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Relationships and Architecture

Dec 5 '12 24 Last Comment
BulgarBlogger
Dec 5, 12 10:29 am

I have seen some discussions about college life for architecture students with regard to relationships and extra curricular activities, but I am interested in also knowing about how professional life, goals, and aspirations affects personal relationships. I am not so much asking about th balance of work and home obligations (although that certainly is part of it) but more about whether or not one becomes more important and how that plays out. Let me give an example: if you are a talented architect and find someone you want to get married to or are married to already or in a relationship with, and find a job as an architect that pays well but has nothing to do with what you are interested in ar architecturally (but you take it because it pays the bills) and you are miserable every day because you hate what you are doing at work, how does that play out at home? Another discussion is whether or not people believe they can talk to their (non-architect) spouses/partners/girlfriends/boyfriends about architecture without it getting boring to them. I for example can talk about architecture all day long; and I don't mean about buildings- I also mean theory and whatever. I cant do this with my girlfriend though. A lot of people out there have said: 'your head is in the clouds; you need to get out from your studio mentality. You are now a professional.' Has anyone had experience with this?

 

curtkram
Dec 5, 12 10:56 am

this would be a great post for "dear abra," but i will try to ann landers a bit for you.

that's all up to you.  if your girlfriend gets bored when you talk about architecture, a couple of good options for you pop out to me.  first, you can go ahead and bore your girlfriend.  someday she's probably going to want to talk about shoes or american idol or some crap that bores you, so go ahead and listen even though it's boring.  second, if you don't want to bore your girlfriend, don't talk about architecture with her.  now, if it's really important for you to have a relationship with someone who will attentively listen to your architecture opinions, you may have to dump your girlfriend.  you may be able to replace her with a dog that will listen without talking back too much.  of course, there are notable differences between the role a dog plays and the role a girlfriend plays so this option may require some sacrifice.  please note that if your goal is to work 80 hours a week as an unpaid intern, you should not get a dog.  it's a responsibility, and if you can't handle the responsibility of dog ownership don't get a dog.  a fish or pet rock may be more appropriate in that situation.

also, i would advise against setting a goal of being miserable every day.

toasteroven
Dec 5, 12 11:03 am

If you're still talking/thinking about architecture all day long when you're a little older you're going to burn yourself out and/or alienate everyone around you (even your coworkers and other architects).

 

my advice - get a hobby or two that is active, relaxing, and fun - even better if it's one where you meet other people who have disposable incomes and might feed you work.  you won't get clients if you're spending all day at the office and you won't keep clients if you're incapable of carrying on a normal conversation about something other than architecture.

Steven WardSteven Ward
Dec 5, 12 11:22 am

my wife enjoys the stories of people, situations, conflicts, and compromise that come from my job. architecture provides these things just like her daily activites do. no, it's probably not going to help my relationship to talk about foucault or flashing at home, but i'm not inclined to do that anyway. my passion in my work comes from relationships, communication, and solutions. what could be the problem?

BulgarBlogger
Dec 5, 12 11:23 am

Haha- funny posts. I am surprised that these were more about me than about you. All is well though. It's not that I can't talk about anything else... I like many other things. But one of my questions is: how do your choices in the architecture profession affect your personal life? Would you take a job that pays the bills but makes you miserable only to maintain a relationship, or would you sacrifice a relationship to follow your career? Thoughts? (Please feel free to talk a little about yourselves)

kunalghevaria
Dec 5, 12 11:28 am

If you can't get your girl interested in what you have to say about architecture and design, how are you going to get your clients interested? Just sayin'...

BulgarBlogger
Dec 5, 12 11:51 am

There is a BIG difference between a client and a spouse. You get clients because they want something built whereas a girlfriend/spouse doesn't. Some are willing to listen and support you through your career moves. Some of these career moves are more lucrative than others. Sometimes some of the less lucrative ones are more emotionally satisfying than the more lucrative ones (ex. Teaching vs. creating cookie cutter houses or strip malls). Sometimes spouses push for the more lucrative options such as the example I gave because all they care about is being able to on vacation and dont care what job brings in the money to so that. But for me, i didnlt get into architecture thinking that I would make a lot of money as long as I had fun (even if I was not the richest man in the world) Design satisfies me more than vacation.

toasteroven
Dec 5, 12 12:00 pm

the types of projects we do at my current job aren't always the most exciting, but I really like the people I work with, and typically have one or two side projects going to keep the design juices flowing.  I think after a while you start to value WHO you work with more than what types of projects you're working on.

 

also -  IMO - committed parents (and people in good relationships) tend to make better coworkers and bosses.  my experience with older people who "sacrificed personal life for career" is that they're generally selfish assholes and a pain to work with.  not always, but often enough.

kunalghevaria
Dec 5, 12 12:04 pm

"Sometimes spouses push for the more lucrative options such as the example I gave because all they care about is being able to on vacation and dont care what job brings in the money to so that."

Ummm... That doesn't sound like a happy or healthy relationship where both partners are on the same page. Is this a hypothetical situation? I sure hope so!

My point was more that communication about architecture needs to be tailored to the other person - be it a spouse or client. Have to communicate differently to different people, using different language and context. Developing that ability is key as an architect. And if developed well enough, you should be able to get anyone interested - client, spouse or anyone else. 

BulgarBlogger
Dec 5, 12 12:11 pm

It is actually a real situation... But perhaps it applies to others as well?

curtkram
Dec 5, 12 12:27 pm

i'm going to go ahead and quote my previous suggestion, as it relates specifically to your situation where a spouse wants you to be miserable so she can acquire a bit of extra income from you.  and yes, it applies to others.  some people chose to make themselves miserable for the benefit of their spouse.  some don't.

also, i would advise against setting a goal of being miserable every day.

jla-x
Dec 5, 12 12:28 pm

My point was more that communication about architecture needs to be tailored to the other person - be it a spouse or client. Have to communicate differently to different people, using different language and context. Developing that ability is key as an architect. And if developed well enough, you should be able to get anyone interested - client, spouse or anyone else.

That is a very important skill.  I have a theory about communication....If you want to be interesting and engaging be only one step ahead of the person you are talking to....If you are too far over their heads they will lose interest, leave the theory for your arch friends...If you are dumbing things down too much they will think you are a moron and will lose interest.  Being just one step ahead is the key whether you are talking to a spouse, contractor, or a client.   Also important is being able to make connections to things that they know about.  Let them educate you a little...  people like to talk.  Ask questions about their opinions of design and listen.  Make it personal,  the house they grew up in,  the museum they visited...A place that made them feel good......Try to guide the conversation, but don't dominate it. 

kunalghevaria
Dec 5, 12 12:36 pm

Good advice, jla-x.

gwharton
Dec 5, 12 12:45 pm

I got married while I was still in architecture school. That was by far one of the most important and beneficial decisions I've ever made, but it did come with some trade-offs. Being responsible for a wife (and eventually children) made me focus and get my act together in terms of managing my time and directing my career goals. I got a LOT more productive and creative while spending a LOT less time spinning my wheels in studio or pulling all-nighters. It also made me broaden my interests so that I wasn't an all-architecture-all-the-time asshole. I've been much happier as a result.

But it also meant that when I was offered a prestigious, but unpaid, internship with a starchitect right out of school I had to turn it down. It also meant that I was doing family stuff while many of my peers were living fast and wild. That's shifted the other way now that I'm in my 40s and my kids are heading off to college while the children of many of those same peers are in preschool or kindergarten. ;)

CrazyHouseCat
Dec 5, 12 6:50 pm

I second what gwharton stated.  You’ll come across situation where you need to make architecture sacrifices for relationship and vice versa.  It shouldn’t be a consistent one way stream, or one of the two is going to fail and in doing so drag down the other.

There’s also something to be said about finding win-win solutions too.  It’s doesn’t always have to end in sacrifices or compromises.

citizen
Dec 5, 12 8:39 pm

Steven's post gave me the idea for a great play- or book title: "Flashing Foucault."  Or maybe it's just a great nickname for a perverted philosopher....

Znaika
Dec 6, 12 12:53 am

@augustinpe1- It's interesting that you bring this up because I have been thinking about this lately. It really comes down to priorities. Would you rather be a "stararchitect" and single without any real family and friends? I wouldn't. You know what they say, "work to live, not live to work" or something like that. We as architects and future architects must understand that architecture is just another profession/ line of work, and not some sort calling from God. We are replaceable like any other cog in this machine and yes, even the more prominent architects. Your family is what you should live and die for, not brick and mortar. 

boy in a well
Dec 6, 12 7:31 am

"there are notable differences between the role a dog plays and the role a girlfriend plays"

really? do tell?

BulgarBlogger
Dec 6, 12 9:13 am

If you think of architecture as just brick and mortar- then yes. But there is such a thing as the soul that needs feeding and if you don't have an outlet for that with the line of work you are doing (ex in architecture: sharing your excitement or enthusiasm about design through design itself or reading or theorizing about t and sharing that enthusiasm with someone) then you become miserable. In certain situations, your relationship becomes the interface between you and that outlet and if it doesn't allow you to connect to the 'food' that feeds your soul, then you are faced wih a predicament- find another outlet or another interface. I understand the concept of finding a balance, but sometimes you realize after you have invested too much time in something that isn't working.

Would you quit being an architect after 20 years of practice because your spouse of 10 years doesn't like whatever it is about your proffession like the money or job security? (Figuratively speaking- I am not married)

BulgarBlogger
Dec 6, 12 9:20 am

Znaika- Thanks for the comment. But I've been told that if one believes he is replaceable, maybe he is. I happen to believe that any one who respects himself brings something to the table something that makes him unique and irreplaceable. I don't want to put myself in the same sentence as any starchitect, but I don't think any one of them believes they are replaceable. And even though over the past several years there have been massive layoffs, there are still people (for whatever reason) who managed to keep their jobs by virtue of their merits as good employees. I don't think they or anyone else be it in their firm or outside the office who can say that that fortune is a sign of being replaceable.

future hope
Dec 6, 12 2:02 pm

People also change over time.  During school I was very design focused and my goal was to open a successful firm with a (future) architect husband.  I did marry an architect, and I did have success working for good firms, and getting lots of opportunities to design at work.  However, I just didn't enjoy it like I thought I would.  I now do something totally different, and am so much happier.  Be open to change.  You won't always want what you want now.  I think family and money does become more important over time, and it will probably not just be your future wife who feels that way.

J. James R.J. James R.
Dec 6, 12 2:07 pm

my advice - get a hobby or two that is active, relaxing, and fun - even better if it's one where you meet other people who have disposable incomes and might feed you work.  you won't get clients if you're spending all day at the office and you won't keep clients if you're incapable of carrying on a normal conversation about something other than architecture.

 

This.

I'm a competitive amateur powerlifter now. Life feels so much better. :3

gwharton
Dec 6, 12 2:11 pm

Another aspect of investing lots of time and energy in building relationships when you're young is what happens when you get older. If you haven't built a solid web of friend and family relationships around yourself by the time you hit middle age, you're going to be very unhappy. A career can't substitute for that, no matter how successful it might be. And 40 is generally too late to start a family for the vast majority of people.

jyount10
Dec 7, 12 8:09 pm

My two cents is that what you're going through in school will pass, you'll figure the rest out.  

I love what I do, but I'm glad my wife isn't an architect; because I need a break when I come home.  We were able to reach a pretty good balance between working a job I like at a good firm, in a city where we have family.

You don't need to put in the 60-70 hour weeks on a regular basis when you get out into the real world.  Some weeks you will, but far fewer than you would in school.  There are a lot of good firms out there that don't require the long hours, but still do very good and rewarding design work.

gwharton
Dec 8, 12 7:11 pm

Good advice from jyount.

Only remaining point to add: keep in mind that the divorce rate for architects married to other architects is unusually high. I've heard the statistic that 70% of arch/arch marriages end in divorce. From what I've seen in my own career, I think that number might even be low.

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