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
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 that 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?
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 drives 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.
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 an 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 through 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.
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.
4. Job is constantly evolving
Architects are not artists (for those of you who disagree, please send comments directly to firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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 its 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.