Architects and Hobbies

Bob Borson —  May 28, 2012 — 53 Comments

Architects don’t have hobbies, at least most of the ones I know don’t have one. I haven’t spent the time to do any real research, just basing this on what I know and from personal experience.

So why don’t architects have hobbies? Inquiring minds like mine want to know.

The “hobbies” that most architects participate in can hardly be called true hobbies, they are more extensions of what they do for a living. I like to take pictures, I like to travel, etc., etc. but those are somewhat job related activities. I don’t just take pictures, I take pictures of buildings … boooor-ringggg. Sure I like it and these are unpaid activities that I engage in on my own time but really? Those aren’t hobbies, not like sky-diving or stock car racing.

What does it take to get something qualified as a hobby? Does there have to be a disconnect with what you do for a living? Does it have to be a frivolous use of your time?

According to Merriam-Webster, a hobby is simply a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.

That sounds like sleep and watching TV to me, which if I stop and think about it, I would like to pursuit those activities a little more than I currently am able to do.

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Bob Borson welding

A couple of weekends ago, I spent my Saturday morning learning how to weld. I’m not sure that I would actually say I learned how to weld other than I was shown how to weld. Within a few minutes of showing up, I had a GMAW – Gas Metal Arc Welder – in my hands and I was welding sh*t together. It was a lot of fun and I thought, could this be a hobby? I don’t actually need to know how to weld – there isn’t a MacGyver like scenario where I could avert some disaster if I only knew how to weld two pieces of plate steel together – so it definitely falls into the frivolous category. However, I can’t say that it was particularly relaxing … the opportunity to electrocute yourself exists and it wasn’t particularly comfortable wearing heavy clothing in a closed-in garage during a Texas summer.

So why did I do it? Pretty simple really, I always thought welding was cool and I wanted to learn how to do it. Call it an intellectual pursuit if you want, and despite the potential to damage myself, I enjoyed it immensely.

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Bob in welding mask

Welding material

professional welding

Bob Borson Dallas architect welding

Scott Taylor natural welder

I wouldn’t expect anyone to recognize the welder in the camouflage pants and full yellow apron up above but that’s frequent Life of an Architect contributor Scott Taylor. He came along with me to this welding class and despite the fact that he had all new, immaculately clean gear on, Scott is a natural welder and put the rest of us to shame. Scott picked up a small TIG welder and aforementioned gear for Christmas this last year and while he hasn’t welded anything yet, I’m sure all his friends can expect to find some metal bookends in their very near future.

But back to the original point and question – why don’t architects have hobbies? I used to bar-b-que until I killed my smoker (another story for a different day) but other than that  – pffftt – nothing. Even this blog started off as a hobby but I certainly don’t consider it one now. It’s like writing 7th grade “What I did this summer” essay’s 3 time a week for 2 years.

I think we all need to have some sort of hobby – some sort of distraction from our daily grind, an activity that is pursued just for pleasure or amusement. That has to be good for a person, I would imagine that there is evidence that it would probably extend your life … and that sounds like a very good reason to find and actually participate in a hobby.

Like I said before, I need a hobby and most likely, so do you.

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  • Kevin

    When freshman-level Architecture courses proved condescendingly dull, I pursued other majors, figuring that Architecture could remain a hobby as it had been when since I was 10 years old. After a few years in an interesting and rewarding job, but in a career in which those factors were insufficient to motivate advancement, I returned to my calling. For years I pursued a career in architecture and nothing else. Then, a few years ago, I picked up motorcycling. Not just a motorcycle to take out on sunny weekend afternoons, but touring, skills classes, track days, etc., around 8,000 miles/year just for fun. Oh, yes! Architects can have hobbies that have NOTHING to do with their work.

  • Justin

    Still a college student and i’m going into my junior year this Fall; in Italy. Hobby wise…uhh…working out urban theory in my head, planning my parents retirement home, imagining the revival of practical classical architecture (instead of these weird shaped buildings…).
    On the brighter side, during THIS summer i’ve decided to get in better shape by working out at the local gym! I no longer weigh 120lbs.

  • SCO

    I do ballet. And i love do something besides architecture. I,m afraid of being JUST an architect.

  • claude

    hobbies?
    last jannuary I (we) bought a house with a large garden, or more apt to say an old derelict house with an old derelict garden. the idea was so that I could relax in the garden instead of sitting in front of my laptop or killing myself in rugby matches which was a ‘hobby’ i started some 4 yrs ago and which consumed much of my free time… and bones.but again i got injured had to stop to recover when work grew over me again like a poisonous ivy. anyway back to my now old house…
    yes now i am faced with a derelit house and garden….and loads of work to be done…
    so my spare time is now more work.
    fun, not!

    Claude,
    Malta, Europe.

  • erin92

    I’m currently in college, and I’d say it’s my hobbies that keep me sane through the roughest parts of the year. As strange as the juxtaposition is, I am part of my university’s dance crew…don’t worry I look more like an architecture student than a hip hop dancer. :)

  • Dylan Fuller

    I’m just starting out as an architect, can’t even legally say that yet. But I have been a rock climber since high school, and consider it an integral part of my life, even if it just means getting to the gym in the rainy season. I think a lot of your observation may be judged by the context; Dallas has a lot less opportunity for outdoor activity, whereas here in Seattle the potential is huge and it shows in the population.

    I recently attended a really cool Pecha Kucha event titled “alter ego,” where designers and others in the construction industry shared their side lives.

  • carisplay

    So, it seems to me that architects generally have “extra-architectural” interests, but by some perverse nature of our business, manage to drag them all into the profession in one way or another… like I thought it would be fun to try some origami – how could that be work? Well, I bought the book that was folding for designers… couldn’t help it… then I saw a documentary on the development of origami – and found people that gave up everything to pursue it as “art”, which really seemed a lot like turning it into what we do for work.

    Maybe the trick is to do architecture like it is a hobby – i.e. just enjoy it. The poop will hit the fan with or without your anxiety… ;o)

  • http://www.architangent.com Brinn Miracle

    My theory is that architects don’t have ‘hobbies’ because we’re mostly type A, obsessive perfectionists who can’t relax no matter what we do because we’re too busy noticing flaws and figuring out how to fix them. Painting? Fun until you realize the shade of green just isn’t right. Playing instruments? Relaxing until you find yourself practicing that 4th bar ten times to get it ‘just right’. Sports? I must win. Anything artsy? My mind wanders back to the design project I’m working on. All in all, I like it that my ‘hobbies’ are all inter-related and I enjoy the profession enough to want to do it in my spare time, too.Hobbies are whatever you enjoy doing in your free time, relaxed or not :)

    • Kristin

      So true, unfortunately ;-)

    • Scott

      So true Brinn. You just described my personality to a “T.” I do garden during the fair weather months (then spend the winter months planning the next season’s garden) and I do play golf. But what I’ve found with both is that they are simply physical diversions to occupy my body while my brain continues to process the latest design project I’m work on.

  • Richard

    I organize my mechanical pencils & pens for pleasure….is that considered a hobby, or an illness?

    • claude

      illness

  • mbevivino

    So what you’re saying is that religiously reading your blog doesn’t count as a hobby… Shoot.

  • KatieBoBatie

    I took a stained glass class about a year ago and I loved every. second. of. it.

    Designing and building something without having to stare at a computer screen for months? Fun.

    Only worrying about what *I* thought of the design? Awesome.

    Designing and building something where I didn’t have to worry about building codes, ADA, fire safety, etc.? Priceless!

    • architectrunnerguy

      With you latter three thoughts in mind, I spent a few years building birdhouses. These where actually detailed miniature buildings that provided me an outlet regarding all three of your ideas. Tenants always left the place a mess however!

    • Justin.

      Have you seen the Murano glass from Venice? It’s absolutly beautiful! I got a vase for a newly wed couple I know.

  • http://www.facebook.com/IrieMon Steve May

    Fishing is my hobby, and I don’t get enough time at that.

  • Gordon

    I have to say I have a few hobbies, although I’m not a licensed architect yet. Maybe that’s the difference. My wife and I are huge Disney fanatics and got hooked into Disney pin trading. But I think that is just a new manifestation of a previous hobby I had of Boy Scout Patch & Pin Trading.

    And although welding is pretty nice, I went with the old welding method. Another Boy Scout related hobby of mine of Blacksmithing. Hot steel and a large hammer. The Venturing group I’m a leader for has their own forge. So the youth members and a number of adults (me included) pound on hot steel for a few hours once a month. Great stress relief. Old City Park in Dallas offers blacksmithing classes over the summer. I would challenge you to take a class or two.

  • Cyra DuQuella

    As a person whose work is so intermeshed with life, I would be hard pressed to select a hobby. Defined by relaxation, I could choose watering my garden, reading a vintage mystery, envisioning life in our woods. But I’m thinking those wouldn’t qualify as a hobby for most people. Maybe when you are blessed to be able to do what you are passionate about as your ‘job’, a hobby isn’t necessary. Irregardless ~relaxation is necessary. In my world, that is creativity that doesn’t have a deadline!!

  • Erik Jens

    Bob,
    Great post. Welding seems so basic from the observers side of things, but knowing a couple of really good TIG and MIG welders, there is a ton of info to know about this trade.
    Let me suggest chickens. I know, a departure from the welding, but a couple of chickens in the backyard coop is like mind candy. And not one of those pricey high $ things they sell that you wrote about a while back. Mine is built with my kids in a weekend (bonus time with kids and building stuff), and the chickens think it’s the Biltmore (a lot of assuming going on here, they didn’t tell me this). And you’re right, chickens will never pencil out dollar-wise, but you can’t get more mindless entertainment than from flightless birds.
    Thanks for all the efforts you make here, and I would say you’ve proven yourself in 7th grade, it’s time to move up!

  • http://twitter.com/archy_type Cormac Phalen

    I know this is a parental default comment – BUT “If” it is as simple as Merriam-Webster definition that “a hobby is simply a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation”. Then I think you’re fine, enjoying the family time for you, me and many other architects engage it is what is most enjoyable and for me what I look forward to it. We rarely spend time in the house sitting around, we are out and about, so our hobby spent day-tripping with the family finding and exploring new experiences and adventures.

    Sure, it could be argued that “family time” may not be something that provides
    something tangible when done like many hobbies (my college years were spent
    rebuilding old British sports cars) but I think you can argue it does, it provides memories, enrichment and even education for not only yourself but for your family which is what any parent can hope for. So for me, “family time” not necessarily a hobby per se’ because that would trivialize the time I spend with them BUT if I were to define it as simple as Webster did then yes, if a hobby is the time spend with family is time spent away from my occupation doing something I enjoy, find enriching, rewarding and even relaxing.

    And when my kids are old enough I think they’ll enjoy doing some of the more “tangible” things like rebuilding old cars and building furniture…

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

      you are absolutely correct – but rebuilding old cars sounds more like a hobby that could occupy your time when you are done with your job – both as an architect and as a responsible parent who teaches their children how to be functioning responsible people.

      I’m thinking that a hobby needs to be for you without consideration of benefit to others (although they would if say your hobby was cooking or gardening).

  • craig

    My hobby is growing chillies. But im not an Architect, just a graduate!

  • Mark E. Johnson

    Many years ago I was asked whether my photography (I’m not an architect – sorry, now the secret’s out) was a vocation or an avocation and I suspect your stereotypically-envisioned architect has the same answer. This of us who do what we love as our profession may not need a hobby as we derive enough joy from it.

    Of course, I compete in time-speed-distance road rallies (algebra on wheels) as a hobby, but not as often as I’d like to.

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

      Mark,

      My Dad used to compete in time-speed-distance rallies as well (are you also an engineer?)

      I do get a lot of pleasure from my closely related hobby-like activities. As I am getting older, I can’t help but think if I were to win the lottery or retire (as if) what would I do?

      I still don’t have an answer for that question.

  • http://www.liveoakarchitecture.com/ Garth Russo

    Was this a formal welding class, or was this a buddy of yours that knew how to weld and was teaching you and Scott? I’ve been talking about taking a welding class for years and my wife is getting sick of all the talk and no action (actually she’s dreading the sudden drop in our saving’s account once I’ve taken a class and decide I need all kinds of expensive tools). I’ve looked at the community college offerings, but that has yet to work with my schedule, and it looks like it might be more directed towards those wanting to go into the trade (which, if things get any worse, maybe I’ll need to do…but not planning on it now). So….share the welding class information if it is something that the rest of us shmoes can attend. Oh and thanks for the post…next time talk more about the welding, so you don’t get so much outrage about the generalization.

    • Jwkathol

      With regards to buying tools and welding equipment, there may be some co-op work spaces in your area that you can just rent by the hour/day/etc. Functional welding–tacking stuff together, repairs, etc. doesnt get too messy but sculptural stuff requires lots of grinding and polishing which gets pretty messy for the average garage anyway.

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

        I didn’t even get to talk about grinding and polishing! That’s when it gets really fun!

  • Sharmila

    I think the generalization in this post is quite patronizing and unfair. Either that or you don’t know enough architects (knowing architects this simply cannot be the case. The ones thing we do is know other architects)
    I love cooking. I write a food blog. I like gardening. I enjoy reading the classics. Do I find to do all of this all the time? No, I don’t, but they are my hobbies and I spend time immersed in them when I can. My husband is an architect. He loves photography, portraits and landscapes are his favourites, not buildings, which he photographs too. He also loves playing the guitar and gardening. I have friends, also architects, who love to paint, ride their bikes on mountain roads, play other musical instruments, make jewelry, write poetry, go hiking, travel to far-flung places.
    I argue that architects have hobbies as much as anyone in any other profession. Whether or not you get the time to indulge depends on your life situation. Are you forging your career? Do you have children to raise? These things are important but they take time and there are only so many hours in a day.
    Or maybe me and the ones I know are a unique microcosm, the exception (but since that cross section of folk keeps changing, that cannot be true either). Either way, let me tell you that here in the Bay area and other geographical locations of my social circle, there are loads of architects with hobbies. Yes, practising architects.

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

      I don’t know about the patronizing part – I think that’s a bit out of bounds but you aren’t all together wrong about the rest. The clarification part I should have added is that most of the architects I know (and I know a lot) don’t actually have a hobby that they get to actively participate in. Sure, you could argue that that’s their decision but most of the activities I hear about are so closely related to the practice of architecture that it doesn’t seem to be far enough removed to be simply a pleasurable pursuit.

      Many of the things I would like to do I can’t because most of my spare time is taken up with my family (definitely not a hobby) or writing for this site (which one could successfully argue is no longer a hobby either).

      Thanks for adding your voice to the conversation, I am glad to have your counterpoint here.

      Cheers,
      Bob

      • Sharmila

        You’re right, patronizing was out of bounds. I read this when I was short on time, and rushed to comment while I could, therby missing the last bit. In light of a second read and your last paragraph, it wasn’t a word I should have used.
        It’s also worth noting that while hobbies are for relaxation, they take work, well, unless you are sleeping on the couch or watching TV as a hobby. Even reading a book requires your brain to be engaged. Most adults are too tired to care, but that can’t be specific to architects, just anybody living a busy professional and personal life. Hobbies are worth it though. They exercise parts of your brain that don’t get exercised as part of your professional life, no matter how creative it is or how much you love what you do. No one said one only has to love one thing to do in their life. A hobby can teach you lateral thinking, new ways to see old things. It also provides an off-switch and helps one recharge, something that architects can find difficult to do.
        Since you agree, I tentatively suggest you should meet new architects to add to the ones you know, all of us out there with crazy good hobbies. Maybe we could start an architects and their hobbies group. :)

  • ddroth

    You’re right. It’s been driving me nuts thinking I just need a hobby…. BUT WHAT???
    I feel so much better knowing it’s not just me.

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

      you figure something out, let me know

    • kandbdesignpro

      Funny, I keep telling my husband he needs a hobby! (he’s not an architect), but I am a K&B designer and feel as Bob does: I love taking pics, but I’m usually taking design/architectural stuff cause I love it! It IS hard to find a good hobby that one can afford, both timewise and financially.

  • http://twitter.com/chattanoogaarch Ed Garbee

    Backpacking has always been my escape. Nothing like a weekend in the wilderness to get away from the office. I also do a lot of road cycling. A good ride during the afternoon helps me to clear my mind and be more focused on design challenges.

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

      Ed,

      I was thinking about getting into hiking and backpacking. Now that my daughter is a little bit older, that seems to be a possibility now. (I just need to get her on board with that idea)

      Thanks for sharing

  • TALV58

    My problem is I have too many hobbies and not enough time to do them.

  • jwkathol

    Based on my experience and observations, many architects/designers are still deeply entrenched in a kind of “Renaissance Man/Woman” way of life, which by definition, means that we all strive to become well-versed in almost every aspect of Arts, Sciences, etc. that makes it pretty tough to have a “hobby” since just about everything in life can be justified as an “art” or “science” therefore even the most frivolous of activites can still be considered work or career related. Except running, cycling, or other recreational sports…unless of course you are obsessed about the design of running shoes, or decide to build your own bike, then you’re back to Michelangelo mode again!

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

      Yes – a great many of the things I discount as not qualifying as hobbies would actually be a hobby for most people. So often, the “hobby” is so closely related to what I do for a living, it doesn’t feel like I am doing it for pleasure, it’s more like an item listed as a skill set on my resume.

  • Enlightened

    By the time most people become established architects it’s time to retire. I think they don’t have hobbies due to the fact they are obsessive compulsive – thus too busy plotting the details of endless imaginary scenarios to have time for a real hobby. That or I think they are secretly machines and need dosages of human behavior.

  • BMHorizon

    Most of us don’t have spare time. At least not so many.
    I like wargaming – I can reset my mind after phones, mails, nerves etc.

    • architectrunnerguy

      I like wargaming too (ok all gaming for that matter). As a matter of fact that’s how another wargaming architect friend of mine and myself came up with the “Board Game Playhouse”, one of the finalists. Interestingly, we exchanged an SU file for a while and when it came time to finalize it, I went over to his office on a Saturday and after we finished it what did we do?? We took over the conference room and played a wargame of course!!!

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

      what do you mean – wargaming? Like the board game Risk?

      • Jwkathol

        Or is it like booting up the Apple II and challenging the WOPR to a game of tic-tax-toe?

        • BMHorizon

          I dont understand WOPR.
          War Operation Plan Response?

          • Jwkathol

            It was a reference to the classic 80s movie “Wargames”…where a Defense computer compares nuclear war to tic tac toe.

      • architectrunnerguy

        While I’ve played a lot of Risk, the games I play are WWII or American Civil War based (many out there on all eras past and future but I like those two periods) and can get pretty detailed. They can range from operational/strategic like World in Flames (WWII, whole war) or Civil War to tactical like Squad Leader (WWII where the entire game might be for a block in Stalingrad). Mostly computer based now but face to face every so often which I miss.

      • BMHorizon

        No, I was thinking about miniatures, terrain modelling in scale rather then boardgames. For example Flames Of War (WWII) or our national poliish game “Fire and Sword” (XVII century battles)

  • architectrunnerguy

    Great post Bob.
    A real hobby should have nothing to do with your job. I like to run, which at times is not all that relaxing!! In a more benign mode I like carpentry. Did a built in window seat last year, and just last week finished a 15′ long pergola over the front walk coming into my house. Probably will start a moongate and fence for it soon although fabricating the moongates four foot diameter circular curve will be a tad daunting.
    Doug

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

      that does sound like a project beyond the weekend warrior level, you need to send me some pictures so I can be envious at the proper level

  • rich

    Since most architects do not retire they don’t need the training that hobbies provide. LOL!

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

      I know – that is what I’m worried about. What happens if I win the lottery?

      Probably still go to work … although I might be my only client! :)

      • Solo Galura

        I’ve ran that scenario in my head many times. And yes I would be my only client.