In-house architects for developers


Is anyone else on the board currently working for or has worked in the past for a development company as an in-house architect/designer? After working for only architecture firms in the past, I wanted to try a change of pace -- the pay is certainly better, and I'm all for cutting out the middleman in favor of greater efficiency. But this has not been my experience. Yes, I do enjoy the perks of greater creative control, but inefficiency/incompetence and overall sketchiness is quite staggering and not at all what I'm used to (and I've worked for some sketchy architects, lemme tell you). I'm wondering what other people's experience may be as it's hard for me to figure out if there's something inherently flawed with this business model, or if I'm just working for the wrong guys.

Oct 1, 09 3:13 pm

Earlier in my career, I worked for a period of about 8 years for two separate commercial developers. I was licensed as an architect before I made this move. In both of these cases, we did not do design in-house -- we hired and managed external design firms and contractors. In that way, we could choose the right firm for each specific project, based on the needs of the project.

I thought it was a good experience. I learned a ton about the development process and how developers think. I also found that I had much more control over the quality of the architecture when working in a managerial / supervisory role than I ever did when working in a design firm. I will say that the development firms where I worked both had a culture that appreciated -- nee, demanded -- good design, so that helped a lot.

I've never worked in a development firm that had an in-house design department. However, I do know of some firms that do design in-house and, for the most part, they haven't a clue about how to run a design department -- they push all the wrong buttons at all the wrong times.

Hope this helps.

Oct 1, 09 5:12 pm  · 

Thanks for the insight, BlueGoose. My company does care about good design -- it's just the business practices and office structure that doesn't work. I think where it falls short the most is general efficiency and structured organization. There seems to be a lot of "let's just go for it and see what happens" mentality. Also, the design department is anemic and low on morale with very little oversight, resulting in a productivity level that even my most lax principals in the past would cry about. In the end -- great pay notwithstanding -- I think I have to move on as I feel completely underutilized on a good day, and my integrity compromised on a bad. In theory, I'd love to try another development company because the idea of an in-house design department does sound solid, but it's sounding like a rarity, and maybe with good reason. In light of your comment, maybe a well-run one is a pipe dream.

Oct 5, 09 8:22 pm  · 

If you are looking for in-house design you're probably better off going to work for a large corporation that does a lot of building, i.e. retail. At very least any national retailer will have a staff developing prototype designs. While typically not "high design" the pay is better and in these tough times the job security is a plus.

I've worked with some in-house architects with various major retailers. Can't always say they are the best and brightest. By in large I would think most companies would be better served by outsourcing all their prototype design, unique design and alteration work to outside firms. Pushing the envelope isn't part of the corporate vocabulary from what I've seen, while group think is alive and well. That said, I encourage you to go into a scene like that and shake things up.

Oct 6, 09 9:28 am  · 

Talking about working for a developer, I just have a job offer for one private developer too. I'll start on Monday and I can tell ahead that it will not be easy. I only have about 3 years experience and I'll be the only "architect" in the office. It will be a challenge and the boss can be very mean and demanding. I hope I can survive and eventually get a lot out of this experience. Well, can't ask too much in this economy right? I'm lucky enough to finally get a job after months of depression. :)

Oct 8, 09 8:50 am  · 

Hi hows it going? I am in a similar situation right now but have not taken the job offer. Is it okay if I have almost 3 years experience only and the only architect directly reporting to the boss?

Apr 18, 24 7:57 am  · 
liberty bell

Good luck request! You will no doubt learn a LOT, maybe about what you don't want to do, but even that is quite valuable. Don't let them be too mean to you!

Oct 8, 09 9:36 am  · 

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