The REAL answer to why architects don't earn money


A client ( the brother-in-law of our office accountant) walked in the office with a 3d model with sections, elevations and plans of a new house he wants to build. He designed it using 3D Home Architect that you can get at any bookstore for $99,00. With that software he could even generate schedules out of it. He just wanted a stamp from us and a few details. He wants to pay $10 an hour for our services. The reason for this is because is in his eyes architecture is so damn easy, even he can do it in his spare time.
So why would he pay more than what he would pay his cleaning lady.

Now, while that statement may be harsh, he does have a point. We can all cook to a certain degree, clean or paint our house. We are not willing to pay a lot of money to these professions, because their skill isn't considered rocket science. However, none of use are able to do not even the smallest surgery on a person on the weekends. None of use are able to fly a small aircraft without intensive training. Hence the reason why these professionals earn so much.

People value profession based on the difficulty factor. Architects is viewed as easy, anyone can do it. And that is why people aren't prepare to pay us as much as lawyers.

He says architects as cooks and painters. These are jobs that the average person can do to a certain degree.

Jan 27, 11 7:26 am

in your whole post, harold, only one thing makes any sense to me: to a certain degree.

yes, anyone can make an illustration of what they want. they can probably even make builder plans that allow a half-way skilled builder to make something decent out of it.

the skills of the architect are in refining the original concept to make it better, to make it worth building, which academics will often call the iterative process: basically editing and improving from the initial (usually not very interesting) idea. we help determine where money might be best spent to get the best result.

we also help in facilitating the construction. problems inevitably arise - even from the best documents - because we live in the real world. the builder will make his/her best decision based on a completely different set of criteria than the architect, and those criteria will usually be based on ease of construction or cost-savings (which the owner may or may not see).

there are a myriad other roles the architect takes over the course of even the simplest residential project. their ability to assume these roles is based on both education and experience which - in any other profession - means something. of course.

your client is repeating the same things that are said about what we do all the time. part of our responsibility is to show them what skills they are lacking - but to do it in a way that is respectful and gracious, so that they don't feel we're being snobbish or overly-protective of territory.

you have to believe it, of course.

Jan 27, 11 7:48 am  · 

Obviously we need to show our clients what our skills are. And most of the time we achieve that. But, this isn't going to change the public's perception of our profession. I wouldn't pay a cook $200 an hour to cater at my wedding, even though the food was magnificent.

In that sense, I can't blame clients for not willing to pay the full price as I am quitly for doing the the same to other professions. Yet I and everyone else will not even question a doctors or commercial pilots earning relative to his profession.

Jan 27, 11 8:19 am  · 

From different point, What I have learned over the past 25 years in design and construction of what to do and what not to do. What works and what a is going to fail. Is not something you pick up at Staples for $99. Some weekend designer is going to not think about siting a building, dealing with runoff, wind direction, addressing code issues. etc etc. Even a small house is a significant investment that any person who thinks they can design and build a better house without professional consultation is a fool. My houses don't leak, are more energy efficient and will outlast anything someone like this can come up with. Moreover, I think what contributes the lack for not wanting to hire an architect is that people are too interested in the bottom line. Since they intention is to build it, live in it for a couple years and sell for a ridiculous profit. Our society treats houses like clothing. Just another consumable good. Unfortunately, what they are not thinking about, is that they are going to be left to work out on their own, significant technical issues thru the construction process, that they have no experience with. More likely getting bad advice from what ever person happens to be near by. Seen it way too many times. One that comes to mind is a guy I know , who spent 80k on custom made kitchen cabinets that were not built to conventional depths. So nothing fit right. The dishwasher stuck out an inch past the face of the cabinets. The countops had different overhangs. Some parts were 3/4" some were 2". The $3,000 ventilation hood needed a 10" diameter duct. They didn't plan for it and had to chop thru about 5k worth of fresh construction to get it to the exterior. After rebuiding and mine the Structural engineer cost that hood cost 15k to install. $250 worth of planning would had save him 12k The inexperience will only think about what they are saving upfront. Not what they are going forget will cost them.

Jan 27, 11 8:33 am  · 
won and done williams

i agree, harold. whether it is the diy-er, the owner with a huge facilities staff, or the design-build contractor, many, if not most, people undertaking a building project think the architect, outside of his or her stamp, is at best a luxury, at worst a complete waste of money. the use of computer tools from diy software to bim have made the illusion of competency even greater. there are people who post on this site who have zero architectural training or experience, but have convinced themselves that they know as much as an architect through the power of google and sketch-up, and to some extent, they are not entirely wrong; the gap between the professional and the layman has narrowed with greater access to technology. we're not the only profession going through this, but i do believe that we have to confront the issue by defining our services in terms of value, or be swallowed by the wave.

and to studio43's point, yes, i've observed the same problems; the challenge is to convince an owner of an architect's value before he or she makes those mistakes. in that respect the profession is failing miserably (and hgtv ain't helpin' either).

Jan 27, 11 8:46 am  · 

One large problem - most 'architecture' looks like it was designed with a $99 piece of software bought at Home Depot. Office towers look like a plug-in production, retail another plug-in. If there were unique qualities to even a small percentage of what we see everyday, and what potential clients see, then maybe there would be more apparent value.

To harold's point - the other thing to note is that the AMA is an incredibly well organized, insanely powerful lobbying group. They will not, under any circumstance, give up their power. Some is going away here and there as things like nurse practitioners become a more reasonable way to get basic prescriptions, etc., but their fees are not going anywhere.

Really, do I think my doctor knows much more than any nurse that is making a small fraction of their pay? No. Surgeons and specialists are one things, kinda like star architects I suppose, both very unique and very talented.

Studio43 - I think the problem with that argument is that so much 'architecture' sucks, both from a peer view and from an average person's view. Hiring an architect doesn't really have that much to do with the quality of the building. The last kitchen's I saw that we're "professionally designed" were crap. I've been better versions made by IKEA!

Problem: people do not see value in paying an architect when they can get, more or less, the same thing for $99.

The upper end - will continue to hire pros because they want the 'best'. They'll also pay a cook $200, pay maid's to clean, pay someone to manicure their land, etc., etc.

Jan 27, 11 8:56 am  · 
olaf design ninja

Harold pay attention toe studio43s first few points. What I always do is very contradictory to what most architects would probably do (not licensed yet but partner is so I acting independently have this luxury)

- potential client says - just need a stamp for this and that. I look at it and email a very long list of all the things they didn't think about (see studio43). I follow that up with - we don't just rubber stamp especially when all those problems have not been addressed - right there the fee gets justified

- potential client says - I don't think we need to file it and its not a zoning issue. I battle on this with the partner with the license as it should be, but what I say is "sure I will give you a drawing saying that or file it the way youi think it will get approved", inevitably my predictions (educated of course) about the. DOBs response become true. Nothing is submitted without full payment for services. And there is a lot more strategy and negotiation in this process between what we are willing to ask the DOB to approve and what the client wants to show. If its a drawing that by all means will get disapproved I give them a sketch with no titleblock for them to go and ask the DOB themselves - in other words I was hired as a draftsman and no architect is brought want 25 an hour drafting or 200 an hour professinal opinion? .some clients think they can negotiate with the city...and of course I have seen some do it successfully, which of course makes architects just seem like silly people.

- potential client says - just need you to look at these shops I have for constrcution so I can get my contractor to work. In this case client has taken GC role on as well. Once again I email a long list of deficiencies in the proposal followed with "good luck with that" and my rates are so much an hour if the shit hits the fan.

Typically I like them to feel stupid after the conversation and usually don't need their work anyway.

You really only need a designer and engineer, but as an architect you can act as both.

A lot of my behavior above is probably "unethical" by AIA standards but what the people who want to practice "ethical" formal architecture don't understand is the client and contractor will do it their anyway if comes down to the bottom line, so really how can the architect be asked to remain responsible if the builders and owners tell the architect to fuck off.

Jan 27, 11 9:19 am  · 
One large problem - most 'architecture' looks like it was designed with a $99 piece of software bought at Home Depot.

Couldn't agree more, trace. Our typical built environment is so hideously crappy that the SkecthUp DIY house by Joe Blow looks to his eyes equally as good, which is to say equally as lame.

And frankly, and this is not an opinion I ever express here: that's in part the fault of a lot of no-talent, money-grubbing hacks who never understood what quality design is to begin with going all the way back to their first studio class in school. The "Everyone gets an award for participation!" attitude is lethal to quality, in every aspect of our society.

Everyone can design, just like everyone can sing.

Jan 27, 11 9:25 am  · 
olaf design ninja

In short taking on the role as educator through allowing failure is not a bad approach although probably not one the AIA would endorse. Hire me to help you as the way you see my help best and I warn you about the pitfalls. The pitfalls happen and we go with Plan B which should of been Plan A and in the end we have built a lasting relationship with the client and they respect you for two reasons - 1) you didn't try to get all their money right away and 2) you educated them in something they had no clue about

Jan 27, 11 9:27 am  · 
"Typically I like them to feel stupid after the conversation and usually don't need their work anyway."

This is part of the problem - our perceived arrogance in the eyes of the general public.

Jan 27, 11 9:48 am  · 
vado retro

the real reason we don't make money is...That we don't take this assclowns drawings and wad them up and tell him to get the hell out of this office and take your fucking abortion of a house design with you.

On Sunday we were out walking and ended up at the end of this road that sits on a bayou. someone is building a custom house there. Parts of this house i like. The brick, I like the standing seam metal roof I like etc. but the door was open and we had a look inside. This house with its twelve foot beamed ceilings etc. looked fine to my untrained friend but, goddamn this house which probably cost a million+ had the same bullshit doors and fixtures in the bedrooms and bathrooms that any mcmansion would have and in other details it just fell apart. oh and the beams well from the kitchen to the whatever room adjacent, separated by a wall but not closed off had beams that weren't aligned recessed lights that didn't center and on and on and fucking on.

Jan 27, 11 10:01 am  · 

"Everyone can design, just like everyone can sing." ! Brilliant DS! I am going to remember that one.

Jan 27, 11 10:01 am  · 

It's not mine, trace, it was another poster here on architect about 7 years ago - I've forgotten her name by now. But it is quite brilliant. You don't want to hire ME to sing at your daughter's wedding, but if you want a nice house design you don't want to hire Aretha Franklin!

Jan 27, 11 10:32 am  · 
I wouldn't pay a cook $200 an hour to cater at my wedding, even though the food was magnificent.

that's a cheap wedding. You can easily spend $200 on food-related items even if you do a pot-luck.

207moak - i think you misunderstood what olaf is saying - if someone comes to you thinking they can do your job... the response of last resort (after explaining all the issues they'll run into and they're still convinced that all we are is a drafting service) is to say "good luck with that." It's not worth your time pursuing it. They might realize they're being stupid after they run into so many issues that it gets overwhelming - or they might not... but in this case, this person who came to you in the first place is the one being arrogant.

Jan 27, 11 10:46 am  · 

Pardon me and the pitfalls of speed reading.

Jan 27, 11 11:05 am  · 
Justin Ather Maud

I think this "client" demonstrates a misconception about what the "stamp" means. The physical act of applying it to the drawings any monkey can do, which is why he thought paying $10/hr was appropriate. He's conveniently excluding all the legal ramifications which that process actually entails, not to mention how much it cost the proprietor of said stamp to get "legal" possession of the stamp....

He needs to be instructed in some finer points of civic law.

Jan 27, 11 12:08 pm  · 
vado retro

can't you just get a stamp at office depot? they have time clocks and things like that.

Jan 27, 11 12:13 pm  · 

My god - how much self loathing and self-righteousness are we willing to keep wallowing in? Just politely blow these kinds of people off and keep moving...

Jan 27, 11 12:34 pm  · 
won and done williams

good point, greg.

Jan 27, 11 12:45 pm  · 

What is true for run-of-the-mill residential work (where an architect IS often non-essential) is not so for large, structurally complex, health care, historical preservation, and advanced energy performance, etc. This is the realm of architects: coordination, scheduling, specs, codes, multi-headed clients. The question that follows is are there more architects out there than are required to work on this class of buildings?

I don't think so for two reasons:

1) as a population, we are returning to historical city cores, cores whose historic districts are simultaneously growing. This combination of factors means there will be an increase in complex adaptive re-use.

2) Architecture will more and more be about energy-zero and energy producing buildings. The complexity and expertise required to pull this off should fall into the domain of the architect (if we seize the day).

The percentage of architects as a function of the US URBAN population has not grown over the history of the profession, and is in fact smaller that that in most nations in Europe. Architects must concentrate on these growing urban cores: sustainable retrofit, preservation, integration with mass transit, and infill.

Jan 27, 11 1:49 pm  · 

second that

Jan 27, 11 1:50 pm  · 
St. George's Fields

Except hbrain... what you suggest is the work of urban designers and planners who are (or should be) more qualified to do this work.

Sure, architects can do planning but an architect's knowledge of planning is a 3-week crash course or a semester of 'introduction to planning 101.'

The only thing architects have contributed to planning in the last 10 years is Landscape Urbanism. That's basically "let rich people graft zombie blocks in marginal development so that can charge absurdly high rents."

Architects don't earn money because they can't provide simple, concise solutions in a timely fashion to everyday problems.

Those who do provide simple, concise solutions are the same ones getting paid to design vinyl-and-EIFS-clad torture boxes. Albeit, those solutions are ultimately cop out solutions and their designs are often unmotivated and uninspired.

Just learn to churn out shit architecture like this and you'll be good to go.

Jan 27, 11 2:11 pm  · 
St. George's Fields

Oh... also:

Because architects churn out shit architecture (like the building above), it discounts the industry as a whole. If architects continually agree to do and put out shoddy, plasticized work... the general public will assume that's all you can do.

So, at the next AIA convention... you all really out to start stomping on the toes of vinyl-and-EIFS architects for being boring and spec'ing shit.

Jan 27, 11 2:18 pm  · 

"Architects don't earn money because they can't provide simple, concise solutions in a timely fashion to everyday problems."

You know uxbridge, I'm in total agreement.

Jan 27, 11 2:34 pm  · 

I'm not talking about planning, or any variety of multi-building urban-scale work, that does necessarily operate at a conceptual granularity above the single building. I am talking specifically about single, larger, contextually-complex, buildings. I am thinking of multi-story, multi-use, mutli-tenant. I am thinking of buildings that might, say, have the Highline (integration with existing historically significant infrastructure) as an public entrance; a building that might extend below the Highline structure as well. Or, an office building in a dense historical down town that has a pile foundation needled between an existing MTA tunnel and a PATH station... or a double-facade office tower in Berlin with a helio-synchronous solar-hot-water collection modularized curtain-wall system! Or, say, a LEED Platinum retrofit of a 1930s era Federal building with Landmark status, etc. All complicated, all beyond the scope of a over-zealous client.

This being said, I don't want to detract from design as a real and hard-to-learn skill-set that has it's own value. No question that it's critical and must be holistically integrated into any design project, if the result isn't expected to look like a Revit model come-to-life. It just may not prove to be the skill set that puts all the architects of the world to work, gainfully.

Jan 27, 11 2:39 pm  · 

we should all sue that software company

Jan 27, 11 3:59 pm  · 

There are a few things going on here:

1. The growing ubiquitousness of software and its effects on the accessiblity of design. This will not abate.

2. The fact that in housing (houses) at least, the barriers for entry are low, or at least negotiable. The only thing standing between the client and a building is a legal requirement authorizing the design as safe and buildable, tied to liability and insurance. No architect can depend on this.

3. The process of getting a building built is horribly inefficient and fractured

I think housing is always vulnerable, because it is increasingly accessible - no school board is going to go to an architect asking them to stamp drawings, neither is a hospital.

Lets just admit that we have lost the war on houses.

How about this then for a new mode of practice? (already suggested in part by Orhan previously)

Collaborative Workshop:

An architecture/design-build practice sets up with the sole intention of guiding a client, from concept design to building permit, who want to develop their own designs abd build a house. The architect is purely a facilitator to the process, and it is a mixture of education, workshop and production.

The architect is able to stamp the drawings because it has been done under guidance. The client gets to develop their own designs and feels a genuine part of the process. The architect charges fees on this exercise as if it was a tuition fee - its kind of like art classes - and there could be multiple 'students'.

Part of the contract is to then get the D&B practice to build the buildings which is where you make your margin.

This is all very simplistic, but I think it might have some merit. Particularly if you target sustainable buildings etc, where the client has passion but limited technical knowledge.

Jan 27, 11 6:10 pm  · 
olaf design ninja

As far as I am concerned design build is architecture...just about everything you purchase is a desilgn build product.

I read a stat once that if architects both licensed and unlicensed were to be involved in the process of house construction in this country, everyone would have to do 13 houses a year.

I have worked with and for many many architects and I can tell you most of them couldn't solve a problem quick enough to justify their hourly rate moreover finish 1 house per month.

How many management classes and real world scenarios did we go thru in studio?

Met this guy once who went from something like stock broker to charter school creator, he was telling me about the schools construction and how the price of steel was increasing as the trucks were delivering the steel from the south to the northeast. He got on the phone and started talking to the architect and engineer and contractors on how find savings elsewhere as this was happening. Now find me some architects with this where-with-all?

Jan 27, 11 6:34 pm  · 


I totally agree with you. Lets just come clean about the illusion that architecture - buildings by architect - are automatically and inherently better.

Design build is architecture, but unfortunately, architects are not well represented at the helm of these organisations.

Architects are great at taking academic/design/philosophical risk - why cant they risk taking on a new business model?

Where are the practices that say (for example) we only do houses 50m2 and less because we believe that this is the best way forward for the built environment, for cost and sustainability?

Jan 27, 11 6:50 pm  · 


9 out of 10 people think that the building that you posted is fine. The design is driven by the developer/clients desire to make as much $$$ as possible

Jan 27, 11 7:07 pm  · 
olaf design ninja

This is a joint thread response building on your post diabase

Why don't we just abandon the traditional american education of the architect, like really just delete the major as was presented for years at school. Schools that already have design build programs could literally just make that the only program. No BArch or MArch...

Forget accredidation and guarenteeing getting a license, moreover getting a license should be like a 1 or 2 years master program for people with degrees in design build, engineering, interio design, BFA in architecture, etc...and the guidance could be via a public organization like the DOB.

In other words anyone, and I mean anyone, may file designs of any type with state DOB. The state DOB would be the ones that both stamped and approved. Now I realize public institutions are slow so we would allow private organizations the ability to review and stamp. This already happens but its a convoluted admission that this happens.

Thinking out loud...

So the example is this, you are straight out of school, your buddy just opened a GC company and you and him get 4 mil in construction because your uncle has a restaurant chain. You and your buddy have limited knowledge of such scope but your filing fee, now in the 10ks pays a private or public organization to review and note out the things you need to make it legal. In short anyone can offer architecture services and the state for a fee will legalize it and control inspect it. This happens already to a certain degree but the law about its "illegal" to say and offer architecture services unless licensed prevents this and prevents the people who have a knack for entrepuership and design build that aren't licensed from doing this.

Jan 27, 11 7:21 pm  · 

olaf, nice.

I dont think an architect can rely on what effectively is an artifical trade barrier for much longer, and I think you will get a range of different procurement models. The key thing always will addressing and pricing risk. But there are so many ways to do this.

Jan 27, 11 7:35 pm  · 
olaf design ninja

In short

The guy mentioned in OP goes down to DOB, pays a consulting sit down fee, then makes his changes and pays a construction drawings and filing fee all prepared by the DOB.

There would be charts for what a typical house filing would cost per sqft etc..

Jan 27, 11 7:37 pm  · 

when the need for an architect becomes obvious, then there is no question about the value of hiring an architect and this is reflected in billables.

for some project types the need is obvious. for others, it is not.

a question: is this a marketing problem? or is there a fundamental issue about the service we provide that needs to be addressed?

perhaps a little of both.

also, the avg person has more than just access to decent design tools. for a motivated person, the resources online means that you can self-educate fairly well on any number of subjects so, for instance, a non-designer could be fairly up to date on design trends theory and method and do an admirable job designing a house - but the experience of going through the total design/construction process cannot be bought or googled

Jan 27, 11 10:35 pm  · 
olaf design ninja

Jman marketing is a problem, because those who have a knack for it and may not be licensed can't just go out there and market.

I am not saying the skills of an architect are not needed, I am just saying the whole "can't offer services or market oneself as an architect" is just silly when just about everything an architect can stamp an engineer could and in smaller municipalities in some states after the dwgs are filed the DOB does all the inspections and there is no need for the creator of "design intent" to visit the site. I know unlicensed architects and contractors with more knowledge than most licensed architects.

If anything allow certified draftsmen, where full services can be offered and the DOB approves for "reviewed fire safety and egress" an actual NYC DOB stamp. We all know in whether small or large jobs the person who knows the construction detail is usually not the Architect as the Arcitect wants to avoid liabilkity so they say nothing about anything and someone else takes on the risk.

Most sub contractors shop drawing fees are higher than what and architect pays their draftsmen.

In most european countries after school you can practice on your own.

The issue of liability is probabkly a lot to habdle as a young person, but no one Is sueing anyone if everyone is happy regardless of what happens during the project* the skills to avoid a crisis and still make money are not taught, and often the student werll capable of getting a buuilding built without techbnical knowledge is thwarted from pracrticing by a mere piece of paper...a piece of paper and a rubber stamp that means little if anything when you can post an add on craigslist and get some starving architect to stamp your dwgs.

In short the talented probably leave early for a profession where things make more sense. If they don't leave early they enter into CM'ing, facilties, or development shortly after working and witnessing the stupoidity this profession has stooped to.

(Too much mass transit for me, ha)

Jan 28, 11 7:56 am  · 
olaf design ninja

"Reviewed for fire safety and egress" is what I meant, whoops (this is from memory as well)

You can obtain the "architectural skillset" many ways, licensing not required

Architects are not paid enough to enforce the law let alone use it as guidelines while making the client happy.

Jan 28, 11 8:16 am  · 
On the fence

I've seen people take a $15 steak and reduce it to food a dog wouldn't eat. Why? They figured they didn't want to pay the professional chef $40 for the same exact thing cuz they could do it just as well. It's easy. Well for a few people not architects, this may be true. But for the vast majority if you give them the software to design their own home, it won't be fit for a dog house. Of course the guy with the $15 steak didn't know it at the time just like the guy who design his $400,000 home. I'd rather screw up the steak though.

Jan 28, 11 9:35 am  · 
"Typically I like them to feel stupid after the conversation and usually don't need their work anyway."
This is part of the problem - our perceived arrogance in the eyes of the general public.

Maybe part of the problem is the public's ignorance.

Jan 28, 11 10:56 am  · 

Dumb question here. I have zero experience with single family dwellings...

Why would this client need architect's stamp? Wouldn't the builder be able to prepare any required permit drawings?

This client is part of the market that never really belonged to us.

Jan 28, 11 12:11 pm  · 

I'm right now sitting at lunch eavesdropping on the next table where a couple is reviewing house plans with their builder. All I can say is that it's amazing that people will settle for that shit when they're spending so much money. My clients wouldn't, of course, and the money they're talking about is similar to residential projects I did.

I just heard the contractor describe how there was nothing he could do about some flat spots where the roof lines (gawd, these roof lines!) come together messily. 'We'll just put some rubber up there or something.'

Holy crap.

Jan 28, 11 1:16 pm  · 

It looks like the perfect opprotunity to poach a client Steven.

Jan 28, 11 2:42 pm  · 

rusty - From what I know, there's only one or maybe two states that require an architect's stamp for a sf dwelling (and even in those it's only for projects over a certain size).

Steven - purely out of curiosity, do you think a lawyer feels the same way when they hear someone talking about preparing their will via legalzoom? I once dated a physical therapist who would just visibly cringe every time she heard about someone going to a chiropractor (vs. a true p.t.). Yeah, I'm with you on how amazing it is, but it doesn't surprise me anymore.

The main reasons I've heard, when talking to people about house plans vs. using an architect (for the typical s.f. house) is the stress involved with building vs. just buying and the fact that the architect's fees are upfront (vs. built into the house price itself). There are, sadly, too many architects who've woefully misled clients over the years on the true costs of a project and have tainted that pool immensely. Even if you can get someone over the hurdle of 'we can manage your money well', you get into the fact that they have to cut checks ahead of time (no bank's going to spot that loan upfront, even in good times). It can be a huge risk in their eyes.

One reason I'm surprised more good architects don't do plan books...

Jan 28, 11 2:46 pm  · 
vado retro

as greg sez it depends on where you are and the size of the dwelling. now in chicago, and maybe in some other large cities, you need a stamp for any thing. if you want to do a porch, a roof deck, what have you, you need a stamp.

Jan 28, 11 3:18 pm  · 
St. George's Fields

"All I can say is that it's amazing that people will settle for that shit when they're spending so much money. My clients wouldn't, of course, and the money they're talking about is similar to residential projects I did."

That was my point with the building above.

Reposting so there's no scrolling.

The issue I have with a building like this is while it is cheap, it's not 'economical.'

Obvious example? The parapet. Even adding a featureless one like this is not cheap. And adding a detailed or ornate one would have maybe increased the cost by what $10-20 a linear foot? EIFS moldings are not cheap.

Then there's the slap dash "classical" elements added on that too cost have been 'spruced up' for pennies on the dollar.

Not to mention, we have these weird 'structural' columns (that run on the outside of the membrane) that don't seem to be doing much of anything and they're covered in an expensive metal finish. Keeping up with the post-modern 'neoclassical' theme, they could have slapped on some "architectural column" covers for about $10,000-$20,000 ($20,000 if they want structural fiberglass). Minus the cost of whatever those things cost now, we're not talking alot over the total building cost.

The fenestration sucks. The glazing was poorly planned judging by the amount of "fill ins" they used.

The brise soliels could have been better used. They're a little undersized for Phoenix.

Someone paid a lot of money to try to not make this place look like an economy box. However, if they would have paid probably $100,000-$150,000 more... this building could have actually been pretty sweet. Given the amount of features and height, this building was probably in the range of $8,000,000 including land. Making the facade prettier would have been like a 1.8% to 2% of budget increase.

Jan 28, 11 3:36 pm  · 

But that's assuming the architect could make it better. One of the astonishing things to me about architecture is that it, generally speaking, takes just as much time and costs just as much (in fees) to design a piece of crap as it does something decent.

This goes back to the problem. It isn't only about money, it is also about what the architect's can/will design. It is also about the skills of the designer. Without that skill/talent, you can throw money at it all day long and it won't get any prettier.

Jan 28, 11 4:03 pm  · 
St. George's Fields


Assuming that this is just a quick spec'd cake-decorated standard office building, it wouldn't have taken much effort to have made this place look better.

I mean... it would take me 5 minutes max to Google up EIFS trim molding manufacturers to find a multitude of options to make this building somewhat more interesting.

This isn't a stylistic argument. This is an execution of style argument. If someone was really worried about cost, they wouldn't have put in porches, a curved front facade, trim or decorative facade panels.

More so, those are expensive windows [film-coated tinted windows]. For such expensive windows to be used so poorly speaks badly of whoever designed this building and who over oversaw the glazier carrying out the work.

Jan 28, 11 4:18 pm  · 

Isn't it truly and really about the misconception that an architect is a specialist?

The OP referenced rocket science, surgery, and piloting small aircraft. All of those by definition do only one thing, and only one thing, well.

A true architect does few things well, but is able to manage a plethora of conflicting agendas.

He or she is ultimately a true generalist. She's able to draft and to render and model intelligently [and perhaps without equal], but she is able to talk intelligently about civil,structural, electrical and plumbing engineering, she's able to negotiate with project managers, construction managers, general contractors, subcontractors,material fabricators, she can liaise with other design professions, such as graphic, branding, landscape,media,product, etc. She can talk about code with the municipality and the dept. of buildings. She can converse with the public, and the 'constituency'. She can detail, and coordinate conflicting details.

The architect does none of these with true expertise. However an architect should be able to talk about all of them with intelligence.

In essence, a generalist managing a field [or a literal horde] of specialists in order to produce a coherent end product.

The ultimate issue is that specialists are easy to value. ''Give me X amount of calculations, and I'll give you X amount of compensation.''

Generalists are much harder to value, empirically. Can you put a definite price on someone's ability to talk about 20 skills equally well [or poorly]? But you can put a price on someone's ability to do one thing well.

Therefore,in this mindset, architects will always be valued by society at far lower rates than they think [or know] they deserve.

Because the construction industry is so specialized the only entity who has an idea of the entire process is currently the GC. Which is actually why the GC commands such high fees, whilst the 'author', aka the architect, languishes in proverbial poverty.

The GC is ultimately a generalist as well. Damnit, GC means 'general contractor.'

It's time for architects to take back the center.

The true irony is that often it's only architects who truly bust their asses and exceed their fees for the sake of the project. Let's collapse GC back into 'architect'.

Jan 28, 11 4:18 pm  · 
olaf design ninja

Architect vs general contractor on taking the center back

Architect "see the DOB says I should be at the center and therefore you need to have me be in command."

GC "I have done 100's of these, don't worry I know the inspectors his kid in my kids little leagues."

Client "I want it done right . Who's your kids coach?"

Architect "you hired the right architect, haha. I don't have any kids."

Contractor "coach jimmy the bat. I can show you 100 projects and walk you thru the process don't worry I will take care of you. Ask jimmy the bat I took the kids out for pizza last week and they will be wearing True Design t-shirts next game."

Client "you do the hendersons job down there on mulberry?"

Architct "I worked for libeskind and did the freedom tower renderings. I went to Columbia."

Contractor "I was working for tony the tooth as a framer on the hendersons, good people. Before that I was a steam fitter, a welder, a plumber, and my first job ever was for old man forest as electrician."

Client "I tell you what contractor, if you do this right my husband is opening a BMW dealership on main street, you do commerial?"

Architect "hey I studied car manufacturering as a means for construction in undergrad at harvard."

Contractor "damn strait I do commercial. Did 3 mil of strip malls down on shit street."

Client "ok get to work."

Architect "you need me to do anything."

Contractor " stand there and look pretty mr ivy league. Tell you what just put this and that on the dwgs and I will take care of the rest."

The education system needs to be completely revamped and the licensing requirements need to be re thought. Until then architects will do little more than make pretty drawings with fancy notes.

Jan 28, 11 7:01 pm  · 

Unhelpful and misrepresentative, Olaf. I know it's on purpose, but geez.

Jan 28, 11 8:22 pm  · 

Get into a sub-specialty, or get screwed by the contractor, client, the plumber and the janitor at the same time.

Jan 29, 11 3:32 am  · 

our entire society has experienced the rise of amateurization over the past two decades. Look at most professions today: fashion, film, medicine, etc (as seen on watch reality tv/youtube). Internet/digital tools have lowered the cost of entry to the point that occasionally a brilliant amateur produces something that gets noticed. architecture is no different. perhaps instead of closing the portcullis and limiting entry to the profession as NCARB has done, we should be welcoming the fresh talent. Just a few decades ago, it was possible to take the ARE with 7 years of experience and no degree - now it takes 7+ years of 'internship' after a 'professional' degree to take the test. Okay, many of the best known non-educated architects (like FLlW), and 'educated' folks like Dr. Peter Eisenmann, produced buildings that leaked, sagged, and fell apart - but they still contributed to the richness of the built environment. We should be protesting the mediocre and lowest-cost/common-denominator culture, not the self-educated.

I do like the idea of more plan/pattern books.

To digress, Landscape Urbanism isn't entirely an invention of 'architects', a few vocal proponents are, but not all of the instigators.

Jan 29, 11 8:02 am  · 

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: