Unemployed Architects

photo via Seattle PI

A few days ago I was googling “unemployed architect” to see what are they up to after being laid off during current crisis, and found 2 good examples.

The first one was the blog Unemployed Architect, ran by a women from Boston (who i´m pretty sure reads ArchDaily because of some of her video posts) who got laid off recently. On her blog she writes about how she spends her days, her new free time, waking up at 11AM, rediscovering the city, hanging out at Starbucks… but that took my attention was that she was applying to grad schools, as a way to evade the crisis. I recently spoke with some young architects with a very active practice, and both partners were considering pursuing another masters degree, using the crisis as an excuse to slow down in the practice and focus on studies.

This reminded me that during the previous crisis, there were very good architects teaching at my school, now i see why.

But there was another news that took my attention.  John Morefield (27), an architect from Seattle, had a very good idea after being laid off twice in a year: he setup a booth at a local fair, answering home remodeling questions for 5¢. On the first day he earned 35¢. But that wasn´t his real earn, but the 7 conversations he started, with 7 potential clients he meet.

This way he started to build a network, also pairing these new clients with contractors he recommended. This resulted in Architecture 5¢, an office were “no project is too small for big ideas”.

A very good use of something that every architect goes by, when friends or relatives ask questions on remodeling, used as a way to overturn the crisis.

Cite: Basulto, David. "Unemployed Architects" 09 Mar 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=16415>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I think it’s an excellent idea. Start under cutting the architecture firms that laid you off.

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    About couple of weeks ago, Rem Koolhaas stated during the lecture at Columbia Univ. quickly that the economic crisis like nowdays can be complete overturn and new start up point to reset the roles of architects and architecture which is, I believe, completely true even in this case. It is a sad story and even scary but maybe it’s good time to reform ourselves and think little more in depth what else we can do as an architect.

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    It’s sort of inspiring to see young architects making their own work in difficult times like these (even if it’s scary that they’re being driven to it through desperation \ zero other options). It’s unfortunate though that they might be deprived the experience of working on larger projects and the guidance that normally comes from being part of an established firm. I agree with the last poster that the current crisis is a good time to rethink the role of the architect in society and the ways in which we interact with the public.

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    I think that Wright started in the same way: He had his column in magazine with advices how to decorate house. Very popular between housewifes. That is smart.

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    And… nothing is building today, so Architecture blogs post ideas with visualisation – in those there is much more energy and inspiration – will lead to increasing Architecture culture :)

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Very inspirational. You say about gaining experience within a large project team and i must agree that this is invaluable but the fact he is 27 and making a go of it alone is great. How many architects in the world actually design, and get built, completely new buildings? I would say that a majority are probably designing extensions for peoples homes, only my opinion of things here in England.

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    You think it’s bad now?
    After another year of the ‘Obama regime’ and there won’t be any need for architects.
    And, not much else, come to think of it.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      Well you can thank George Bush for Obama. The republicans were so bad – the whole country practically voted for Obama in a loud CRY for change & caused a historical event.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    In any case we architects should have a broader professional panorama, engage in the everyday life of people. If doctors take care of our inner self, architects (and psychologists, perhaps) should do the rest.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Being a recent SOM layoff, I’m thinking of staying in school an extra couple of years to pursue education as well.

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Damn, is it all this bad? I’m finishing my Master in July, hoping to find a job… hum… not very inspiring! I can’t believe I will have to reconsider PhD or another bachelor!
    Great idea, that guy had, though.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      If you’re still in that study mode – go for other credentials which make you more marketable.

      Go for LEED AP certification.
      Go for PMP certification, as well.
      And perhaps go after a Building Inspector’s license. (This requires schooling too)

      All the above schooling will aid you in becoming a better architect.

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    It’s a good time for self reflection, we have all been faced with a new challenge and that is energy/sustainability with programs such as LEED and the BIM software. This should be considered in developing architecture, as the politics, laws and codes have done so in the past and will do in the future! Be aware of the transformation as it is happening now! Prepare and study or take time off, get out of it altogether if you have to survive, but never give up on it! That’s Architecture!

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    I see the LEED program as another instance where the profession has stood back and let a third party organization set up shop, cutting into territory that was the architect’s realm to start with.

    If the profession had been on the ball, we would have developed LEED-type criteria from within. Good or bad aside, LEED further erodes the credibility of the profession.

    As for the downturn, a lot of people don’t have the option to move back in with their parents or go to grad school. For us, those who are middle aged trying to stay in our homes and not be driven into poverty, the idea of a two year continued down turn is very disheartening. We can only hope Obama will somehow begin public works projects that will require architecture services.

    Health care and senior living will be two areas bound to prosper. But until we know what the health care (reform?) program from Congress is, banks, hospitals and developers won’t move on projects.

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    This exposes why Architecture as a profession has been a dismal failure. People are praising this guy for offering information to the public for $.05! This only furthers the perception by th epublic that what Architects do is basically worthless (monetarily speaking). Some are saying that this is great because he’s making connection for future clients…BS. All he is doing is undercutting the Architecural firms, that are trying to keep their offices open, by offering free services. Neither this idiot, or the local Architectural firms, win by this approach to our profession.

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      I couldn’t have said it better John. If people believe that this approach is healthy for Architecture they should consider what has happened to pilots over the years. There is always a guy willing to “fly for food” which in turn has depleted a livable salary for the industry. This guys premise is cutting everyones throat by lessening the value of good design and knowledge.

  14. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I agree with you 200% John. This ‘trivializes’ the profession. In Houston the AIA as an annual ‘sad castle’ competition in Galveston, and this too makes architects look, in my opinion, foolish and trivial. In the courts, engineers here have brought suit saying they to should be allowed to design & plan buildings (without an architect’s seal). The Texas Board has (so far) won against this because the Texas Constitution designates architecture as a distinct profession from engineering and calls for it to be regulated by an appropriate State Board.

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    Also, the AIA has been an abysmal failure with respect to the profession of Architecture. The AIA does nothing to support small architectural firms. The general public has no clue what an Architect does and why it’s worth anything. Here in NJ, a homeowner can provide drawings for work done on their own homes! Where is the AIA-NJ lobbying to get this stupid loophole closed. All this does is marginalize the Architect and allows contractors to do the drawings for the Owners. Inspectors don’t hold contractors responsible for their mistakes. Inspectors have all the power and no responsibility and the Architect has all the responsibility and no power. Of course we can’t be paid what we are worth…the AIA has already ceded the entire residential architecture field to builders.

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    Has anyone come across information on how many architects and intern architects are actually unemployed? As apposed to a number that reflects the construction industry as a whole. I think the numbers as a percentage are much, much higher than the national averages. Also in my experience times like these leave many one and two person firms sitting around playing cards and only generating enough cash flow to keep the lights on but not brining home a pay check. Anyone come across any information on this?

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      I too was wondering how many architects are unemployed? I am told construction is 16% in Colorado. And someone unofficial said 60% for architects. If my last big firm is an indication, it is about 60%. They have less than half the staff working four day weeks. That’s not to including the fact that we used to work 6 day weeks quite regularly.

  17. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I am an architect from India. Its very unfortunate that so many architects are unemployed but we must all remember that Architecture is a noble profession, we should be proud on our profession and maintain our dignity.

    So many time we get inspiration from nature in our design ideas. In recession also we should take inspiration from nature (organism) how to survive and I am sure you will get your answer.

    Time never stops, it will change and every effort counts.

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