Quitting Architecture.....Sorta


I"ve finally decided to do it, wish I had done it in college but I finally have decided to leave the idea of architecture. I won't leave the construction industry, I love buildings and love seeing them be built but I'm leaving the practice of architecture. the competition for this supposed glorified view of becoming a great architect. That's what makes people work late for free and that's what creates these droves of interns undercutting each other to work at a firm that pretends that it is doing a you favor by letting you work on their work, I mean c'mon you should be paying them to earn "just such great experience."  And because of this view you keep plodding ahead not wanting to give up because people act  like your weak if you think you deserve a living wage or that your not dedicated if you don't want to work for free on a saturday, you must be one of those evil people who want a paycheck you must love what your doing in order to work where you do. But your not designing buildings or changing the way people interact with space, your detailing bathroom grab bars. Do you really love that? Obviously not, you're just working so that some day you can actually do these things.  And boom!   the other day when a friend who had spent college partying, something that any architecture student knew there was just no time for, explained to me what he was doing at work. He received a business degree with a focus in real estate and works for a small scale real estate developer/investor. He explained to me how he's going to have to learn construction management and the contractor will teach him, he and his boss had spent all day designing this house with the contractor, picking colors ect. and he was going to manage the construction. And boom! this kid a year out of college was doing what all those interns slave away working on bathroom clearance details strive for  in decades. Even if I never find something like that, instead of making nothing and being bored drafting a floorplan all day, and working late and doing design competitions or doing free 3D models at work to keep your portfolio fresh, why not work a boring job in construction, or real estate where you can save money and still do the design competitions after work if you please, but at least your time is valued and your employers appreciate you instead of acting like they are doing you a favor. Why do architects eat their young? 

Apr 5, 14 12:55 pm

Its a test you have to go through.  Every architect who made it likely went through it themselves, minus some lucky ones perhaps.  That is the profession.  Imagine if everyone who entered this profession could become a successful architect.  That just doesn't happen.  It doesn't happen in any profession in life.  I think 90% is there to support the 10% who make it big. Deal with it :)


On another note, I feel your sentiments.  It is why I'm working on a second profession, an easier way to make a living so I can stick with architecture because I love it and do it for fun.  Not because it is my livelihood.

Apr 5, 14 5:35 pm

If you think your real estate friend is practicing architecture by picking paint colors with a contractor you are sorely mistaken.  There is a HUGE difference between design and 99% of the developer "designed" turds that pollute our built environment.

I agree there are some major flaws within the profession, especially for the young, but doing some shit work for developer creeps in not going to be any better, in fact, that whole facet of the building industry is peppered with very caustic individuals, real dirt bags, that you would never want to get involved with.  ever.

Apr 5, 14 7:37 pm

/\ Agree w/ the above post. Developers does not know how to value what the architecture can bring to the table.  All the care about is the $$$ (which sounds like you do as well).  Developers build houses not homes.  On the other hand, most architects are in the profession for its life style (even though it may suck at times or most of the time) but the process and the end results are rewarding.  Just too bad we do not get pay as much doing the things we love...

Apr 5, 14 9:53 pm

Does this mean you'll stop posting whiny new threads here?

4 topics posted, zero participation in any threads, including your own. 

Apr 5, 14 10:49 pm

I've thought about doing the same.  Look into being a design/builder.  Architecture firms have very established hierarchies and place very little value on human capital.  Its all about the connections to huge institutions/government, and not your design ability.  Design builders need competent people and have to value their human capital.

Apr 6, 14 1:44 pm

Sorry to hear that Kevin, many people "adjust" their careers.  It is very possible that you look back on this point and see it as a great opportunity.

Apr 6, 14 3:29 pm

Why not Architectural competitions?

MADRID - Digital Art Museum Ideas Competition **launching**

Jun 22, 14 4:46 pm
That's disappointing. But it isn't for everybody I guess. You shouldn't have gone into architecture thinking you were going into it for the money. Also, knowing that you would have to intern for a few years, you shouldn't complain about taking crap from guys that have done the same thing, as access said. Think, if you're quitting now because you don't like interning and you haven't finished interning, then they really have a reason to be bitter because they've been through it already. Oh, and they want money. I almost forgot. Anyways, I guess some just don't make the cut.
Jun 22, 14 5:01 pm

It's like the SEALS or the Marines - it comes with the game

You "improvise, Adapt, Overcome" same with architecture. 

Jun 22, 14 6:52 pm

If you love architecture but hate the profession then find a way to practice design outside the profession.  Create your own 'profession' as you want it to be.  

Jun 22, 14 7:12 pm



im doing a msred/m.arch degree. 



have a great day!

Jun 22, 14 7:36 pm

everyone bitches about the profession but none are willing to change it.  And we call ourselves designers.  Aren't we supposed to be problem solvers? xD

Jun 22, 14 9:54 pm
I was watching a show, and an architect on there said, paraphrasing, "A problem that some architects and engineers are faced with is finding a way to solve a problem". I was stupefied at the fact that, as an architect, he was saying that architects are bad problem solvers. That's sort of an architect's job! Terrible is what it is.
Jun 22, 14 11:01 pm

We both are travelling in same boat my friend... please let us know what you did after few months...


Despite I love working whole night for design competitions or during academic projects, read books, see other designer's work, read forum, history, computation age.... I no longer wish to do job as an architect...  there is no respect.... no money..... simply we have wasted our 5 years of school and two years of masters .... Its just all about $$$$. During these 7 years no one ever told me that I have to work worse than a construction labour just to prove that I am committed to my work and I should get more salary.  

I am preparing for Phd now. Atleast I will be happy for what I am doing. 

If you continue job and then firm, after working for 10 years money will start coming to you. And this is what they call 'struggle' in your life whereas in other fields scenario is diff.  

Jun 22, 14 11:29 pm

I've quit twice during the last twenty years, both times to preserve my sanity and make some actual money. And both times I went back to architecture after about a year of being out and my career and peace of mind were far better off for having done it.

Jun 23, 14 12:32 pm
pale shelter


i've read several other posts of yours - mainly architect+development. can you provide a little more detail in how you've jumped in and out of the traditional architect role before and in to what it sounds like - development? I'm trying to preserve my sanity and make actual money - exactly as you put it - and wish to be more on the strategic + owner side of urban development / mixed use / multi-family.... as I feel it would be a much better fit for my personality and need for more control and bigger vision..and more responsibility. What steps would you recommend? I'm not getting many good feelers from developers I've worked with when discussing 'opportunities' with their companies. There doesn't seem to be the space for an architect when these dev. firms only have one project manager and/or 'director of development' and then a bunch of brokers and marketing staff... I just want to get started on my own small projects much like Jonathan Segal's beginnings. But of course, that requires funding and some real skills in pro-forma and buying property. Any advise you have ... would be appreciated.

Jun 24, 14 1:19 am

My work in development has been part of my architecture practice for many years, so I don't really consider that to be "doing something else." I originally got into it as an extension of two things: a long-standing interest in investment finance (which has been my fallback profession during the two sabbaticals I've taken from architecture - I've been a futures and options trader and ran a private equity fund for a bit), and an early opportunity in my architectural career to work closely with a commercial developer who didn't mind teaching me the ropes of the business. Also, my biggest strength as an architect has always been being able to look at a place and immediately see how to fulfill its full potential to make it great. That turns out to be an important crossover skill.

One of the best things you can do if you're starting out in the development game from nothing is join ULI and take advantage of all their workshops, networking, and educational resources (their books on REdev are quite good). Then go look at lots of property and put together a deal. You don't need a lot of cash to get started, but you do need vision, energy, and determination. It's like the old saying goes, "trading one pork bellies contract is worth two years at Harvard business school." Same thing with RE dev. To learn it, do it.

Jun 24, 14 1:16 pm

if you have money and a little time to spare,

try to get a degree in development. being in this dual degree i can tell you now for a fact is the networking is the most important. 

but as gwharton said, just do it.

Jun 25, 14 9:15 am

Agree with batman, you already have some great insight into the industry. Adding a degree in development would make you quite the force. But yea, the connections are everything for sure.

Jun 26, 14 3:02 pm
My advice would be the opposite. Don't spend extra time on a degree. The industry is on the upturn and you will learn much faster by working. I started in construction right after a B. Arch and it has worked great for me. Going back to school is both wasted time where you could be getting real experience and extra debt on your shoulders. I have interviewed with developers and a development degree would be a waste of time.
Jun 26, 14 3:55 pm

Nice, Nice.

Jun 26, 14 4:36 pm
pale shelter

gwharton: thx; and i agree with the benefits of ULI

others: I do agree that (we) architects with a decent amount of experience and responsibility (7 years, project mgmt, registered architect in my case)... do not need to waste time in the classroom. I began reading a few thesis papers from MIT and other Real Estate Masters program literature / coursework (these are all easily available online) ... even getting Sribd is great (few bucks a month for expensive ULI books monthly subsciprtion) ... anyways; my point is: all the ppl I read about as 'case studies' who have become nationally recognized developers just fell into it ... many from average backgrounds... minimal experience. Just get out and get to it is the right way...experience means everything. Time is 'a wasting ... smart people often overthink and are naturally risk-adverse I believe.

So the (start) pipe dream is to rehab or develop a 5 or 6 unit townhouse (no elevators); we're in a growing boom in my city adding a couple billion in 'market-rate' 200+ unit developments in downtown... a couple of which i've designed and managed thru construction ($30M construction cost). The (vertical) modern layout townhown style is also very rare around here - and I think it'd be a disrupter in the market. I need to get a loan and make the numbers work on my own first gig - and I only care about smaller urban-infill. I don't care about making the 'millions'.  I love the numbers and business oriented strategy making; in addition to doing the design and drawings myself ... because I'm the Owner. Building wealth and renting over the course of paying the loan is the goal (and potentially living for free)- none of those get rich quit crap with selling condos and paying tons in taxes. Buying existing is around $185/sf here .. I can build for that with good finishes. We're building 6-story wood on concrete + underground parking for $180k/unit ..but this is mass scale... and how I make this work to a bit larger 1100SF units may not look feasible. But I feel there is a real need in these smaller developments that the larger dev. companies who I've worked with - obviously ignore .. since it's small money (but perhaps good living for one individual developer).

I'm only worried about finding the right property .. to do small scale... something a few blocks off the beaten path...AND park it.  Due to the building boom, properties are going expensive. This will be the struggle. But people are paying rent $2.20/SF/Month around here .. and I calculate I can live for free + pay mortgage and taxes at $1.45 / SF. .. this doesn't include property costs. Only say $1500/month in net cash but this is thrown into the bank / backup for potential fixups/improvements. Like I said, living for free and building wealth ... (I keep my day job.. and maybe do another one)...

Anyone with the experience of building their own (first) 4-6 unit building ... and getting the loan... chime in. Will the bank accept a small amount of the downpayment to be my 'architectural services' ?? Say 5% of construction cost?..that'd help. As with most architects...we don't have much money for a downpayment lol .

Jun 26, 14 11:23 pm

I'd not be too optimistic in your situation; from what I'm skimming you have little relevant experience, less equity, no property title (the base cost / location will fundamentally run the pro forma), and zero banking connections. Interest rates are low, but the loan and banking environment is a different world than it was before the recession. It is certainly not one where you'll get soft-cost equity value for services tendered (but not paid out) to yourself. At the end of the day, you can stack the numbers and run your spreadsheet however you want; the Lender'll be doing their own underwriting and they're def. in the take-it-or-leave-it mentality these days.

Full disclosure, I'm just coming out of the gauntlet on a 12-unit project. By the end, we'll probably be at 70% loan (meaning we coughed up 30% real equity via land, cash, and paid services (soft costs w/ hardcopy invoices in triplicate :wink:)). And this was with a local bank, whom we've got a good relationship, and had an interest in diversifying their investment portfolio.

Jun 27, 14 3:45 pm

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