Completing a degree in architecture can be a long and arduous process, but also wonderfully rewarding. Despite this, many freshly graduated architects find themselves unsure about where to begin, or deciding that they actually don’t want to be architects at all. Here is a list of 21 careers you can pursue with a degree in architecture, which may help some overcome the daunting task of beginning to think about and plan for the professional life that awaits.
Careers in Architecture
Architecture: the art or practice of designing and constructing buildings. Architects often argue over the actual definition of our discipline, but can never really escape the use of broad terms, coming from a fantastically broad education. It’s unsurprising then, that the task of figuring out what kind of architect you want to be is a daunting one. Below is a list of 7 branches of architecture for you to consider:
1. Landscape Architect
Designing outdoor landscapes, including infrastructure, public areas, agriculture and forestry is vital for constructing the webs that bind our urban and rural spaces, but also, and perhaps more importantly, it’s essential for responding to globalization and climate change. Landscape architects are involved in storm water management, environmental restoration, and recreational areas among other things. If you enjoy working with and in the natural environment, this could be the path for you.
2. Urban Planner
As a result of a rapidly growing percentage of our population moving into urban areas, the conditions of urbanism are constantly in a state of flux. The dynamic state of the urban environment makes it an exciting path to take as an architect, covering everything from economic and demographic changes, to sustainable development. It’s an essential responsibility within our profession, but a challenging one; it requires adaptability and problem solving on a large scale.
3. Restoration Architect
Our societies’ heritage and history as presented through architecture are not only beautiful glimpses into the past, but also crucial to understanding our culture as a discipline. Conservation and restoration of buildings is undeniably a challenge; it is never possible to please everyone. The media often targets the act of restoration as a "heritage massacre," in spite of the often very beautiful solutions.
4. Research Architect
With the current wave of digital design and constant advancement of digital tools, our methods of representation and expression are changing dramatically. Information technology has had a profound impact upon architecture that is far from over. These constant improvements are in part made possible by the exciting research being done by architects, not necessarily consisting of designing buildings, but focusing more on how these new tools can enhance our work.
5. Lighting Architect
Light has a profound impact on our mental and physical health, as anyone living at high latitudes can empathize with. Delving into the architecture of lighting entails improving the quality of our experiences, our health and well-being, and the sustainability of not only the natural environment, but also smaller spaces such as our work environments.
6. Political Architect
Some argue that architecture is by nature political, however being active in the political decision of a city or country is a different story. Architecture is more than just creating beautiful objects; the discipline has a value in organizing society. Architecture firm Terroir, for example, has worked with the Burnie City Council as well as with the Parramatta City Council in Australia, to argue for a certain structure for the city, to predict what may happen, and to design a set of criteria for the evolution of the city. It is a case of architecture influencing politics, instead of the other way around.
7. Extreme Architect
With the current development of climate change, extreme weather conditions such as floods, heat waves and hurricanes are predicted to increase. Existing extreme environments, such as deserts, are likely to expand due to phenomena such as desertification. Being an architect who specializes in extreme weather conditions is therefore not only an incredibly fascinating way to tackle the subject, but also invaluable for us to adapt to the future of our planet.
Careers in Art and Design
If, upon graduating, you realize that architecture is in fact not for you, design and art might be. Architecture already is a form of design (or maybe it’s the other way around), making it easier to create direct links between your education as an architect, and your profession as an artist or designer. Another alternative is to combine two disciplines, such as graphic design and architecture. Perhaps your passion is to make it easier for architects to communicate through graphics?
Although Olafur Eliasson did not study architecture, he works with many architects at Studio Olafur Eliasson, exemplifying how harmonious and imperative the relationship between space and art is. The spatial reasoning and visualization skills one gains from an education in architecture lends themselves perfectly to installation art, sculpture and spatial experiences, without the necessity for functionality.
9. Industrial Designer
Several architecture firms have branched into industrial design, due to their close creative ties. However, industrial design focuses on smaller scale objects of mass production, as opposed to large-scale buildings designed for a specific context. If the prospect of designing something enormous, permanent, and landscape changing sounds all too intimidating, industrial design is a great, smaller scaled alternative.
10. Furniture Designer
Even more so than industrial design, furniture design can be seen as architecture’s little sister. Countless famous architects have made significant contributions to furniture design: Charles and Ray Eames, Alvar Aalto and Arne Jacobsen, among others. Contemporary architects such as Zaha Hadid Architects are following suit, proving that the two can even be done simultaneously.
11. Textile Designer
Designing textiles requires sensitivity for color, tactility, construction, patterns and forms, all of which are developed during any student’s years at architecture school. The relationship between "skin" and structure is in some ways even more literal than in a building, as the two merge together. High fashion is also reminiscent of architecture in many ways, adopting the geometric and sculptural constructions of contemporary buildings.
12. Graphic Designer
Graphic design is the way in which we take in our world and identify it. It is invaluable when it comes to communication. It can also be so aesthetically pleasing that one can hardly resist becoming a graphic designer. Taking a short course in graphic design to supplement a degree in architecture can open up a range of possibilities to still work within the field, but take charge of tasks that are more suited to your interests in communication.
13. Video Game Designer
The near-limitless boundaries that come with designing a virtual world may be one of the most fun things a newly graduated architect could think of doing with their education. Constructing the architecture of a video game is a way of letting your imagination roam free, but could also add more depth to your spatial reasoning.
Architecture photography is becoming increasingly popular, possibly due to the beautiful geometry that can emerge by constraining something within a lens. Photography concerns itself more with the aesthetic, with the object and the composition in that unique moment, within that specific frame. It concerns itself with the fleeting atmosphere, more than with the permanent organization of people and spaces. Yet it still consists of composition, colour, environment and experiences.
15. Production Designer
Although a set or a stage are far smaller platforms than a virtual planet, designing theater and film sets allows for just as much creative flow. It lifts the pressure of traditional spatial design and expression, allowing for experiences that may be more evocative, sensuous, and story-driven, while still utilizing all the knowledge and skills one gains from an education in architecture: time pressures, conceptual environments and collaborative creativity.
Careers Outside of Design
If you find yourself scrolling through this list and shaking your head at any mention of architecture, art or design, perhaps this final list is for you. It covers 6 careers outside of the stereotypical fields of design, mostly within the human sciences as architecture is inherently directed towards the human experience. Drawing the essence of this from your architectural education and injecting it into another discipline may even make you a stronger candidate in the professional sphere.
Young teachers at architecture schools are becoming more common, and if you’re looking for more time to learn about the field before making a decision on whether or not you want to remain in it, taking up a year or two of teaching could be an ideal way to do so. Teaching is a two way street, especially at such a young age, which provides you with an excellent method to learn from your students and reflect on your view of architecture. Here are some tips on how to succeed as a young professor.
In the past, architecture was a gentleman’s profession, taken up as a philanthropic endeavour as opposed to an economic one. In our present day, women have begun to get a strong hold on the profession, but thankfully the philanthropic ideal has not died out. Contemporary architecture has a necessary focus on sustainability: environmental, social, psychological, and economic. The knowledge and awareness of these ideals can be converted into other types of philanthropy, if that’s what interests you. Founding a sustainable foundation towards a humanitarian aim is never a waste of time.
As mentioned previously, architecture and politics are in many ways inherently tied together. The knowledge one gains of people, and the way they interact with their environment, the way they are organized, what makes the human body and psyche feel comfortable; all of these skills contribute hugely to making a good politician. In fact, in Finland, Anders Adlercreutz, a current first-term Member of Parliament, is educated as an architect and practiced as one for many years before turning to politics, while in Britain Richard Rogers serves in the House of Lords alongside running his practice.
Similar to philanthropy, conservation of the environment is becoming a focal point within architecture. Despite many efforts, our planet is still heading down a path leading to disaster when it comes to our natural surroundings. Using your knowledge of spatial organization to develop a method of environmental conservation is not only intellectually stimulating, but also vitally important for our society.
Becoming a writer or journalist can be a great way to utilize an architectural education; we learn to articulate ourselves using (mostly) descriptive language and rhetoric, in order to communicate our complex projects to teachers and critics. Turning that into writing, whether fictional or not, is another way of constructing another world and an experience for others. Despite the print being two-dimensional, the stories definitely aren’t.
Problem solving, creative thinking and the art of persuasion are three skills architects and entrepreneurs have in common that you can use to your advantage. Your experience with abstract concepts and human interaction can make you a stronger competitor with an alternative way of thinking.
The list above is of course incomplete, as the careers mentioned here can be combined in many ways, and other, unmentioned vocations can be brought to the table to provide virtually infinite possibilities. As German educator Kurt Hahn said, "there is more in us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps, for the rest of our lives, we will be unwilling to settle for less." Don’t forget that there is a sea of possibilities out there.