking/thinking that architecture is like joining the marines you know they are 'loco'... youre not going off to war, your sitting behind a desk all day moving lines and windows.

Academia in the field of architecture is an indentured slave culture, and it is quite evident when ppl start talking about how 'one must suffer thur it' to become some magnanimous architect.

Oh you architect'ual' martyrs...glory awaits just beyond your masochistic ways...

Oct 29, 16 9:26 am
theflash2207

Ah was unsure lol,,.

Was actually going to make a comment about Xenakis' comparison. Ultimately school is not preparing us for national security or war, so there is little need for this attitude. I think making this comparison is a disservice to those that have been through the training for national defence. 

Oct 29, 16 10:59 pm

But it is preparing you for the occasional late nights and stressful situations that inevitably come around in this profession.

Oct 30, 16 12:14 am
Xenakis

theflash2207

Correct- except:

Unless you are preparing to work at OMA - then in that case you better think like a SEAL -  at OMA, every week is hell week -

Oct 30, 16 5:04 pm
Bench

Xenaxis have you worked at OMA?

Further - I really didn't get the impression like this OP was considering trying to work at OMA, so why is that even a thing to bring up here?

Oct 30, 16 9:30 pm
theflash2207

At this stage, I don't think I will continue to post-grad. I'll be taking some time off and perhaps start looking at some other fields to explore.

Oct 31, 16 6:44 am
Xenakis

Bench 

Don't be so nitpicky

Oct 31, 16 12:09 pm
Jayness

theflash,

 

You make valid arguments and I think you should consider alternative options after school but I wouldn't entirely shut off the architecture pathway. Training and working in practice is still relevant experience that could lead to better opportunities down the road outside of practice. Firms vary widely in terms of work-life balance and the office atmosphere but generally the one thing that does not vary is compensation. 

In your original post, you articulated feelings/thoughts that many architecture students and practitioners feel. I wouldn't question any of your thoughts but would advise to think about how it will inform your next decision(s). I also agree with the comment that to really push through these negative experiences, you have to love architecture , or to be more specific, architectural design. 

As for the specific navy seal reference - I find it strange to equate working long hours at low pay for a private firm with no specific mission to Seals training, which is about physical endurance for complicated, hostile, and dynamic war settings such as offshore, submerged, and tidal environments for the protection of the United States. 

Oct 31, 16 1:30 pm
3tk

Agreed with some of the saner responses above:

If you don't love it, get out.  That applies to practically any field - it's not the money, or associated lifestyle that should pull you to a field but how much you enjoy it.  Satisfaction of the tasks you do everyday goes a long way toward day-to-day happiness.  Work and school are for the most part very different - and as others pointed out, school lacks some of the mundane aspects of practice (budgets, liability, client interactions).

School - some more old fashioned programs seem to embrace the stick more than the carrot.  That being said, the harsher schools often led to great camaraderie in the studio.  If that's not the case, then it really is toxic.  One of the reasons school can be rough is that they try to ensure students are ready to deal with tough bosses and clients (some can get really ugly); unlike school though, you can switch offices much easier.

At the end of the day, you can always come back into the profession via a graduate degree (close to half of graduate students come from other backgrounds).  The iterative problem solving that happens in design programs can also be a good background to have for any work.

good luck whatever your choice!

Oct 31, 16 1:49 pm
archeyarch

Break your ass for what?  If you are just chasing one deadline after the next then why bother, what would one love about it anyway.  Most in the field entered under the misconception that arch would reward ones hard work similar to other professions, or that it would be as fulfilling as ones school projects.  Many leaders the in the field should have simply gone into business, as the architecture is a biproduct of some schmucks lacking idea.

Nov 3, 16 10:05 pm

Architecture can be almost anything you want it to be.

Nov 4, 16 2:05 pm
anonitect

Architecture can be almost anything you want it to be.

No. Architecture is designing buildings. Mostly sitting in front of a computer, drawing CDs in Revit.

The con that "architecture is wherever your 'lil heart leads you" was born in the serendipitous moment when architecture schools realized that while they were producing too many graduates, other professions were buying into their bullshit about design thinking, a comically transparent attempt to rebrand problem solving as a mystical set of skills requiring an advanced degree to employ.

Nov 4, 16 9:18 pm

No. Architecture is using your talent and skills to make the world in whatever way you can...unless you work for a developer driven firm or are designing Walmarts.

Nov 4, 16 9:35 pm
curtkram

in whatever way you can

by designing buildings.  because architects design buildings that get built.

Nov 4, 16 10:58 pm
anonitect

 Architecture is using your talent and skills to make the world in whatever way you can.

Oh, Josh, I'm disappointed. You usually seem relatively reasonable - I didn't realize that you'd drunk the cool-aid. You do understand that the definition you just gave for architecture would cover pretty much every possible human endeavor, right? I don't know if that makes you ridiculously egotistical (a common character trait in the profession,) or incredibly naive.

Nov 5, 16 11:19 am
DeTwan

Being an architect is (drum roll plz!!!)................................................................magnanimous!

It's basically like walking into starbucks everyday and realizing that youre pretty much the coolest thing that walked in there since the expresso machines...zambam!

Nov 5, 16 12:31 pm
Jayness

I think the line "Architecture can be almost anything you want it to be" is in reference (possibly) to the various issues and subject matter you come across as an architect, so to some degree, the profession does have a strange ability to be minimally informed about many matters that would not be true in other professions. In that sense, architecture could be seen as a "freer" intellectual pursuit, but is also a very "positive lens" through which to see the profession.

The grind of practice and the typical legal construction of firms suggests that architecture cannot be "anything you want to be", but instead is form of consulting service to provide descriptive drawings of buildings to be built; renovated; demo-ed; exhibited. Most of the time an architect role can be either to help in delivering these drawings either via design, technical study, drafting, quality control, management, or admin type roles or through managing the firm and (very important) bringing in new clients. 

Nov 6, 16 7:35 pm
leaves

I studied in australia. where I was studying, each semester you select different studio and tutor, sometimes you get along with the tutor and fly high, sometimes you just don't. I must say that this education system is shitty. I was failed three times for design class at uni, from this point of view, perhaps you are faring better than I was.

However, at that same time, I had projects nominated for student competition, and this is what keep me moving forward and onward.

I heard in AA you can choose the tutor that you like best and stick with them for the entire university period till finish which is nice.

My advise is look for the tutor you get along with and stick to them, if there aren't, just keep your head low for awhile. 

Nov 7, 16 1:30 am
archietechie

^ Pros and cons dude. In the US for instance, you don't necessarily get the tutor you want. It has to be based on meritocracy and the same thing that happened to you might happen to students here as well. It's wonderful to align your pedagogy with the tutors for an extended period of time but I'm just as sure tutors everywhere would want to have the best pick of students too.

Nov 7, 16 11:06 am

I'll throw in my two cents since I'm in a very similar situation, just with 10 years of Architecture practice under my belt. Yes, architecture is exactly how you describe it, maybe not at the firms designing walmarts, but everywhere else.  You better love architecture above all things if you want the professional to feel 'rewarding'.  It can be a poisonous culture brought on by handful of wackos who love to martyr themselves as if it's something to brag about. "Oh you had a great weekend this 4th of July? Haha, well I was in the office all weekend cranking out some renderings, but I watched some fireworks from the office...could just make them out."  - this and many, many more conversations just like it are from real people who sacrifice either their relationships or their health, a lot of times both.  (I work or have worked with very few 'in shape' individuals.)

 

 I am in all likelihood going to be leaving the profession to be able to take back my time.  I will continue practicing on projects I want to work on, and not as a primary means of income to give me that freedom.  Now, I will certainly take a big hit on pay, but that is something I can handle.  On the flip side, working 80 hrs/wk making 40,000/yr really means your making 20,000/yr....very few people understand this I feel. Or they just have zero interests outside of the office.  My time is valuable.

That is what you are going to deal with, unless you are one the martyrs, but it sounds like you aren't.  By the way, perhaps some of those guys/gals are quite happy with the lifestyle of working weekends, etc.  I am friends with quite a few and they certainly seem happy...they tell me so when I am actually able to see them...usually for lunch but only 30 minutes because they have to 'get back'.


I've worked at various high profile firms and have done 100 hr weeks.  The only 'good' I saw coming from this was that I made some lifelong friends during those times simply from being with them ALL the time.

Nov 7, 16 1:28 pm

Ultimately, the decision on if architecture is right for you rests on your shoulders. If it isn't, that's a ton of stress, lack of work/life balance at times, and time/money to spend on something you don't love - because a lot of times architecture doesn't love you back.

Although that feeling you get when a building is completed - I'm guessing that's what seeing your baby born is like. 

Nov 7, 16 2:37 pm
Wahooarchitect

The feeling you get when walking through a completed building is good, at least if it got built as you designed it.  The feeling that you get when you see your baby born and hold a new life in your hands is not even close to the same feeling: it is incredibly better.  I'm afraid I have to say that I can't agree with you on that comparison Josh.  I've walked through a lot of buildings in my 40+ years in the profession, and I have 4 children: I'll take those 4 births ahead of any building, or all of the buildings.  Just not apples to apples at all, in my opinion of course.

Nov 7, 16 3:36 pm

I wouldn't know. I have yet to trick any lady into staying around for a while. No kids for me yet, but assuming I'll end up with Bebe's Kids.

Nov 7, 16 4:10 pm
tintt

Making babies and making buildings - no comparison.

Nov 8, 16 11:04 am
JeromeS

^^ True, but either way, you need a distraction to keep going.

Nov 8, 16 11:06 am
tintt

Maybe instead of pulling all nighters to be "tough", we should have students simulate 36 hours of back labor.

Nov 8, 16 11:17 am
curtkram

instead of all nighters, they should be practicing making babies instead of practicing pushing them out. 

Nov 8, 16 12:13 pm
tintt

Or that too, curt. We need future users of buildings to fund us in our getting to be old stages. I'm on it.

Nov 8, 16 12:19 pm
newguy

Just keep in mind that every employer will leverage your "love for the profession" in order to pay you shit.  And that one of the few ways to climb up the financial ladder is to switch employers every so often to maximize your market value.  Or you can hang around the same place for the "privilege" of seeing one of your projects built all the way through (because apparently in our profession, that is considered compensation in and of itself -- whoopty do).

 

And if you're in school, you need to make a SERIOUS financial calculation about how much debt you'll be accumulating vs. how many years it will take to crawl out of that hole.  And also how many ADDITIONAL years it will take to build up a nest egg if you ever plan on retiring.  All the while losing some of your prime working years racking up debt rather than generating income (although this is more of a 'murican phenomenon).

 

Of course, you would never retire, because you like the profession so goddamn much, yeah?

 

I'm sorry, but the "you have to love it!" attitude that is peddled by this profession really irritates me.  Its an attitude that defines the profession more as an old boys club for the privileged by the privileged rather than a viable profession that can have large transformative societal benefits.  I'm sure doctors love their job.  I'm sure lawyers love their job.  Yet neither one of those professions seems to be struggling with compensation like we do.  At the end of the day, architecture is a JOB.  Some days you'll enjoy it, some days you'll even enjoy the struggle and the challenge.  And some days you'll fucking hate it.  Because it is a JOB.  That's why you get PAID to do it.  You should be compensated commensurate with the quality and output of your work.  Love-y little feel goods are not adequate compensation.  You can't pay rent or your mortgage with intellectual satisfaction alone.  Creative enjoyment alone does not put food on your plate.  Love of the profession doesn't put your children through college.  Money does, though.  Money can do all those things.

 

For whatever reason, architects seem to completely misunderstand the power dynamic between capital and labor.  We devalue the output of our labor for the "privilege" of designing for the capital class.  If you love the job so much, why even bother collecting a paycheck at all?  And how badly does the profession weed out under-financed and under-privileged individuals who cannot afford to pay to play?  The barrier for entry is excruciatingly high, and the compensation barely offsets those costs, which effectively bars those who could potentially best serve the profession from entering.

Nov 8, 16 2:22 pm
tintt

Having two jobs and working part time in architecture is a good solution. I still get my ego-based compensation while limiting the abuses.

Nov 8, 16 3:12 pm
JeromeS

^^ bingo. 

Nov 8, 16 3:28 pm
tintt

psst... less is more...

Nov 8, 16 3:35 pm

The whole idea is do what you love and get paid for it. If anyone outside of a non-profit asked me to do something for free, I'd tell them where they could put it.

Hint: the sun doesn't shine there.

Also no one got my Bebe's Kids reference, and I'm upset.

Nov 8, 16 3:41 pm
tintt

What or who is Bebe's kids? I thought maybe you had one of those pacts with a hometown girl, like hey Bebe if we are both still single and childless at 38 we'll just marry each other and have kids.

Nov 8, 16 3:46 pm
JeromeS

bebe neuwirth?  I'm pretty sure she's way past prime child bearing years...

Nov 8, 16 3:47 pm
geezertect

Prostitution is the oldest profession.  Architecture is the oldest cult.

Nov 8, 16 3:52 pm

They don't die, they multiply. Come on, someone has to remember this shitty cartoon movie that was played over and over again in the early days of Comedy Central.

Nov 8, 16 4:26 pm
tintt

Nope. Didn't grow up with cable TV. Haven't had it as an adult either.

Nov 8, 16 5:01 pm

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