is architecture a rich kid's profession?


It can be pretty easy to get in the market without much money-specifically in Texas. State law allows one to build anything as long as it is under 20,000 square feet so long as you can get it stamped by the local courthouse.
Take out a construction loan from the bank-you can draw a salary from it so you don't have to work another job to pay rent thus allowing you to watch the subcontractors building for you.
Residential is the easiest to get into. Granted you might have to design cookie cutters for a while to make money because face it, that is what sells in a lot of places...but just suck it up for a year or two to make some money. Also, there are many ways to legally avoid capitol gain taxes. Hey you never might be able to find someone who will buy good design...

Sep 26, 05 12:05 am  · 
Dazed and Confused

It is because all the plumbers think it would be cool for their kid to become an architect.

Plumbers (as we all know) can PAY!

Sep 26, 05 12:06 am  · 
the key is convincing the patron (or yourself) to take the risk of trying an alternate formula.

sell what's been proven to work, or sell what could work better. redefine 'what works'.

convince a poor restaurant-owner patron that taking a risk with a more experimental design could give them a marketing advantage over their wealthier competition.
-convince a middle-class developer patron that they could actually make more money on an apartment complex by making the units smaller and better designed)
-convince a wealthy residential patron that the architecture of his house will say just as much about him as his Bentley. sell him on Minimalism. offer him more than a house. offer him a smaller, less expensive house that also functions as a once-a year retreat for members of a group he philanthropizes.

nice examples. i think you hit the nail on the head. We need to be better sales people. And by being better sales people, it also means thinking sensibly about our ideas, being to sell ideas, and also making our designs marketable...

For residential units, developers like to think in square footage. But there are many other factors that can come into play, the usefulness of a space, the quality of that space, flexibility, natural light and good ventilation, accessibility, convenience, interior / exterior relationships... "While these units are smaller, as a whole get more units, each of the units has better natural light and ventilation, they have exterior private terraces, better views, and as a whole, the value per square foot is increased, so the building is in the end more profitable, etc." Focus on selling while designing... So as to be convincing... Be able to demonstrate convincingly the value of good design over bad design, and show a cost / benefit analysis. Sometimes new works better than more of the same. There is a market for quality vs. just quantity when we're talking about a residential unit... This should be obvious: people spend alot of money when purchasing or renting a home, they are investing, and they would rather have a nice place than a larger but not so nice place.

same when it comes to a restaurant... the place and atmosphere matters as much as the food and service... this is not saying just throw money away to be different. this means actually doing marketing research, incorporating marketing as a kind of design. look at the competition, look at the demographic, look at the environment... "no other restaurant on this street has an open patio that is elevated, by orienting the bar this way, patrons get a better view of the street, your restaurant has an interaction with the street while retaining intimate booths here... etc." These things have value... Or even being more radically different... In a way, its of course a risk, but no more of a risk than the poor restaurant owner is already taking on by opening a business. In other words, put yourself on the line and think about selling their business for them...This is a bottom dollar society that values little that is important or valuable.

I find myself saying in my work that it is there money they can do whatever they want…..before I catch my breath reaffirm my responsibility and my personal mission, and get back in the game and fight for the values that I believe in.
It is probably true that we live in a "bottom dollar society"... But I think this just makes it important to be always considerate of, and be able to talk about each client's bottom dollar... But this doesn't have to mean forgetting our "personal design values"... It just means being able to be convincing about how your design values relate to their bottom dollar, or at the very least, to their tastes... Bottom dollar talk can also mean return on investment... benefits vs. costs... I think to some extent, if our own "personal design values" are in such conflict with our clients' bottom dollar, then there is either something wrong with our design values, or we have the wrong client... Shouldn't we approach different clients differently?

In other words, a design that sells is not necessarily "selling out". The difference can be that your design in part sells itself on its own merits... The architect as part business consultant... You're still playing the market, but its more like being an entrepreneur, selling a promising idea to a venture capitalist, than being a "market whore"...
Sep 26, 05 2:34 am  · 

on second thought:

continuing with the "venture capitalist" analogy... i think one difference between an architect and a venture capitalist is that the architect doesn't benefit from their own risk... at least the don't always benefit financially from that risk of trying something new and promising... other than perhaps winning a client or meeting their own personal creative aspirations. how might an architect capture more of financial winnings from theirs / their clients creative risks? Do they need to be more of the developer themselves? Or a designer / business owner... design office / manufacturer, or design office / gallery storefront...

Sep 26, 05 2:49 am  · 

er the client being a venture capitalist and the architect being an entrepreneur

Sep 26, 05 2:54 am  · 

I think many of theprevuious posters (including nappy) are missing an important point. Architecture isn't fashion or art or style. Architects are professionals. We are charged with providing safe and functional spaces for the public. We are not asked to make pretty or hip or far-out experiences.

We are no less expendable than legal professionals or medical professionals. Stop behaving like stylists and act like you have work to do!

This isn't to say aesthetics are superfluous - indeed they are quite important. We should continue to do research as do doctors and lawyers - but stop framing it as simply cool stuff to do - you degrade its importance. Our aim should be to make the envronment - built and unbuilt - bettter and better. We every right and in fact a duty to pursue it. The more we act like this is simply masturbatory the less we get done.

Sep 26, 05 7:14 pm  · 

"stop framing it as simply cool stuff to do"

fish ... i like your style ... you make some good points ...

we are responsible collectively to our clients and our users and the public at large ... those are awesome responsiblities and they go way, way beyond "stylin" ... but, we will not be successful if we don't also produce work that inspires and satisfies and intrigues ...

a daunting challenge ...

Oct 1, 05 5:21 pm  · 
This isn't to say aesthetics are superfluous - indeed they are quite important. We should continue to do research as do doctors and lawyers - but stop framing it as simply cool stuff to do - you degrade its importance. Our aim should be to make the envronment - built and unbuilt - bettter and better. We every right and in fact a duty to pursue it. The more we act like this is simply masturbatory the less we get done.Also, like medicine and law, research is often testing innovation to make the profession better... Research and innovation, in architecture, unlike medicine, can often happen during practice... In law, research and innovation also happen during practice, but the difference I think is that law is more interpretive, architecture is more creative.
Oct 1, 05 5:38 pm  · 

the aesthetic and formal need not be a 'fashion' or just about 'cool shapes'.

contemporary design theory assigns value to form in relation to it's arbitrariness and randomness (less contrived/controlled/premeditated = more meaningful). we see a similar line in art theory, as process has long since trumped product or final form.

add to this the historical trend of scientification/demystification(re: The Reenchantment of the World by Morris Berman) & post-modern deconstructivist philosophies and you'll really begin to feel that form does not have any value.

one of the ways architects can make themselves more valuable is to shun this idea that form's value is arbitrary, and be a cause for increasing the value of non-arbitrary form.

Oct 2, 05 2:55 pm  · 

you can't separate process from product.

Oct 3, 05 6:36 am  · 

I was doing interviews recently with students on mental health in architecture schools and I had researched that worrying about paying off student loans was a huge cause of stress to students these days... but all the students I spoke to (about 10 so far so to be fair it may have just been a unrepresentative group) said that they didn't have concerns with debt because their school was either fully or at least partially paid for by their parents.It occurred to me that this may not be such an issue for architecture as most people who go to architecture school are from upper income families...

I was born in Canada but my parents are immigrants (actually just moved to Canada the year I was born) and we really struggled for some time to get on our feet. I had to take loans to pay for school and I remember feeling very out of place in architecture school and I thought it was because the mentality of architecture school was just very pompous and "we are the heroes who will save the world" (which some of my profs basically said verbatim) but I'm starting to think that may have been a class issue actually... it hadn't occurred to me before but it makes a lot of sense.

I'd be curious to see studies done on this.. surveys to see what income backet students' families are in and how much debt they leave school with in comparison to other degrees

Apr 26, 20 10:53 am  · 
Non Sequitur

Canadian tuition is free compared to the USA. Not a fair comparison.

Apr 26, 20 11:06 am  · 

NS, that's just not true unless you're comparing American ivy league schools, which we both know don't exist in Canada. Most colleges offer very cheap in-state tuition, but we just don't hear about that because it's not salacious. For somebody like me, taking out $50k in loans to go to school was the scariest thing I've ever done. My family helped me out to the tune of zero dollars for anything while in school, and coming from a blue collar family, I had no precedent (I'm the first graduate in my family). Debt is frightening if you have nobody to teach you about financial responsibility.

Nov 19, 20 6:13 pm  · 

there are so many dimensions to this, i'm not sure the original question has any real meaning. 

are there young architects who come from wealth? sure - was it inherited (the presumption)? was it self made? does it matter? 

"Being affluent often means that you have an affluent peer group which as you grow older either become clients or can bring you into opportunities you might not otherwise come across."

this was the most factual comment in this whole thing. and it applies to life, not just business (and certainly not just architecture). 

Apr 26, 20 12:02 pm  · 

for me it is a question of diversity and representation. If you only have affluent people going into study architecture, and often that means certain races/backgrounds/cultures/sex/etc, then that affects the type of architecture that will be created and the perspective the architects have. The more diverse you can make the field the better it will make the built environment (more diverse perspectives make for more varied responses, as well as ones that respond to different needs).

i was trying to search articles and statistics on demographics that go into architecture education (income demographics mostly) but I couldn't find much.. this opinion piece seemed to be one of the few things I could find talking about it... but what I really want to see is more research on the topic

Apr 26, 20 1:44 pm  · 

the rich and powerful tend to run things

Apr 26, 20 3:41 pm  · 
Ask Bjarke Ingels. Architecture is a rich kid’s profession, if you want to do things on your own terms from a very young age. If you do not come from Money, it will take you a while to climb the ladder to do shit on your own terms.
Apr 26, 20 3:56 pm  · 


Apr 26, 20 8:16 pm  · 

Ochona, Very interesting post! Generated a great response from many. I liked bRinks comments a lot and as well as others. I come from a working-class family and wished to launch my firm but could not afford being the eldest of 7 siblings. But I found an alternative solution to financially compete with engineers and contractors, although very late in my practice.

Architects want to be the king of design, I figured that I could be a king maker instead. By doing so, I’ll lead design with more influence. What I mean by that is being a collaborative design leader or owner’s representative. You may say, hey that's not being an architect if you don’t design. But I will tell you, I facilitate design for the highest-ranking architects in the country and help solve their shit all day.

Last year a national construction manager firm offered me a job with 50k/yr more than my current state job. I didn’t accept it for the sake of pension and health benefits as I am getting older.

So, I believe there are ways to be financially solvent as an architect even coming from working class families and not being a cad drafter for whole life. You just need to keep your eyes open. I recently launched a blog trying to explain this stuff to the future architects. You may read if you like at

bRink- do you think architecture education is designed as a drug for the rich?

Apr 26, 20 8:39 pm  · 

The topic of class and the profession of architecture is something I have been researching. But I'm having trouble finding any information on wealth or class statistics. Specifically I am trying to gather data on architects and their class upbringing. (I am not having trouble finding class statistics of practicing architects, but I am trying to find statistics on class status of architects BEFORE they were architects.) Does anybody know of any sources for this type of information? Thanks 

Nov 19, 20 5:56 pm  · 

i don't expect anyone is collecting this data. you could talk to universities to get family demographic information on enrolled students, but that won't totally correlate to practicing architects due to career changes etc. you could also conduct a random survey through aia or something, but it will be tough to ensure good sampling. and most people won't be able to give a precise objective answer on "class status" - but they also wouldn't have specific knowledge on their parents income and assets before starting their own career. your asking a question that will be very challenging to answer.

Nov 19, 20 11:55 pm  · 

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