One of the true tragedies of the architecture profession is that it instills in you expensive taste, but doesn’t give you the salary to acquire all those fine goods. The holiday season is the peak of this conundrum – how do you find the perfect gift for someone that lives up to your own lofty standards when buying a plane ticket home to see your family is already putting you in the red? One thing architects always seem to manage, however, is justifying that a cool new gadget or designed object isn’t just something we want, but something we need.
Murphy’s Law, right? The thing is, since technology moves so fast, chances are you’re using slow and/or outdated hardware to build and render your models. Of course, those software crashes always get you when a client needs to see your work. And yet, when you tell the bosses you need better hardware, or updated software, they often scoff and lecture you about the costs. Perhaps one day they’ll understand the struggle of the production staff, but it seems like for now, not so much. So, good luck at the office today, hopefully, everything will work.
Architects--if ever there was a profession that paid attention to details, this is it. Every building we walk in, we’re going to notice things. Every little thing. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall… we’ll find the good, the bad, the ugly, and the criminal. It can’t be helped. No matter how hard we might try, no matter how much we imbibe, we can’t just turn off being an architect. It's a part of who we are. Sometimes, it’s a blessing to be able to travel around and really appreciate the built environment, other times it most definitely a curse. When we go out with friends and family, it’s not uncommon to remark about things like the lack of accessibility, the bizarre choice of light fixtures, the exposed ductwork, and the location of the pull stations. You’ll correct them for using the wrong words for things we know as frieze, clerestory, and muntins.
People are impressed when you tell them you are an architect. Why shouldn’t they, after all? You share the same title as Frank Lloyd Wright, and that other Frank who builds all those crazy looking buildings. As most of us know from experience, our lives are not that dissimilar from most people living in relative anonymity. How did the architects’ reputation become so acclaimed, yet, so far from what most of us experience?
Getting new work is critical to an architecture firm’s success. Unfortunately, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to get new work with fees that are commensurate with the amount of time that the job would require, especially if you are in a small firm. To start, our clients don’t often value the services we provide, and we don’t help the situation by constantly lowering fees just to get the work. Sure, we can play the game of limiting the services provided, giving a long list of exclusions (with the hope of getting Additional Services later), and doing less drawing... we all do it. Not surprisingly, the product suffers, and this gives the client even more reason to devalue architectural services. Yes, we need the work, and we do what it takes—but to what end?
We all know that clients can be difficult to work with. But, doing a personal project for a boss… if you haven’t done it before, you’re really lucky. As much as you tell yourself it’s a great thing to have your boss trust you enough to do something for him or her, the stress is so much worse. Have you been there before?
Let’s face it, becoming a licensed architect is not for everyone, and is certainly not necessary to having a fulfilling career. Becoming a licensed architect is not easy. For many, it's not a decision; becoming licensed has always been the plan. For others, there are lots of factors involved that make pursuing licensure a difficult decision. It’s an important decision to make, and will affect your life, personally and professionally. Professional support for pursuing an architecture license may vary from firm to firm, but it is very important that everyone who wants to be licensed get some form of support from their employer. From the smallest firms to the largest, architecture as an industry has a responsibility to architects of tomorrow to do their part to achieve that ultimate professional goal of becoming an architect.
Ahh, the neverending struggle between architects and their plotters. We’ve all been there. And these problems always happen when there’s a looming deadline. Still, we’ll take it over going back to manual drafting, right?
When you declare you want to be an architect, no one tells you how long and difficult the process is. No one tells you that you’re going spend 4-7 years in school, and no one tells you that have to pass seven, or six--or however many exams NCARB says you have take--grueling exams that could take years to complete. Oh, let’s not forget the thousands of specific experience hours required to begin taking those exams (wait, did they change that, too?). No one told us, that’s for sure. Maybe that’s a good thing, because otherwise our webcomic, Architexts, would never have come to be. Laughter is the best medicine, after all, and we’re glad to have the opportunity to spread some laughter to our fellow architects.
You don’t get to pick your parents, and you don’t get to pick your project managers. If you’re lucky, you’ll work with a project manager who will help you learn the things that schools don’t teach. If you’re not lucky -- and based on the comments we get on our Facebook page and on our site, most of us aren’t -- all you will get is fodder for complaining about your job.
As students, we aspire to become architects that get to work on great design projects. The truth is, for most of us, we end up at firms that don’t quite meet those expectations. That is the experience of the characters in our webcomic, Architexts, and if it’s yours too, we’d love to hear from you for our new book, Architects, LOL.
The classroom and the office are the two main settings where we learn about the practice of architecture, yet both expect the other to fill in more than a few gaps. Maybe schools shouldn’t emphasize the “technical details” and instead focus on teaching how to design; or maybe a little technical knowledge would be great preparation for that first job out of school (where you won’t get to design much more than a straight line). No matter which ideology you subscribe to, there will always be a disconnect between the classroom and the office.
Since Zaha Hadid’s death two weeks ago, we’ve been thinking a lot about her legacy. Hadid’s accomplishments in architecture are impressive not only because of her innovative designs, but because she succeeded in a male-dominated profession, and undoubtedly experienced sexism along the way. In our webcomic, Architexts, we use humor to cope with various aspects and stereotypes of the architectural profession, including negative ones. With our forthcoming book, Architects, LOL, we hope to share the stories--your stories--that paint a more realistic picture of the profession, rather than an idealistic one that most of us can only dream of.
There is an ongoing battle between architects and our tools of the trade. Whether you use a 2D drafting program like AutoCAD, or a BIM program like Revit, you have experienced a full spectrum of frustration. Like many architectural firms, the office of Franklin + Newbury Architects, depicted in our webcomic Architexts, has been trying to transition to BIM for years, and that transition has translated into blood, sweat, tears, and expletives. Software woes and transitioning from 2D to BIM are just a couple of the many topics found in our body of comics.
We're happy to announce a new partnership with Architexts! In this first edition of their bi-monthly contributions, they let us know a little more about themselves.
Architexts is a webcomic about a fictitious architectural firm called Franklin + Newbury Architects, Inc. Our comics are largely based on real-life experiences, giving a tongue-in-cheek chronicle of what it’s really like to be an architect.