Hi Everyone,

So I have a dilemma, I graduated from my M.Arch a few months ago and now I'm trying to decide where to go next. I have 2 job offers one in LA and the other in NYC (similar salary). I've lived and worked in NYC before but the biggest thing for me would be the cost of living but apparently LA isn't all that much better. But what I really want to know is what are peoples experiences working as an architect in once city over the other. Having worked in NYC I know that design wise it tends to be a lot of skyscrapers and tall buildings coupled with late nights :( . I have no idea what the design ideologies are in LA but I have heard that it is more laid back and experimental. Also of course the LA weather wins over NYC which is great but can't base a move on weather alone!

Has anyone worked in both cities? Or have any general insights that might help me make my decision. Thanks!

Sep 17, 19 7:55 am

There are hundreds (thousands?) of firms in NYC, only a few actually do anything higher than 75 or 125 feet. In that sense, I'd take a step back from  saying that NYC design tends to be focused on skyscrapers. No modern city has a unique design ideology - that's usually the domain of the firm and the wanker(s) that run the firm. Long nights are also a function of the firm that employs you - some have their shit together and schedule/staff accordingly. Others lose their minds conjuring deadlines for clients that may or may not pay for the added time (either case, you won't get much of that 'added' value).

Of the offers, which firms does more interesting work? Is it work for region-specific projects, or will you be doing design bs for some remote location? Are the firms comparable in size/staffing? It cannot be that the only decision point is location. Do you have family/friends in either location? What do you do outside of work - does either location play better in that regard?

Although I've never worked in the LA area, I have done my time in NYC. It's a nightmare dealing with the various agencies and developers and lawyers and consultants and clients, let alone prick bosses. 

I'd recommend the warm weather, but I'm always looking for greener grass.

Sep 17, 19 11:38 am

So at first glance it seems like the NYC office does work I'd find more interesting but I'm worried that I'd be stuck making renders and pretty diagrams. And looking at their glassdoor reviews a lot of the people complain of frequent late nights. The LA firms does work that's a bit less exciting but they stressed that I would be able to see projects through to the end and as the bosses are former SOMers they said they are adverse to unnecessary late nights. it's important to me to have my own free time to do my own stuff and I don't believe in killing myself for work


If that's the case, I'd actually recommend going to LA. Even if the "see projects through to the end" ends up being an invisible carrot, it's a sign that at least management pays lip service to what architecture actually is. Renders and pretty pictures are all off-shored anyways, so in the eyes of clients and your bosses, you'd be competing against Chinese firms with, frankly, "limited" employee protections and pay at best. Worst case scenario? You can a sunburn and find your next job in NYC.


Not an architect myself, but from an industry providing services to them, I see a lot of bigger projects coming up in LA, while NYC just seems to have consistent residential or small commercial redesigns, as well as a few large sky scraper projects. 

But I would agree with above, go with what weather seems nicer, and which firm fits you more. (although I hear people get tired of "good weather" all the time, ;) biased NYC resident) 

Sep 17, 19 3:55 pm

If I said, "quick...don't think...NYC or LA?" which would you pick?

The general advice I offer (since I've never lived in either city) is that you should go with your gut.  I assume you are young and have few responsibilities, but even if I am wrong there is nothing stopping you from changing your mind later.  Pick one and go all in.  Give it at least a year.  Then if you hate it, make a change.

I think a lot of people think their first job is going to make or break their career or their life.  It isn't true.  You can change your mind 6 weeks from now and that is perfectly ok.

Good luck!

Sep 17, 19 8:23 pm
( o Y o )

lifestyle is not a consideration?

Sep 17, 19 9:33 pm

Why is it that no one ever considers this; do you have a community in either city? That matters, and if you're not thinking about that, you're going to make a mistake.

Sep 17, 19 11:30 pm
won and done williams

There's a lot truth here. A network of friends and family will ultimately be more important than your job. Not saying that that network can't be built in a new place, but I think often times we make a decision about a place when we are young not anticipating that our lives (and priorities) change. It's funny how you can start in one place and ten years later wonder, "How did I get here?" And then be so deep into that new network of relationships that it is almost impossible to turn back.


If you've built good relationships in your existing city then you can always move back - If you haven't, then it doesn't matter anyway. No harm in trying something new. Regardless, if you fail or succeed in your new environment you will learn something from it. Also, depends on where you're at in your career, doesn't it?

won and done williams

Well, to be more specific, I moved to Detroit after I graduated because I thought it would be a cool place to practice (and it was!), and I found a great cheap house to buy. Fifteen years later, now married, three kids, owner of a successful business with a wide network of professional and social relationships, I never foresaw all of this when I first moved here. Now with aging parents, I don't think I can ever leave to take care of them as they get older. Now I know my situation is unique, and that most people don't commit to a city after graduating, but you never know where life will take you and part of the success I've had I attribute to committing to the place I moved after graduating.


Oh having a family and a business changes everything for sure. I guess it just depends on how deeply rooted you get, and with that said, is it possible to still be successful if you never become so deeply rooted?

won and done williams

Probably depends upon your definition of success. I'm sure there are many ways to be successful. For me, both place and community were very important.


hey, thanks for the response! I have more friends in NYC but I have some family in LA. So either way I'd know people in either place. But @won and done makes a good point, in terms of a network you have to factor in the unknown and the fact that you can build a new network where you go


Yeah, I meant network in the sense of connections to employment and opportunity.


Do you have money to buy/insure a car? If not, stick to NYC.

Sep 18, 19 12:12 pm

bit of money saved up! but whatever car I get wont be fancy if i go to LA, just to get me from point a to b


Never worked anywhere but LA, but always found NYC professionals to be a bit too combative, defensive and ultimately dickish. This is obviously due to the nature of work in NYC.

LA firms also have late nights, dont let the sunshine and beaches fool you (unless you are close to the westside, you probably wont get time to go to the beach much anyways). Also, LA has gotten wayyyyy more expensive in the last 5-6 years (thanks to Hipsters, Netflix and Amazon employees).

You may need to make a comprehensive matrix of pay, benefits, expenses, car/gas/insurance expenses, and ultimately where you want to land in the future. Things tend to get a bit regional sometimes later on in career...

Sep 18, 19 1:09 pm

Never worked anywhere but NYC and I agree (guilty as charged). :)


Omaha. But I see you didn't list that as a choice. Nevermind.

Sep 20, 19 8:59 am

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