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I am looking at moving to TX (DFW, Austin or Houston) from NY and was wondering if anyone could share bits about their professional experiences in TX. It sounds like a general question, and it is. I was hoping to get a feel for the environment there and prepare myself for the changes.
For example, in your opinion:
how restrictive is the state to the design industry;
how are TX clients and firms?
what is a regular work day like, what is the work culture like (9 to 8pm?)
how does it feel to design a property that has an acre all to itself?
Hope someone can share their story and help me get a better feel for the state. Thanks in advance.
Two words ... Ted Cruz
two more words ... Ron Paul
two more words ... Rick Perry
two final words ... Dub yah
Be very, very afraid - there seems to be something in the water down there that creates a LOT of crazy people.
Austin will be okay, the rest of TX is a bit strange, However people from Texas love it and always go back.
Both Houston and Austin's inner cities are quite liberal so conservatism is an unfair judgement of Texas on the whole. Texas could go blue in the next 10 years if minorities start voting more...
Anyways I grew up and went to school in Texas so I can try and answer a bit:
The state does not restrict the design industry much at all in my opinion, compared to the north east especially. Houston famously does not have a zoning code, and under a certain sf you dont need an arch. license to build. Its the clients that restrict the design industry. I really feel that texas on the whole is very very non-progressive architecturally. There are a handful of great firms operating but these handful of firms basically fill up the tiny niche for progressive firms. If thats not a huge deal for you there though is a huge market for relatively generic 'modern' and traditional style architecture. I cant really touch on the last questions you have other than to say that the type of firm typically dictates the hours you work, not the state. Also if you design in the rural areas at least you will get to learn how a septic system works...
Texas will welcome you with open arms. At my firm in Dallas we have people from all over--California, Illinois, New York, China, Korea, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. They all can afford a nice home, provide well for their families, and enjoy the benefits of living in a state that is currently thriving due to less regulation and a genuine love for entrepreneurship. You can call our political leadership crazy but they know what works to draw businesses in and make the good life available to far more regular people that to states up North or on the West coast.
For the liberal minded (which probably consists of over 95% of Archinect's readers) Austin would seem like a natural place to look. It's a great city that's definitely hip at the moment but quickly turning into an exclusive bastion for the bohemian bourgeoisie. The firms there are small, boutiquish, working on mostly local projects. Austin's got a pretty progressive design culture compared to other cities in Texas, which means the city attracts a lot of ambitious designers and therefore there is lots of competition for architecture jobs. Therefore average salaries are little bit on the low side compared to Dallas and Houston, and housing is the most expensive in the state. Houston's got a number of large firms but often are tied to doing mostly local work (healthcare) and catering to the booming energy industry there, and so there are a number of major engineering firms that cater to that. Dallas is home to a number of very large firms, many of which are engaged in international projects, partly due to the DFW airport's strategic location within the US. HKS is the big 800-lb gorilla there, but almost all the big players (HOK, Gensler, P+W, Callison, RTKL, Corgan) have sizeable offices in Big D. Pay is pretty good in the metroplex compared to the rest of the state, and housing is a great deal more affordable than in Austin. San Antonio has a number of great design firms (most famously Lake Flato) and is extremely affordable.
I really enjoyed my time in Houston. There is a vibrant art and design community and it is very welcoming to business.
I would suggest Houston or Dallas as they offer a very nice mix of cultural diversity, professional opportunity, cultural life and affordability. I second given, hommes, and gruen's comments above. Would not recommend Austin unless you have a firm job offer and maybe even a backup offer prior to moving. It seems to be a buyers market for arch jobs there, job applicants are a dime a dozen and often treated as such. A lot of my friends have settled for less-than-satisfying design jobs in Austin and the cost of living there is high. Wherever you settle in Texas, you will need a car.