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Anyone out there have a similar or different relationship with architecture? Or do you have a story of how you were able to overcome your frustration with the profession?
after being at work till 6am friday morning and having to work all memorial day weekend, yes you are right
You can't change this. By discipline, I'm assuming you mean both schooling and practice. By the profession, I assume you mean the environment in which it operates ... and DOESN'T.
There's nothing you can do. It's the nature of who is attracted to the occupation. I noticed it in school. Some spend all their time in studio, and then sleep in structures, professional practice, and some other courses. They like the "romper room" part, but not the rest. And we're minting professionals? Hardly.
It depends on the firm, too. If the profession bothers you, stay away from the bohemian offices. They've never been interested in me, anyway. I think I would need a shrink if I worked at one. Maybe I do anyway, for having selected architecture altogether. I could have taught HS French, and could keep up with "Jean Nouvel" better than I already do.
If you don't like the way the profession operates, get your license, start a firm, and then do it differently. If you have the time, participate in the governance of AIA and/or NCARB and work to make positive change happen from the inside.
If what you think should happen really works, then you'll be a positive example to others and they'll emulate what you do -- after all, isn't that what architects do all the time anyway?
But, as observant states above, this profession invariably draws a certain "type" -- in the immortal words of Pogo,
small, I don't know how long you've been out of school, but I definitely agreed with your sentiment more when I had only been out a few years. The further I get from graduation (the older I get) the more I enjoy the rewards - financial and emotional, which are closely tied - of practice.
i'm not working in the design department now. i currently work at the construction site end. i can say i enjoyed design much more especially when i had ..well, not free rein but was given some slack at least. the one conditions i did not like were the restrictions set by the design sensibility of one's superior that you would be aware of even prior to designing. i'm quite good at picking this up and playing along. i think many of us do that. and i don't like it. it feels like a loss of time. but, bar that, designing does not feel like work, its enjoyable. in a world where you consume so much...tv shows, films, food, ice creammmm...it is quite a luxury to create. also, this precludes other elements of work, be they political, economical, behavioural. i am very ready to be totally ridiculous at the office but extrmely serious when im working. yes, self expression is a healthy thing...plus getting enough money to live comfortably, some lighthearted comradery ...i don't like bureaucratic/banker/corporate style. its too stiff and illfitting, like the suits most of its victims wear. extending hands and shaking each others viruses and bacteria...did they wash after they peed...the men, i mean.too much seperation between what a person is and what he does, corporate wise. no, i prefer ridiculousness...always.
also, always learning. not carrying an overweight ego when it comes to one's work. personally, i love to work with people who are more creative and more experienced...i would always want to learn something new, no issues there. yeah, thats one thing i find is a common ailment and creates needless friction, ego clashing . one should even have mentors throughout one's life, no? keeps you lively and on your toes, mentally. are these antidotes? and recogize the different talents different people can offer. the ability to recognize this is quite rare. the percentage of archinectors attacking others for not being cast in their mould is a reflection of this.
i've stated it differently before, but with similar sentiment:
architecture is a great way of life, but a horrible business.
this does an end run around the comments above along the lines of 'if you don't like it, change it'. there are things that we cannot change and a huge challenge is communicating the value of how we spend our time. non-architects can easily understand the value of documentation/production, but the iterative part of design where an answer isn't directly forthcoming can seem wasted to someone not used to it.
fee structures related to hours spent are nearly impossible to negotiate (at least in my experience), so we have to either propose lump sums, percent of construction cost, or other arrangements in which the cost (risk?) of any extended design process is our responsibility more than it is the clients'.
our most successful projects are those in which we can communicate the value of this in advance of the project and arrange fees accordingly. ...especially works well if there is a 'master planning' in advance - a focused design effort with no built product expected as the direct result.
anyway, i would NOT say i hate the profession. there is an awful lot to like about our culture, our way of working, our inter-profession interactions, and (if money is NOT considered) our interactions with our clients. for me the challenge comes down to the liabilities of the business side of what we do.
If we could do this without clients ...
Having gone over to the client side of things, I think sometimes architects put up an unnecessarily antagonistic front towards their clients (in retrospect, this was true in a few of the offices I worked in previously). While a good client has respect for his architect's expertise and judgment, clients also have their reasons for doing things (usually completely outside of the purview of architecture, i.e. funding or answering to a higher boss). I will say that if an architect lacks respect for his client, even if only behind closed doors, there is a good chance the client knows how he feels.
In any case, like most professions, architecture is people-based. If you only like design, but can't embrace the people side of the profession, you are going to be very frustrated, but honestly, if that's your attitude, you would probably be frustrated in just about any profession.
I think we're bringing in the wrong people from the start, and could fix the entry into the profession as a way to fix expectations for the profession. in my opinion, it's not that bad of a profession, it's just a profession filled with a lot of bad people (not everyone of course. a handful of people can give the rest a bad image).
is the thing you like about the 'discipline' of architecture the part where you get to color with your crayons and cut out circles with your safety scissors? if so, then this probably isn't the profession for you. i think that seems to be more or less the view of a lot of kids going into the profession, and architecture studios often encourage that.
i agree with what steven is saying about iterations and such, and thinking through design is important. if my previous statement sounds like i disagree with process that isn't so, it's just that we should understand the process isn't simply about what one architect thinks is neat. it's the process of designing an actual building and solving problems in a context where client needs and codes and all sorts of other influences are just as important, and often more important, than one person's ego. if the thing you don't like about the profession of architecture is all that stuff that isn't your ego, then this isn't the profession for you.
if what you want is design without all the stuff that makes architecture what it is, try being a painter or something.
I think we're bringing in the wrong people from the start, and could fix the entry into the profession as a way to fix expectations for the profession. in my opinion, it's not that bad of a profession, it's just a profession filled with a lot of bad people
I agree with you, wholly, which is a first. J/K. But, how do you fix that? There's no way to screen for that, especially at age 17 or 18. Similarly, law schools can't filter out future ambulance chasers and psychology programs can't filter out people who have more issues than the very people they try to help. Been to Las Vegas? The number of HUGE billboards on freeways for lawyers is, among many other things, what makes it gross. The market is supposed to shake these people out. Sometimes it does ... and sometimes it doesn't.
Why did you pick architecture? You had to have had a more "mature" reason, per your post. Induction into the studio culture was culture shock ... seriously, I'm working on a Calder like model to describe "movement?" Because the on the cusp of retirement dipshit didn't want to teach us about building design? Fortunately, all subsequent projects were buildings with meat on their bones ... and a program.
Five good things about architecture: 1) tangible results, every line you draw and communication you write equates to something, 2) variety of tasks, never a dull moment, 3) the only discipline that fuses art and science, for those whose mind operates in that part of the continuum, 4) it's at least a middle class living once licensed and further along, and 5) many people in it do tend to be somewhat intellectual and like they say "only an architect can (under)stand another architect."
Ten bad things about architecture: 1) profit margins are extremely slim, unless doing repetitive work, 2) it is hard to conjure up a fee for a "one time" building, 3) trendy and elitist, with either starry-eyed buy in or outright disgust for the latest vocabulary, 4) egotistical people who can't see the holistic aspect of anything because they're almost sociopathic, 5) bohemian people, who take down the profession because of their mercenary approach and because they present themselves in a way that make a client think "what, you want to bill out at THAT much per hour?" 6) contractors who start in with an adversarial vibe, are not always thorough, and are "change order artists," 7) graphics technology that changes at a pace that is faster than what is economically feasible for smaller firms, 8) the reluctance to embrace some new technology because performance cannot be reasonably prognosticated - i.e. "Vancouver stucco," 9) an educational and licensing system that is dually hosed - different accredited routes (that no one understands) coupled with extreme swings in curricular content AND the theoretically plausible but highly impractical, and unfair, IDP process, and 10) one of the occupations most directly linked to fluctuations in the economy.
Assign the weights, your weights, and decide accordingly.
if we, as a profession, wanted to weed out the 'undesirables,' i would suggest having studios focus just a little more on what happens in real life and a little less on imagination. i'm not saying a big change, but every student is not a unique and beautiful snowflake and their limitless imaginations should at least come to understand, during their first year, that life doesn't work the way they think it does.
this could easily be enforced through naab. they're already touring schools. if they meet a studio professor who doesn't understand how this profession works in real life, tie the school's accreditation to their dismissal.
law school doesn't weed out ambulance chasers; it helps create them. the first year of law school is pretty good about weeding out people who shouldn't be lawyers. same with psychology. it was built to attract people with issues. why else would someone be attracted to that field (either they have issues, or they're close to someone who does, or a third reason that is all-inclusive)
i think such a 'weeding out' at the start would cripple architectural education. the beginning is about encouraging exploration, developing your capacity for architectural thinking, and finding your areas of interest and strength. it would be the wrong time for weeding out.
at my school - and i think this is common - there was a portfolio review at the end of second year. this was when the faculty looked at a student's development to date to figure out if that student could develop the skills necessary to be an architect.
i think that the NEXT semester after that could be the effective 'weeding out' time: students beginning their third year have established that they can do the design/project development work so then need to show that they can function as professionals.
we sort of did that, but i have to say that our professional practice introduction was weak. instead of all of it lumped into one class, it seems like marketing, financial management, and human resources should be broken out into separate lessons.
there's always the danger that this would work TOO well, of course. if i had been faced with issues in human resources/staffing at 21, i don't think i would have stuck with it. i still think HR sucks.
...having studios focus just a little more on what happens in real life and a little less on imagination.
Amen to that, but with the stipulation that the studio - and our entire professional culture - emphasize that great creativity can arise in situations with severe limits.
And remember what Dave Hickey said: architects are just artists who want to make their mothers happy. If you really want to be an artist, be one. I know several people who turned their backs on architecture and did what they really wanted to do, and though it was a painful process they are all happier now.
wow, is this how the US thinks about architecture? so formulaic?
many of you keep on nagging about how ill equipped most/many architects are. but thats irrelevant. eventually, anyone who makes it through school can manage to get a job if the economy is fine. the problem is not how well or ill equipped people are but how few jobs there are. starting to flagellate architects for some subliminal dissatisfaction you have is evidence of pathological consequences of the dire conditions. the worse combination of catholic guilt with protestant sense of entitlement.
^ and ^^
That's why more people want to come here (the U.S.) to study than the other way around. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
curt, about ambulance chasers and people with issues, respectively, wouldn't the validation from being able to continue, moreover being awarded prizes, create egomaniacs. I think so.
I'm not buying into the snowflake analogy. People are separate entities from their design projects. If they are so intertwined, they are not healthy. Regular people turn out beautiful and innovative designs. And some of the "beautiful people" (BPs) turn out perfunctory designs.
Your approach to the NAAB thing is practical, perhaps too much so. This means that design professors would have had to hang their shingle for some 10+ years prior to returning to academia. At many good schools, you have design profs with plum degrees who took a 1 to 4 year stint in practice, may or may not be licensed, write a lot of elegant stuff, and teach you to design buildings. If you started firing these people when a question about how something goes together catches them with their pants down, you just might be disassembling most of the design departments in most architecture schools.
you don't get to pretend gravity and rain don't exist as an architect. if you want to think of gravity and rain as 'formulaic,' then what you're doing is likely something other than architecture. also, the US is bigger than me and the few people on this thread.
pro-practice as a class is a fine idea, but i don't think it's been implemented right. as far as i can tell, there are certain cliques among most professors, and the architecture professors that teach the pro-practice class are the people who are in the wrong clique and did something to piss off whoever makes those assignments. i don't think there are a lot people who are trying to become studio professors that aspire to teach pro-practice (or acoustics, or anything technical). as with any absolute, there are many exceptions to this.
in a 2-2-2 program (2 years introduction, 2 years more focused study, 2 years for master degree) i think third year would be a fine time to weed out the people who don't want to be architects, but just didn't understand what we do for a living. they still need to have enough of an introduction to understand that what we do is different from what bob ross did or what a graphic design company does.
i certainly wouldn't replace studio with pro-practice, but i would integrate it. at least enough so students understand architects have clients who hire them to do a job.
Ok, curt, so what's your point? This seems to be a thematic soapbox of sorts, though we all have one. Tammuz's U.S. bashing is annoying at times and I can do without comments on Catholic guilt, since it has NOTHING to do with the discussion.
Curt, people weed themselves out, from what I've seen. And right at about year 2. They compare themselves to their peers, and they get depressed. Their profs tell them they are marginal, and they get depressed. Their friends in the other parts of the university have free time, and they get depressed. So they leave.
In a way, I don't think the 2 year mark accomplishes much since, if a 4 year program, the practical stuff (construction, environ tech, and structures) kicks in during the 3rd year. The first two years might reveal a deficiency in graphical and spatial thinking, which the student might come to terms with on their own. However, some, not many, students' graphic and design skills progress with time, such that by year 3 and 4, they might be competent. Seriously, do they KICK people OUT of a 4 year BA/BS at a public university? How do they do that ... formally? Well, I suppose it's altruistic, thus preventing them from going too far into the program and also being able to use general ed credits for something else.
BArch had everything
1st year : introductory technical drawing (iso , axo, plans...), introductory design excercises (nonarchitectural, small scale architectural, furniture), freehand drawing, software, history 1, structures 1, design-centric humanities/general ed...etc
2nd year: design, structure 2, environmental studies, special modules (architectural detailing/ landscape...etc), more humanities, even surveying
3rd: development and detailing of the above
4th year: development plus urban design/policy studies, , good to start engaging with mock-clients and finding "real" solutions for existing problems (cultural, commercial...)
5th year: final project/ thesis
not shabby at all and proved to give excellent education. I don't know about the M.Arch. The british Riba 1 and Riba 2 is excellent in that it follows the same sort of pattern but gives respite between year 3 and year 4 for PAID practice.
stop nagging. there are many excellent schools in the US (observant, that was my point...that you're nagging for nothing) and whatever people don't pick up at school are bound to pick up after if they got so far already.
I look at it in a reverse way. my issue is not with the university studies per se. my issue is that architecture is not usually taught at an earlier stage. its a difficult and time consuming discipline. a good example is music. you start at a really early age...in essence, you spend most of your childhood picking up the required skills. so, I would totally argue the opposite of what you're arguing: architecture would be much better served if it were to be looked upon as a real art (im not talking shit in a can), an art in its traditional sense (irrespective of the tools, of the evolution of technology) that takes practice and forms part of your elementary schooling. yes, then you can learn to paint, learn to use software and programming, learn about architectural history, physics based on real life structures, ...all before you reach 15yo. only then can you supersede university education with more focused studies.
and by the way, by agreeing that there are many excellent schools in the US, i do not agree that a lot of American architects and the culture of architecture in the states is not formulaic. unfortunately, it is. but then again, i see that not just in architecture but also in other fields.
Ok, but at least half of the programs in America are 4 + 2. And, let's take a good one - Michigan. It's rear-loaded toward years 3 and 4.
You have a drawing course, an intro to architecture course, 2 visual courses, and 2 history courses. How does that give a committee enough evidence to decide if someone should continue, unless it's GPA driven? There should have been a couple of 4 credit mini design studios in year 2, at the very least. The actual building design sequence needs to start in year 2, at all these 4 year programs, with a total of 6 design studios, working on buildings and not just visual exercises tantamount to sculpture. There is just too much variability in the curricula, though. That NAAB has not weighed in on this is beyond me.
observant, my point was that the problem the OP has, which is that they love the discipline but not the profession of architecture, is that they may not understand what the discipline of architecture is. i believe the discipline and practice are tied close together, and that the practice of architecture exists almost exclusively within the profession of architecture.
i think it's a common problem, and can be fixed by teaching people what the profession of architecture is from an earlier date, especially during school before they've committed too much. i was saying first year, Steven suggested third year, which i was agreeing with as another good idea.
my solution was not to kick students out. my suggestion was to kick professors out.
architecture is not graphic design. judging a student's talent for architecture based on 2 years of graphic design in school is not useful to anyone. spatial thinking and such could be more relevant.
i don't entirely understand what tammuz's issue with formulaic stuff is, or how it relates.
I don't know how applicable this is to architecture, but I find this maxim humorous:
The C students get rich, the B students work for the C students, and the A students teach.
I think my frustration with the profession comes from the disconnect between school and professional practice. The minutiae of the work day--RFIs, coordination, code research, specs--which take up 90% of the time is just so different than what we do in school, and for recent grads like me (5 years out of school) it can be quite a shock.
For me the problem is really that school and professional practice are based on two very different models of the design process: one is social, the other economic. School gets you 10% of the way to architecture-as-buildings, the other 90% is the profession.
Too often it's about being defensive: taking the bottom line or covering your ass. Architects need to go on the offensive, and I think the context in which we now operate (occupy wall street, kickstarter, community-based design) offers an alternative to the capitalist starchitect model of the architect as magician-of-form.
I would disagree with @curtkram in that I think architecture school should approach education as broadly as possible and not limit it to practice alone. In order to change the profession I think schools need less professionals to the extent that architecture is inherently a social not economic act.
small, if you've been out of school 5 years and are still experiencing this frustration, you may need to be looking for a different office, if not a different profession. Most architects I know actually enjoy the minutiae - RFIs, coordination, code research, specs - I know I do.
Also, I think based on your list of memes (occupy wall street, kickstarter, community-design) your understanding of the word "social" is a bit utopian. The greatest pleasure I take out of the profession is the network of relationships I form on any project from the sub-consultants to the client to the contractors. To me, this is the social network that makes the job interesting.
After the project is complete, I also take pleasure in knowing that the spaces I've created are having a (hopefully) positive impact on people's day-to-day lives. I've worked on a number of high-end restaurants, the type of place that you take your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend to for a night out on the town; I find it satisfying that the atmosphere I've helped to create in those spaces is part of their experience on that particular night.
Perhaps I just tend to be a glass-half-full kinda person, but there really is so much to find satisfying about the profession, but much of it simply has to do with your attitude.
small, i'm not entirely sure i fully understand what you're saying, but are you suggesting that practice should be changed to match school instead of the other way around?
enjoy specs? i didn't know that was a thing that could be done.
Nothing better than writing a good performance spec from scratch. ;)
@curtkram, yes, a bit ranty there. The gap between education & practice should be closed, but I'd rather see more of the intellectual discourse of the academic side in the profession--the "why" of building as opposed to "how." But perhaps this is why architecture schools fail when recent grads enter the profession and are shocked because they don't know how to build.
small - methinks you need to get out more. Specifically, you need to get to know some clients and start to understand the "why" from their perspective.
999 out of 1,000 people who hire architects build for some very specific business or operational reason. They have finite program requirements, budget constraints and schedule considerations. The vast majority just want to get'r done as fast and as economically as possible. "Art" isn't part of the equation.
Most practitioners understand this / most academics don't.
ok, but you have to reconcile that with the fact that architecture is a job. it's not a theory driven think tank or anything like that. people hire us to do a job. without people hiring us, we don't exist as a profession. a painter (artistic type, not so much house painter type) has a lot of freedom of expression because they ply their trade before the client involvement. that is not the case for our profession, and it shouldn't be the case for our profession.
as an architect, your day is spent doing what your clients hire you to do. as steven touched on above, which i thought was well stated and quite to the point, we do "iterations." which means we have to spend time thinking about stuff to arrive at a quality solution, and sometimes it's hard to convince a client to pay us to think, especially because some clients don't find value in that. in the end though, it's the solution or end design the client is paying for.
it's not uncommon for people to want to be the person asking 'why.' they especially want to think about 'why' without any consequence for their conclusion or schedule. since there isn't much place for that in the profession of architecture, a lot of those people end up university professors, where asking 'why' instead of billing clients is much more acceptable. then they feed that to the next generation of architects. i suspect that's why you're getting the wrong impression of what the profession of architecture is, what our profession does, and what it needs to do.
@won&donewilliams, I would diagree in that my use of the word social is not utopian in the sense that the collapse of Wall Street is not a meme. The nature of the economy is changing and therefore so is the nature of the business of architecture.
if you want, can you explain more on how the post-wall-street-collapse actually affected the profession of architecture in your opinion? what actually changed? and how does that allow someone trying to work for a living to spend more time on questioning 'why' we build stuff?
this recent article may or may not be relevant:
i assume it means for some of us, we do more work for less money. others are older and have enough of a nest egg they can retire in relative comfort, escaping some of the negative effects of the economy. others are younger and will continue to be unemployed or underemployed. unless you had significant assets built up before the collapse, i suppose you should invest what you have left in a bug-out bag and a gun?
I like trivia, so I like minutiae, too.
I don't know. From day 1 in a-school, I thought that there were some people who bought in to a cult-like and overly fanatical state of mind. I found this offputting. It is also found in practice. I really relish time aside from school and work to do other things NOT related to architecture ... unless you consider travel related to architecture. I mostly don't.
arch firms are not all intellectually bereft - we're just too busy getting work done. if you want the intense intellectual discourse you need to do it on your own time. start a salon, a publication, underground lecture series, architecture slam... start collecting all the weirdo freaks now because once they hit their mid 30s they become too busy for that kind of shit - then it just gets sad.
What about the middle of the road problem? I find it endemic.
In school, people are allowed to use archi-speak, though some didn't. In offices, it almost seems frowned upon ... and I'm talking when you're actually making design decisions and other architects are involved or consulted. It's like employees/architects will be designing, but are supposed to remain silent on the aesthetic issues involved in the very thing they're doing. While it need not get to a nauseating and pretentious level, it should be discussed ... especially during SD and DD.
because archispeak is bullshit and when you have shit to do it's a waste of time? people frown on that, because they don't like their time being wasted.
in the rare event 'archispeak' is being used to communicate something useful, i find that it is tolerated.
You misunderstood me. Your making design decisions with someone over your shoulder or vice-versa. You somehow have to convey that "the spacing of the increments in the curtain wall needs to relate to ..." or "the parapet seems weak on the main part of the building relative to the parapet on the entry feature" or "I think the lobby flooring colors make for too sharp of a contrast and need to be more somber." I don't think this is bullshit. The only person exempt would be a CAD/Revit person who does that, and is not in on any decisions. How do you deal with these communications, or is your environment departmentalized to where some architects don't have to deal with this either?
As a 1st year arch student at RISD, I switched into ID when I saw 5th year students doing ink on vellum isometric murals for final presentations. No interior or exterior perspectives, no rendered site plan, no schematic floor plans or building section. Just acres of excruciatingly drafted ink on vellum iso with corrections made with a razor blade.
Although I can't remember exactly what I thought, it was something along the lines of WTF. Having grown up in an architect's office (literally) and worked construction I had a pretty good idea what the profession was about. The RISD architecture program under Friedrich St. Florian was utter bullshit.
While I don't know what's going on at RISD now, from the jist of this thread architectural education hasn't gotten any better. You shouldn't come out of school ready to start learning architecture, you should come out ready to work productively in architecture.
"that doesn't line up" is 4 words. 5 if you don't like contractions. "make that bigger" is 3 words. if you want to take 12 or 15 words to say something that takes about 4 words, that's fine. you did not use the word "juxtapose" in any variation in your example statements, so it could be said that your questioning of curtain wall spacing is neither bullshit nor archispeak.
why is your opinion on a parapet so much more sound than the draftsman's? you really think reading a book by venturi or a 3 year masters or whatever you did qualifies you to tell another person that their opinion should not be expressed? what if that draftsman has a frank lloyd wright coffee table book at home? surely they would be just about as educated as you?
You missed the point again. These discussions were taking place between 2 architects, either in a studio (beg. to end) environment or where I was more in production and the other architect was more in design. It was a discussion between peers. No one is chastising drafters. In most cases, the drafters were from technical schools, wanted to be told what to do, and certainly did not have coffee table books on anybody. Nor do I. Nor am I vaunting my education. The 3 year folks have less "tea bag steeping" time than you did in your formation, so that's peripheral. However, there is some metaphoric speaking going on when talking over design decisions. You might like the terse approach. The reason why I bring this up is because I was in an a/e environment (small a/big E, as you have taught me) where I had to design a lobby for an office building for which the architect had moved onto another firm. I chose a basket weave/large diagonal motif inside rectangles for the design. I had to speak a lot about the material selections, colors, spacing and whatnot on the phone with both the vendors and the contractor/sub (oops, spoke to the sub, slap my hand), and some of the engineers within earshot found the conversations to be fodder that architects do work that is inferior to theirs. Sometimes we have to talk artsy-fartsy. And sometimes we have to talk terse ("I need a shallower beam. The duct won't fit.").