Is the Field of Architecture Experiencing a “Meltdown” or is it just Evolving?

Butaro Hospital © MASS Design Group

Many of you may have probably noticed Scott Timberg’s article “The Architecture Meltdown” (Salon, February 4, 2012) circling the internet. The gloomy article discusses the unknowing future and possible demise of the architectural profession – the “glamour profession of the creative class”. Timberg describes struggling professionals that are either unemployed or working full-time at intern wages within a profession that is largely focused on the 1 percent.

There is no doubt that many architects and recent graduates are struggling. Architecture succeeded with the economy and crashed with it as well. With statistics revealing the highest unemployment rates among those with bachelor’s degrees in architecture and articles flooding the internet with titles “Want a Job? Go to College, and Don’t Major in Architecture” (New York Times, January 5th, 2012), there is not doubt that people are scared and unsure of where the profession is heading. Meanwhile, the (AIA) is cheering for a “2.1 percent rise in spending this year for non-residential construction projects”, a bit of optimism many are grasping onto for hope. However, we are headed somewhere. As Timberg states, “People will always need houses, cities and nations will always need schools and libraries and civic buildings, and trendy restaurants will need redesigns. Architecture will never die completely.”

Please continue reading to see Thomas Fisher’s response to Scott Timberg.

Today, Thomas Fisher, University of Minnesota’s Dean at the College of Design, published his response to Timberg in an article titled, “Architecture for the Other 99%” (MetropolisMag, February 8, 2012). He acknowledges Timberg’s ultimate question, “Where does architecture go from here?” and offers his answer, believing Timberg only covers a fraction of the story.

Fisher optimistically states, “Non-traditional job opportunities for architects have never been better”, believing the shift from architecture’s focus on the 1% to the other 99% has led to the rise of “public-interest design”. A new form of non-profit practice is evolving, forming partnerships with NGOs, universities, foundations, or government agencies, such as Project H Design, Architecture for Humanity and MASS Design Group. The emergence of public-heath architecture has caused Mayo Clinic, the Allina Hospitals and Clinics, and other medical systems to hire architecture graduates to design “not their facilities, but their services.”

Fisher adds, “For-profit design-thinking firms have also thrived throughout the recession by focusing on strategy and innovation, rather than on delivering a pre-ordained product, like a building. IDEO epitomizes that trend.” He believes there is a large demand for “design-thinking” within a non-traditional area of opportunity for architects that has hardly been tapped into.

Creativity is a valued skill and essential for innovation. He believes an education in architecture and design is the best way to acquire these skills. In conclusion, Fisher states, “There remains so much work for architects to do in the world that we should see the decline of traditional jobs not as a “meltdown” of architecture, but as the beginning of its rebirth.”

Please share your thoughts with us on these two interesting perspectives. Click on the links above to view the complete articles.

Reference: Salon, MetropolisMag

*Check out the article featuring the Butaro Hospital by MASS Design Group, seen in the image above.

About this author
Cite: Karissa Rosenfield. "Is the Field of Architecture Experiencing a “Meltdown” or is it just Evolving?" 08 Feb 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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