The Second Studio Podcast: Architecture’s Mental Health & Burnout Problem

The Second Studio (formerly The Midnight Charette) is an explicit podcast about design, architecture, and the everyday. Hosted by Architects David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it features different creative professionals in unscripted conversations that allow for thoughtful takes and personal discussions.

A variety of subjects are covered with honesty and humor: some episodes are interviews, while others are tips for fellow designers, reviews of buildings and other projects, or casual explorations of everyday life and design. The Second Studio is also available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

This week David and Marina discuss mental health and burnout in architecture, covering how the issue is perceived by different generations, why looking to other colleagues and professions can be helpful but also not helpful, passion as a solution and problem, the inherent complexity of architecture, architects being undervalued, whether or not architecture school should change, the instability of a project-based practice, and the main reasons for poor mental health and burnout exist in architecture and how they can be addressed.

Highlights & Timestamps

Are mental health issues perceived differently by different generations? (03:28) 

How context can help define good mental health but also why context doesn’t matter. (11:22) 

It’s very easy to look at what everyone else is doing and say,”All of the successful architects do late hours. It’s a ‘hardcore’ (which is a nice way of saying ‘terrible’) work environment. I’m only doing 70 hours a week and he’s doing 80… so I’m ok.” If you’re thinking about these issues and you’re not sure whether or not something is right or wrong or something should change… it’s just common sense… if you think it’s not right, it’s probably not right. The biggest issue in the profession is people who believe something is not right don’t do anything about it because of the context. “Everyone else is also only getting paid $40,000 a year, so I’m ok. (13:20)

Is passion a solution or problem for burnout? (21:00) 

Architecture and architects being undervalued. (25:33)

How architectural school impacts mental health and burnout in the profession. Burnout in school. (31:56) 

I don’t think that radically changing the intensity of architecture school (not the toxicity of it) is a good thing and I don’t think it’s a key factor in improving the profession. […] Even if in the future everyone is paid what they should be, architecture will still take an immense amount of work and dedication over a long term and there’s going to be a clash [when students graduate from an eased education]. Graduates won’t be able to do it. I also think there’s a direct correlation between the intensity that a student must have and whether or not they will learn how to be a great designer and then go on to produce great architecture. If the intensity is not there in the school, in the school culture, and in the student, the student is not going to achieve great design. (34:36)

There should be classes that teach students how to manage their workloads because that’s half the battle, understanding that structure, especially when you’re doing everything on your own. […] That would actually really be something that would help the profession. As opposed to decreasing the intensity of school…don’t do that, just increase the maturity of students and their ability to think structurally and be organized. Have the intensity and that. If you have both you’re golden. If you have one or the other, it doesn’t work. (43:00)

Structuring work-life. (45:23) 

Being aware of burnout and managing heavy workloads. Is architecture for those who burnout easily? (54:10) 

Managing the inherent instability of a project-based profession. Creating a positive mental health environment for employees. (01:07:10) 

The unrealistic standard of perfection set by others. Setting one’s own goals. (01:28:26) 

Adjusting working hours and conclusions. (01:39:54) 

Check out The Second Studio Podcast's previous editions.

About this author
Cite: The Second Studio Podcast. "The Second Studio Podcast: Architecture’s Mental Health & Burnout Problem" 20 Mar 2022. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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