It would be an understatement to say that architecture is a profession that closely mirrors economic conditions. In this practice, we’ve all heard the stories or felt the experiences of recessions that were quickly followed by projects put on hold, a decreased pipeline of new business, and the unfortunate impact of layoffs and furloughs. The cyclical nature of the design field, paired with the pressure to meet the spatial needs for a growing global population in a time where the value of land has continued to sky-rocket means that architecture is naturally subjected to economic impacts in a significant way. But some economic theories predict that instead of the economy dictating the ebbs and flows of the design profession, architecture might be one of the influences causing economic downturns.
Economy: The Latest Architecture and News
Three years ago, in the wake of the release of his book Theories and History of the Modern City ("Teorías e Historia de la Ciudad Contemporánea", 2016, Editorial Gustavo Gili), we sat down with the author, Carlos García Vázquez, to discuss this complex and "uncertain creature' that is the modern city, focusing on the three categories that define cities today: Metropolis, Megalopolis, and Metapolis.
Based on an analysis of those "who have traditionally led the way in the planning of spaces" (sociologists, historians, and architects), the book illustrates the social, economic, and political forces that, in service to their own agendas, drive the planning, transformation, exploitation, and development of cities. In 120 years, urban centers have transformed from places where "people died from the city" to bastions of personal development and economic prosperity; however, the question remains —have cities really triumphed?
"Yes", says García Vásquez, "but we have paid dearly for it."
As the world is slowly reopening, easing lockdown measures, everyone is adapting to new realities. Imposing drastic adjustments to our lives, the coronavirus has introduced a new “normal”, changing our perceptions and altering our priorities. Driven towards questioning and evaluating our environment, we are constantly reacting and anticipating a relatively unknown future.
A casual conversation between two editors at ArchDaily generated this collaborative piece that seeks to investigate the current trends, predict the future, and offer insights to everyone/everything related to the architectural field. Tackling the evolution of the profession, the firms, and the individuals, especially young adults and students, this article, produced by Christele Harrouk and Eric Baldwin, aims to reveal what is happening in the architecture scene.
( THE GLOBAL SCENARIO)
Our entire civilisation is facing one of our most challenging times since WWII.
The results caused by the COVID-19 outbreak are unimaginable and unpredictable yet, but we are already feeling the drastic effects. Richard Kozul-Wright, Director of the UNCTAD, estimates an impact that will cost the world economy around $1 trillion, expecting the worst scenario than the financial collapse in 2008.
( CHALLENGE )
Propose a visionary project that helps to revive the economy of a region, city or community affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a perfect harmony of architecture, economy, and environment, the competition aims to generate visionary ideas
Access to housing, both in the case of purchasing or renting, with any type of financing, is usually one of the most important economic investments in people's lives. It is natural to ask oneself what considerations are necessary in order to have a knowledge base before acting.
Amazon’s open call for bids for its new headquarters, HQ2, closed last month, but in the months leading up to the final decision in 2018, analysts will continue to flood the internet with detailed studies evaluating who they believe should be the winner. In other words, the mirror-mirror-on-the-wall game for cities is just starting to warm up.
Earlier, ArchDaily reported on the data-driven approach adopted by Moody’s Analytics which projected Austin, TX as the winner. But another study by IT education company Thinkful now points towards Washington DC as the city most likely to make the cut. So what makes Washington DC the fairest of them all? Read on to see how data science techniques helped analysts at Thinkful with this prediction, what kind of approach they adopted, and how it differed from that of Moody’s Analytics.
What do a lot of recent architecture college grads have in common besides their degree? Student loans and disillusionment (see point 1 in Megan Fowler’s 11 Things You Learn at Your First “Real” Architecture Job to understand what we mean by "disillusionment"). But with the emergence of the digital age and “side-hustle economy,” millennials are learning how to monetize their passions, and now 1 in 4 Americans are making money digitally. Side-hustling has become so popular that there is even a school for it. The difference between a side-hustle and a second job is that side-hustles aren’t just about giving yourself a raise. Your side-hustle is something you truly love to do, and would probably do anyway, but now you get to share it with the world and make a little extra cash in the process. So what side-hustle is right for you? Here is a list of side-hustles which suit the skillset of architects and designers.
Elected in 2001, over eight years in office Miami's former mayor Manny Diaz oversaw one of the most dramatic urban transformations in the United States' history. Diaz was therefore invited to offer the opening remarks to the second day of the 2016 Design Matters Conference, presented by the Association of Architecture Organizations, which is currently taking place in the city. In his speech delivered at the Miami Center for Art and Design, Diaz explains how he developed the "Miami 21" zoning code to leverage the power of architecture and urban planning, ultimately turning Miami from a subject of jokes into one of the United States' most successful and admired cities. Below is an edited version of this speech.
Ron asked me to explain how a lawyer with no experience in elective office and with no training whatsoever in architecture, urban planning or city design ends up with land use and Miami 21 as the signature project of his administration.
As part of their commitment to enriching the Arab society through identifying and resolving cultural and creative development issues in the region, Nuqat will be launching their 7th annual conference in Kuwait – themed ‘The Seventh Sense – Powering the Creative Economy.'
We talk about sustainability, livability, and land use to describe a project, but we often avoid the profitability, capital gains, and externalities that go along with them simply because we don’t know how to use the terms. Architecture doesn’t exist outside of the economy and in fact, how we build each building directly affects the economy of our cities.
As a profession, architecture acts as the mediator between different specialties, and it is very important to speak the official language of each of them. This article will help you easily understand some basic economic concepts that relate to architecture.
AAgora is a debate platform based at the Architectural Association, London, which aims to shed light on relevant architectural topics. These debates take the form of an open-table discussion which encourages the audience to participate at any time. AAgora's third debate will be "Pret A Habiter" - or, Ready to Inhabit - Towards Nomadic Homogeneity, in the city through the sharing economy and Airbnb.
A new study shows that timber buildings can be up to 10-15% cheaper to construct than traditional designs in several different building types. The study, “Commercial Building Costing Case Studies – Traditional Design versus Timber Project,” was led by Andrew Dunn, chief executive of the Timber Development Association (TDA) in Australia. Part of a seminar series touring Australia, the report contains detailed designs of four building types in both timber and conventional construction, with a quantity surveyor comparing cost estimates between them. See how timber compared to conventional methods after the break.
Ever since last year, in response to the publication of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the hot topic in the field of economics has been inequality. Piketty's book, which argues that if left unchecked wealth will be increasingly concentrated into the already wealthy end of society, many saw the book as evidence for progressive taxes on the wealthiest members of a society. However, according to The Economist a new critique of Piketty's work is making waves among economists. A paper by MIT graduate student Matthew Rognlie argues that, since the 1970s, the only form of capital that has demonstrably increased the wealth of the wealthy is housing. With this in mind, The Economist suggests that, instead of focusing on taxation, "policy-makers should deal with the planning regulations and NIMBYism that inhibit housebuilding." Read more about Rognlie's paper at The Economist, or (for the more adventurous) read the paper for yourself here.
In an effort to combat the economic conditions that have plunged one-fourth of its population into poverty, Egypt's ambitious development plan for a massive new capital city is soon to be underway. Roughly the size of New Cairo, the privately-funded city hopes to become the new administrative center, as well as a bustling metropolis of shopping, housing, and tourist destinations to generate economic activity. Plans were solidified at a foreign investment conference where the official project details were unveiled on March 13 in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Read on after the break for more on the $45 billion plan.
In a recent article for the Financial Times, Edwin Heathcote explores the 'Skyscraper Index', an informal term that suggests a correlation between the construction of a big company's ambitious headquarters and subsequent financial crisis: "Think of the Empire State Building opening into the Wall Street crash of 1929, the Twin Towers being completed as New York City was flirting with bankruptcy or the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur taking the mantle of the world’s tallest building and presaging the Asian financial crisis." Heathcote goes on to describe the latest generation of headquarters being constructed for our current, tech-oriented goliaths - like Apple's monolithic "donut", by Foster + Partners, and Facebook's Gehry-designed Menlo Park campus - and wonders: "if skyscrapers can tell us something about the temperature of an overheating economy, what do these groundscraping new HQs say?" Read the full article here.
Though most architecture firms have benefited from a steady upturn in the economy over the past few years, architect salaries remain low. According to U.S. Census Bureau, architecture firms have experienced a 11 percent increase in revenue from 2011 to 2012. However, as reported by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the average total compensation for architecture positions—including base salary, overtime, bonuses, and incentive compensation—has increased only slightly over 1 percent per year between 2011 and 2013. This is barely more than the average increase in compensation between 2008 and 2011 when the construction sector was still in steep decline.
The numbers are in and the American Institute of Architects’ November Architecture Billings Index (ABI) has revealed positive business conditions for all building sectors for the fourth consecutive month.
As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. Understanding this, the AIA is pleased to report that November has reached a five-year high with a score of 53.2, slightly up from 52.8 in October. Since August, the national billings index has continued to increased above 50.0 – the break-even point between contraction and growth – reflecting a steady rise in demand for design services. The West seems to be the only region in contraction, coming in at a score of 49.6.
Additionally, November also sees the Project Inquiry Index at 59.6, marking the 47th straight month in which inquiries into architectural services has been increasing.
“These are the strongest business conditions we have seen since the end of 2007 before the construction market collapse,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “The real question now is if the federal budget situation gets cleared up which will likely lead to the green lighting of numerous projects currently on hold. If we do end up going off the ‘fiscal cliff’ then we can expect a significant setback for the entire design and construction industry.”
View the ABI highlights in greater detail, after the break…
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.