What makes a passionate architect?


Hi all,

I recently finished my bachelor's degree in engineering (in a field completely unrelated to architecture/structural engineering) and started my PhD in the area because I didn't know what else to do. I'm now realising that I don't love it, often don't like it, and so I'm looking into changing my field to something that I can see myself having a future in.

For me, architecture has always been one of those "what if?" fields. While my major was in pure engineering/science, and in many ways I enjoy the logical, technical side of this, I have a creative side that I love to use. But before I drop everything and jump into it, I need to know that I have the right idea about what it is to be an architect and whether it will fit me.

I don't draw, but I'm into photography, computer design, and writing. I was always quite good at drafting and technical drawing in high school (years ago). I have no problem working hard if I value the end goal, but find it extremely difficult to do something that I don't see as being important. I'm a perfectionist (to the point of it being a flaw) and tend to focus too much on details at times. While I love being creative and find it energizing, I need technical work to keep me busy while ideas are brewing, otherwise I overthink and get frustrated. I'm also shy, at times extremely so, although generally if I know what I want, this doesn't get in my way too much.

I'm aware of the not-so-amazing money aspect of architecture, and I think I'm okay with this part. On the other hand, I love to travel and am afraid that this might not be a great field when it comes to having time off. I also don't know where I plan on settling down and like the idea of having a "mobile" profession, which I suspect architecture is not.

And so I ask: what makes a passionate architect? What type of people go into architecture and hate it? Is it for me?

Jan 14, 12 5:17 pm

I don't know that anyone else can answer this for you. Our passions arise from different places, making for difference in how architects approach their work. Maybe you're a great candidate for a university Career Discovery-type program, whether it's one near you or at a university you're targeting.

Jan 15, 12 8:29 am  · 

If you have to ask, you ain't got it. 


Dreaming is what got me passionate about it.  I still dream (it's what keeps me going and hungry), but am grown up know and realize that reality takes a lot more than creativity and fanciful ideas.

If I were you, I'd look at combining things that you already enjoy, not trying to force something (esp. something that will cost a fortune and offer very little in return).  Look at things from graphic arts to programming.

Engineering firms are also having to become much more visual and presentable, something they typically are horrible at.  Consider bringing in graphics/3D/photography/etc. into an engineering firm.  This area will continue to grow in importance and won't succumb to the massive economic swings that architecture does.

Jan 15, 12 10:44 am  · 

A candlelit dinner, a good bottle of wine, some Marvin Gaye playing in the background ...

Jan 15, 12 12:16 pm  · 

Informed naivety and the ability to accept daily disappointment.

..... and I've still got the passion after 20+ years.

Jan 16, 12 4:42 am  · 

"Informed naivety" is an oxymoron.

Obsessive persistence in the face of overwhelming obstacles might be a better description.


Jan 16, 12 1:13 pm  · 

Kahn, Sullivan, Wright...Alcoholism, adoring muses, over spending, nice cars, willingness to starve, and die penniless and in obscurity.

Jan 16, 12 2:08 pm  · 

"...die penniless and in obscurity."

I still can't believe that Louis Kahn died alone in the Penn Station bathroom.  That's like the absolute perfect ending to an architect's career.

In fact, I've been trying to figure out an even more impressive way to die than Kahn but just haven't been able to find anything satisfying yet.  The best I can come up with is contracting rabies after being biten by a bat while pulling an all-nighter and foolishly thinking it would be a good idea to open the window for fresh air at 3am.

But compared to the likes of Gaudi being run over by a street car, Corbusier drowning outside his cabanon or White being shot in the face by his mistress's husband at a play, I just feel inadequate in the face of such legacies.

I need help designing my own demise.  Any suggestion, yo?

Jan 16, 12 4:02 pm  · 

indeed those are tough to top....mine will involve a young cute unpaid adoring female intern, and farm machinery....still working out the bugs, though.

Jan 16, 12 4:54 pm  · 
 ·  1

Adolf Loos was accused of Pedophilia and died penniless of syphilis.

Louis Sullivan died broke and alone in a Chicago hotel room.

Stanford White was shot in the face by the jealous husband of Evelyn Nesbit.

I'd opt for White's method.

Jan 16, 12 5:38 pm  · 


Jan 16, 12 5:59 pm  · 

I feel very lucky for finding my place in the profession of architecture. I look around at some of my friends and look back to the majority of students leaving high school in Canada, and the system just doesn't prepare them for post secondary education. Students feel rushed, like they need to get that job that is high paying and will allow them that specific life style of our time, a lot of professions, the arts, creative fields and even the profession of architecture suffer. People just don't see the 'value' (economically) in these fields and an unbalance forms. Architecture adapted by becoming more connected to the economy, riding the wave of uncertainty. 

Architecture aside,  I believe finding your passion is about retrospectively reading yourself. Doing a sort of psycho analysis - Look back to the times when you truly felt comfortable when you could relax and work. If you can find that profession where life and work become integrated in a positive way then I think you have made it. 

 I personally love architecture because it has broadened my scope, it has opened my mind to so many different fields which all can be utilized and referred back to. They say architects want to know a little bit about a lot of things where engineers know a lot about one specific thing. This seems fairly accurate. But I feel as if (like you said) I constantly feel as if my right side and left side of my brain are in a constant battle, being precise and organized but in the same time, open, free and experimental - taking in the world around me. Architecture for me has become trying to find this sort of balance. A method emerges where I am observing, experiencing, taking in everything around me, but then taking that information and applying it to my everyday life, forming a critical opinion, the final step is applying that into the real world through built works. I am constantly trying to find a way to take my large ideas and bring them to reality with my immediate resources. Its how I can test my thinking, and make it legitiment, If other people believe it, and it can become realized it has sort of passed the ultimate test. So working is always this sort of battle, left vs right, theoretical vs realized - never being comfortable - always working towards something new. 


I think everyone truly has something they are extremely good at - a real potential, it all comes down to if they have the drive, or the systems they live within, allow them to discover it. I have become interested in trying to make people realize this in themselves, and through the process I learn something too, it's where real learning happens. I think you definitely know what it is you are interested in. Just keep following your path, do what feels comfortable. 


I'll stop rambling on now. 

(sorry for any spelling errors) 

Jan 18, 12 5:23 pm  · 
 ·  1


Jan 18, 12 11:37 pm  · 
pale shelter

not accepting mediocrity (because you just can't) and willing to spend the time on inventing better solutions 

Jan 18, 12 11:49 pm  · 

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