Architect – The best job in the world

Bob Borson —  January 24, 2012 — 25 Comments

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Happy Architect - Best Job in the World

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Architect: the “Best Job in the World” … for me.

What did you think I would say? Okay … if I am being honest

Lottery Winner: the “Best Job in the World.”

that’s not really a job but it’s definitely a title I would be happy to claim

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I woke up this morning and didn’t want to come to work. In fact, I was dreading it. There were going to be a lot of mundane tasks, none of which would be particularly fun or interesting. But things have to get done and since I work in a small office, many times I am the one who has to do them … but that’s not actually a bad thing, it keeps things from getting stale, stagnant and repetitive. No, the main reason I wasn’t looking forward to work today was because my to-do list didn’t include anything social. That’s really why I like my job – I like talking with people and making them happy that they are working with me on their project.

A while back, I wrote about choosing the right size firm – big or small. Depending on your personality type, your interests, and particular skill set, the right size office can make all the difference in the world. For me, small was way better because I like to do a bit of everything – but I am particularly fond of chatting with people. As I was sorting through the never-ending stream of emails I receive from sad architects and panicked architecture students, I thought I would take a minute and answer the question:

Why do I like being an architect and think it’s the best job in the world?

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Let’s get it started with –

1. Personal relationships with my clients

I generally work on residential projects and this allows for a personal connection that simply doesn’t exist on commercial or civic projects. The distinction might be based purely on the fact that residential projects are not developed for profit. When I work with a developer, the bottom line is really the client because that’s what driving the decision making process. Residential work is motivated by the individual who is paying for the work – it’s their money and the level of emotional/ personal involvement is proportional to that end. in other words, my clients care about the final product disproportionately with their hearts compared to their wallets.

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2. Opportunity to Teach (and that means “communicate”)

This can mean several things; for some, it’s a balance between their professional working lives and teaching at a institution of higher learning. For others like me, I have the ability to work with younger architectural interns at my office and help guide them along their process of becoming an architect with quality skills (at least I hope). Since residential practices often require each individual to wear several hats, interns in my office are given responsibility early and are frequently asked to demonstrate proficiency at a faster rate than what might be required at a larger office. This puts me in a position to  try and help the interns who work with me understand what they are being asked to do, rather than simply sketching it out and telling them to put it into cad. I enjoy this aspect of my job probably as much as any other and I have found out that I’m pretty good at it. The opportunity to teach people has helped me stay on my toes knowing that anyone could walk into my office and ask me “why?” and I’d better have an answer.

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3. Good for my Ego

I feel constant gratification from my clients for the work I do and for the time I spend on their projects. These people are paying me for my time but they know that I am just as invested in the success of the project as they are – and as a result, I feel appreciated. I speak with far too many people who either don’t like what they do or work their job for a paycheck to take this appreciation for granted. When I have visitors come in from out of town, I generally arrange for them to take a tour of some of my projects and the homeowners are always excited to show people their house. This goes on for years after the project has been completed. The homeowners always go on about how great their house is, how much everyone likes it, how important I was to the process … it’s a great feeling and seems to be fairly unique to our profession and more specifically to residential architects. I am friends with everyone one of my clients. Eventually, they aren’t my clients anymore, they are simply my friends.

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4. Job is constantly evolving

Architects are not artists (for those of you who disagree, please send comments directly to trashbin@whatever.com) but with a little bit of luck, we can get to be very artistic. Architects have to address new building technologies. building codes and ordinances, and there are constantly evolving materials and construction methods out there. We are also required as a profession to address the demands of the public at large when it comes to building performance, energy consumption, incorporating recycled materials, etc. On a good day, Architects can create new design concepts that push how modern day construction is executed – and as a result, architecture is one of the few professions that is never static.

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5. Experimentation is expected

Despite architecture having to contain building sciences and technology, the final esoteric product does not have a definitively right or wrong answer. Because no two architects will ever come up with the exact same solution given an identical set of parameters, there is a liberating sense that you were hired for the purpose of imparting your own personality on the project. We are expected to try new things, explore different materials, and incorporate emerging technologies into every project.

 

Despite having days when I really don’t feel like coming to work, I consider myself extremely lucky to do what I do for a living. Being an architect is rewarding in ways that I don’t think could be easily replicated in a different field of work. My heart goes out to anyone who is miserable in their job – if they are lucky enough to have one these days. If I find myself out of work, I’m not sure what I would do (other than staking out which bridge I am going to live under). It’s not my intention to tell people that being an architect doesn’t have it’s challenges; there are widely accepted concessions you might be forced to make – hours worked and low salary generally being the top two. The real objective is doing what you makes you happy and allows you to provide for your family in some measurable capacity. However, that’s easier said than done … but for me, I’m glad I made the decision to become an architect .

Good luck.

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  • Rai Ramirez

    Hi Bob currently on my third year, doing my Bachelors of Architecture at Boston Architectural College the BAC. I just came across your blog by clicking and searching around I honestly have to say it is extremely helpful and very straight forward and realistic. I’ve been reading for the past few days. And I definitely connect with you when you said something like ” you love Architecture because you’re a creative person and you simply like creating things”. That’s exactly the same reason why I picked
    Arch. Besides challenging I think is FUN!!!

    Please keep blogging your time invested is truly appreciated.

  • lauren

    Hi Bob,

    I just read your blog about why architecture is the best job in the world. I agree with you on many points, even though I do work for a large firm, however I firmly disagree about architects not qualifying as artists. It’s not esoteric to think that either. It’s one of the qualities that divides us from engineers. We think about proportion, materiality and it’s layers, light/shade/shadow, structural connections which are in parallel with the architectural expression. We also make beautiful drawings, which incorporate linework, page composition, etc. Now you may be chuckling to yourself about this, but it’s a rarity to see care for this level of communication in an engineer’s work. Drawings are as much art as they are a roadmap/set of instructions. I may worry about the envelope and waterproofing these days, but I will never turn my back on my foundation which is built from art, from a world where I was taught to see and express through my own lens.

  • Harshang Kale

    Ego rules an architect through out his life ..but most of them take it wrong and ruin relationships to satisfy their own ego..
    But apart from them i have learned one lesson in my five years of architecture and from my parents of course..then being really nice always helps you and others to grow in any means and being mean doesn’t help you in any way!!

    Sir you blog is always like a daily dose of inspiration ….
    keep blogging!! :)
    beautiful … and damn true!!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Harshang – glad I’m not wasting my time here :) (at least, not wasting all of it)

      • harshang kale

        hahaha …not at all ..i am learning alot from your blogs :)

  • chanchal

    i think your blog is awesome bob!!..

  • Shay. C

    Hi Bob, I just want to say how much I love your blog. I stubbled across it a while ago while at architecture school and have since been addicted to it. It is my dream to be an architect and it’s great to hear that one day the hard work will pay off. I had to quite college because of financial issues and have recently started a job as an architectural technician. I was getting nervous that I’d get comfortable and would never go back but reading your post reminded me of the reasons why I wanted to be an architect and I just want to say thank you so much !

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks for taking the time to say something – I really appreciate it. Hard work is its own reward but it pays unexpected dividends specifically in our profession.

      Best of luck!

  • Moayad Ammar

    Hi . i’ve just started my first year in college . i’ve wanted to be an architect for 4 years now and every time people ask my why did choose architecture i say ” i don’t know , it just feels right for me ”
    i just wanna say that you’ve inspierd me more and more to be an architect , and i’d like to ask you to give your advise ( even if it was small ) . and thank you very much !

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks for the kind words Moayad. Any advice I have to share you will find it somewhere on this site – either in posts I’ve already written or ones that I will write.

      Cheers,
      Bob

  • http://twitter.com/Splintergirl Amy Good

    …you forgot “And, I get to shoot rubberbands as an experiment.” :) have a good one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003632935378 Nidhi Sharma

    hi i m jst goin to start my studies in architecture. i want ur guidance

  • Architect Wannabe

    Hi…I’ve just discovered your blog and have read only few articles by now…but I like those few very very much… It is amazing how much you love your job…I’ve just finished my highschool and I want to study architecture because I feel the same passion for it as you do…and now I know that it never stops :D You really inspired me to try even more and never give up cause it would be worth it… Thank you… The best job in the world…yes, I think so too… ;)

  • craig

    Thanks, Bob! There was a time when “professions” were chosen because of a passion and commitment that had very little financial consideration but lots of satisfaction. Too many people have chosen professions because of prestige and earning potential only to become bitter when their dreams don’t materialize. All creativity should be it’s own reward first with a gratitude associated with being compensated second. If any person can provide life’s basic needs doing something that is hugely rewarding, well then, they are blessed indeed.

  • Casey

    These are exactly the things that have made me say “I love my job” on days when things felt right. I’m an intern right now, and there are days when I question what I am doing with my life (days when I am stuck doing mundane tasks or stressing over the next division of the ARE). But on the days when I get to be a part of the process, a face that people remember, and get to flex my problem-solving muscles? Those are the days that I am reminded why I love this field (for reasons which, strangely enough, differ greatly from why I chose this field in the first place–I had no idea what I was getting myself into that freshman year of college!).

    Thanks for reminding me of this on a day when I was feeling less than enthusiastic about my job.

    p.s. Just yesterday I was [once again] considering pursuing a career as a starving artist.

  • http://buildipedia.com/ Ryan Carpico

    Salient points Bob! I especially agree with #4 and #5. Architecture offers such a diverse range of career experiences and opportunities and it’s total up to the individual architect as to which paths to explore.

    I’ve always appreciated the path that allows me to move back and forth between the design process and the construction process. And the chance to swing a hammer and build something comes in handy on some of those days when the design process is bogged down by the mundane tasks.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      The ability to constantly move back and forth is why a small firm works so well for me. There is a lot you can do with an architectural degree besides toilet partition wall details. People sometimes forget that we went to college to learn how to think, not to do a particular task. 

      If you don’t like what you are doing, come up with something else

  • http://twitter.com/RMLAIA Robert M. Longo, AIA

    Well said Bob; this truly is a wonderful profession, and I too enjoy coming to work (wait for the qualifier) almost every day.  I think I’ve got you by a few years as I graduated architecture school 26 years ago. My firm @cornerstonearc will be celebrating our 25th anniversary later this year, and I still enjoy the work, still enjoy the challenges and still love working with (wait for the qualifier) most of my clients. So I think I’ll  stick with it for at least a “few” more years, unless of course my golf game gets MUCH better!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      congratulations on 25 years! That’s awesome. I imagine that having your own firm just makes that milestone that much sweeter.

      Cheers

  • Robin Rigby Fisher

    Well Said!  I am not an Architect – I am a Kitchen and Bath Designer, but I agree with everything you said.  I love reading your posts!  Thank you for a happy start to my day.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Robin! I hope you have a great week as well

  • http://twitter.com/babybites babybites

    Great post and it is so true that doing what fulfills you is one of the most important things you can factor into career path. If you are lucky, the salary will match your happiness, but one shouldn’t count on it. 

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      that’s the trick right? – finding happiness in the process rather than in the product

  • Anonymous

    Perfect, Bob.  Could not agree with you more.  Those days when you don’t want to go to work are the days that define the why of what you do.  It’s all about the relationships and the process.  The building is simply one result.  

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      that’s pretty much spot on. The building part is important, getting our designs built is the fruit of our labor, but the process should be the reward