Dating an Architect

Bob Borson —  October 1, 2012 — 159 Comments

Perception versus reality is a topic I have covered a few times on this site. One aspect of that topic that I haven’t delved into is the perception of the architect. The general consensus is that architects are intelligent, honorable, stylish (e.g. wear a lot of black) creative types … the plus side of being an artist without the “starving” precursor.

Architecture is frequently chosen as the profession for characters in the movies and on TV for the simple reason that there is no downside to the character perception of an architect. They can be all the things you want your hero to be without the baggage that comes along with other vocations typically associated with highly intelligent people. You also can set your story however you want … meaning if your character is a doctor, it’s a medical show, lawyer … a legal drama, a cop, well, a cop show. Architects can do and be anything the writers of these shows want them to be. Even if Hollywood doesn’t really understand what we do, there is clearly a perception that architects are ethical and responsible and will endeavor to make the right decision to their own detriment.

While all those items might (or might not) be true, if you find yourself on the singles market and learn that your suitor is an architect, don’t be fooled by what you have learned on TV - there is a lot of other information about architects that you need to know. You can’t base your information off what you learn from Hollywood … be sensible, you need to include some information you find off the internet.

 

.Howard Roark in the Fountainhead

Here are some traits – some good and some bad – that almost every formally trained architect around the world share. In no particular order:

  • Do you need something glued? Architects can tell you when to use white glue vs. hot glue vs. rubber cement vs. epoxy. It’s not complicated but everybody gets it wrong.
  • Do you think you have an opinion? If you can’t “articulate” why you have said opinion it will be considered inferior. It will probably be considered inferior anyway but you have no chance if you can’t explain exactly why you have the opinion that you have.
  • Thinking about taking a trip (like to Hedonism)? If it isn’t somewhere architecturally significant or have some redeeming historical context … you probably won’t be going.
  • Architects don’t have as much money as you think they do … and what they do have is on the 10 year “Eames Chair and ottoman Savings Plan.” The flip side is that architects don’t spend money either. It’s not that they’re cheap, they are just saving their money until they can buy the exact thing that they want.
  • Architects don’t seem to love anything that actually exists. They might say that they really like something … but even then they will systematically point out all of its flaws.
  • Did you know that there are different shapes of X-Acto blades? Don’t feel bad … unless you build models, N O B O D Y  knows that. Architects will make sure that when you need the right X-Acto blade, you will have the right X-Acto blade.
  • The science fair and art projects of your future children will be amazing … (it just won’t be done by them.)
  • The likelihood that you will attend “Late Night at the Museum”, gallery openings, and photo exhibits is extremely high.
  • Ever thought about buying a new piece of furniture? Be prepared to never have new furniture ever again. Architects are okay having bookcases made out of 2×12′s and cinder blocks but they will not let a couch that has rounded arms, a dust ruffle or floral patterns in their house (‘cause that’s just crazy.)
  • Architects think they are handy when in fact, most are not. Just because they own a nice screw gun and understand what the contractor is saying does not necessarily translate into being able to do it. (Of course you won’t learn this lesson until after the cabinets have been pulled off the wall…). The few that are handy will take an extremely long time to complete a project because they are striving for perfection.
  • Architects are constantly learning new skills. As a group, they tend to want to learn by doing but since they are erudite, they will most likely read a book about it first.
  • According to a very scientific research study (conducted by me), a very high percentage of architects enjoy cooking. According to the that same study, an even higher percentage of architects hate washing dishes.
  • Be prepared for all your new friends to be other architects. Architects lose the ability to speak like regular people because in college, “archispeak” is drilled into their heads like waterboarding. Listen to an architect talk for an evening and I can guarantee that you will hear at least one of the following words:  “juxtaposition” “axis mundi” “clarity” “truncated” “uniformity” and “composition”.
  • Architects are very good at giving their opinion as if it were fact and will be so convincing that you will think they know something about everything. Do not be fooled, they learn to speak this way in architecture studio.
  • If it isn’t black, white or grey (but mostly black, let’s not kid ourselves) architects don’t know how to dress themselves. You might think that architect’s have a good sense of style, they don’t … it’s the same style and the rules as passed down from one generation of architects to the next. Architects will continue to wear black … at least until something darker comes out.
  • Any hope you had of remaining ignorant to unresolved plan geometries that create chaotic roof forms is lost.
  • Architects don’t have tremendous upper body strength. Or lower body strength.
  •  Architects have an unnatural relationship with their coffee. And if it isn’t in a particular paper cup from a particular coffee vendor, it will be out a the same mug. Every day.
So there you go, a little inside information on the character traits of most architects – man or woman. All things considered, you could probably do a lot worse. From what the research would indicate, the character traits for “Homeless Alcoholic Gambler” would  be worse.
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  • mitch foreman

    They left out fenestration. I like new furniture and I can dress well if I choose to. The rest is totes true!

  • ana

    Archispeak – you forgot “typology.”

  • Keith

    My wife who works for an architectural firm passed this on to me even though I’m a software engineer. I guess I should have been an architect since the points hit so close to home. The only real difference is I make more money.

  • Lady Day

    I thought you weren’t doing this…The science fair and art projects of your future children will be amazing … (it just won’t be done by them.)

  • blb

    Brilliantly true!

    I can only find two flaws with
    this article.

    1) Architects do not “date.”
    They marry schematically pending further programmatic information.

    2) “Thinking about taking a trip
    (like to Hedonism)? If it isn’t somewhere architecturally significant or have
    some redeeming historical context … you probably won’t be going.” Not entirely
    correct. Hedonism
    II is actually an architecturally significant destination in that it is a
    virtually untouched time capsule of the rapidly vanishing iconic
    Euromeximediterranian 1970’s hotel design – akin to the popular southern
    Californian Howard Johnson’s of the same time period. In fact the real reason
    Architects didn’t have fun there will not go is due to a) their general
    distaste for sitting surfaces covered in clear, liquiphobic industrial plastic
    requiring the unconditional use of the standard-issue, yet inadequately sized,
    11”x 18” polyester guest towel, and b) the unpredictability of significant
    numbers of appropriately proportioned, symmetrical nude body shapes – combined
    with the high percentage of people whose somewhat random “massing” results in
    an uncomfortable inability for the architect to visually ascertain the
    important architectural concepts of “design center of gravity” and
    “well-defined entrance” (too far?), not to mention the fact that most are
    stunningly unphased by a nearly uniform lack of understanding of the concept of
    “personal space.”

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

      well played – and hilarious

  • Sagar

    Your balance between sattire and reality is almost perfect. Well nothing is perfect for us architects isn’t it.
    Liked your writing.

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

      thanks – I appreciate the comment and the compliment – close to perfection (perfect would have included teleporting a bottle of scotch to my desk)

  • Anne C.

    Awesome list. Thank goodness that even though I am an architect, I don’t hit all of those items. I have friends who are in architect – architect relationships and these traits are even more pronounced. One variation on the all black-grey-white wardrobe is wearing colors, but only solids. (I try not to fall into that one, but I do!) And I’d agree with the commenter who mentioned time-management. You are an exception, but I am not. One of my best friends (who I met because I worked with her husband) started teaching my boyfriend about “architect time.” For example, if I say I’ll be home from work in an hour, it will more likely be three. I try and try to pad my time estimates, but I almost never get home when I thought I would. So, I’d add a line.
    - He or she will say they’ll be home at a certain time. Don’t take it personally if they don’t. It’s not you, it’s that elevation that didn’t come out quite right or that detail that just needed a little tweak.

  • Matt Sihvonen

    Terrific piece! Spot on! I woke up my wife while reading #17. Just a thought for #19:

    Architects in “design mode” develop unhealthy sleep schedules. Get used to the glow of a drafting lamp or computer screen at 3:00 am; some ideas cannot wait until the morning.

  • Susana Alanis

    This can also relate to most hipsters with art degrees that at some point worked in art museums or bike shops. In other words, not very unique of traits. ;)

  • Laura Soria

    Funny article, throughly enjoyed it! Took a couple bullet points to see the slight satirical slant, but I’d say that many of these are definitely inspired by real life examples. I can see a few of these qualities in my professors, definitely.

  • Муха

    I am sorry…aren’t most architects “homeless alcoholic gamblers”?

    • Laura Soria

      Considering the amount of testing and discipline needed to become a licensed architect (the only people legally allowed to call themselves “architect”) I can only assume that most architects are not, in fact, homeless alcoholic gamblers.

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

        I’m not saying that architects are homeless alcoholic gamblers, I’m saying that the traits of a homeless alcoholic gambler would be worse than those of an architect.

        • Kelly K

          No, architects aren’t homeless gamblers. That is what they become after when they are no longer allowed to sleep at the office.

    • myxa

      ps. I do not mean the above comment in a mean spirit, just referring to some statistics about architects that were passed around my archifriends in late 90′s… ;)

      • JimInChicago

        Architecture is a profession with a higher rate of alcoholism.

  • Rahn

    Bob. What kind of flame thrower are you using?

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

      You might need to elaborate Steve, I’m not following your comment.

  • Student

    I am a architecture student right now and I see my upper and lower body strength diminishing as I am sore from walking around the city with my crossbody bag and camera bag. Also, I am a colorful dresser but I am getting more attached to black leggings because of its comfort, so I bought three yesterday. I gravitate toward less complicated wardrobe pieces. And, Yes, I went to a late talk at Whitney yesterday.

  • Ann M

    An architect friend sent me this post after learning I (a writer) had become seriously involved with another architect. I showed it to my architect boyfriend and he found it very funny. I have to say he’s the first man I’ve known to be attentive to the cut of my clothing — I love shopping for clothes with him. And the perfectionist streak is familiar; I have it myself. All signs point to near-perfect compatibility. Question is, who’s going to do the dishes?

    • Caroline Branca

      While the boyfriend is out – preferably for a couple of days – have a plumber install a good dishwasher. Expect discussions about the “right” way to load it. Answer that if the dishes are clean it was loaded the right way.

      • Angie

        As an architect there is a ‘right way’ to load a dishwasher – “Oh gosh ….just let me do it, uugghhh useless. This is why I don’t let you do it. Now I have to empty and reload. Ahhh perfect!” ;)

      • Jaoanna

        Thats so true, My Architect husband, used to reload the dishwasher after l had load it.

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

          my wife – the one with the advanced degrees in mathematics – she reloads it after I load it. I thought I was good at visualizing the optimum layout and dish configuration but I think she has added some sort of “folding space – dark matter” algorithm to the process.

  • The Eclectic Architect

    Loved this post! I’m an architect and have to admit you described me with about 15/18 of your points! Except I rarely dress in black, for me it’s usually a color party!

  • Missy MC

    OMG! I love my architect man friend to death but he is slowly killing my persona… I’m now getting it.

  • Lee

    Hey Bob! Great post. I’m not sure if you answered this before, but where did you meet your wife? I’m in college and trying to meet someone outside of architecture (I find arch students have bad life balances, sadly).

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

      I met my wife on a trip I took to New Orleans when I was still in college. Freak chance meeting really … I just got really lucky

  • Holly George

    Stumbled upon your site Bob and had a good laugh – thanks! I’m not an architect but now I am curious to meet and date one. Good job not putting me off your ‘kind’ :p I’m now gonna test you on your first point above about glue: I have a pair of glass earrings and both glass pieces have fallen off from their posts. What glue do I use to re-attach these glass baubles to their metal posts?

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

      E6000 adhesive – it is a crafting glue made for this sort of thing. You can buy it at any Michaels store.

      Let me know how I did

      • LGT

        what kind of glass is it? Plexiglas? Regular? Nitrite?

        ahahahah just kidding :D

  • Robert

    I love cooking and hate washing dishes

  • Bill Reeves

    As a corollary to dating an architect, we make great jurors. Both sides of the table like us. He’s an architect, he’s smart or He’s an architect, I bet he smoked something in school to get that way . . . I have ended up on lots of trials. Yea!

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

      #win

  • Rek Yeknab Acman

    I used juxtapose in one meeting where screeding and drywall partitioning are concerned and everybody spaced out except for the woman Architect fronting me.

  • Sshilohm

    This is largely true, except I don’t like to cook, but I love to eat. Especially sushi, which usually has an acceptable aesthetic presentation (love the rectilinear plates!)

  • Sshilohm

    This is lar

  • John Prokop

    I have to say, Bob, you nailed me on many of these. I own 9 solid black t-shirts. I usually wear a grey jacket over them, and occasionally “color it up” with a pair of khakis. The “cooking vs. dishwashing” thing”? Totally true. Much of my furniture I’ve made myself from discarded construction materials. My favorite lamps I made out of scraps of metal studs. And despite having designed and managed the construction of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of buildings over the last 30 years, most folks are surprised how poor I am.

    • Rek Yeknab Acman

      I did several high end residences and company projects and I give them the same surprise-I took my young kids in the car drove around the city to each of my completed projects and showed them my work-daddy won’t be around for a long time but my works will..they’ll understand soon.

  • KBel4

    Very witty. Loved the part about wearing black. For meetings, when in doubt wear black…is my motto. This way I don’t upstage the presentation and it is easy to coordinate the “Team” look and you don’t even have to send out a memo. But I do have to admit I like to add a splash of color, usually my eye glasses and a scarf. :)

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

      all black with colored eyeglasses – bold move. I personally can’t pull off the scarf look, at least not when I’m indoors and it isn’t cold and windy.

  • NattyS

    don’t forget that there are different types of x-acto blade handles as well. I own at least 3 different types. Also a book obsession…but I don’t actually have time to look at them.

    well…i’m off to show this post to my husband so he can exclaim how absolutely true it all is…

  • Jerry Vanek

    Thanks for this article. Most of these are true, for me at least. My favorite one is: “The science fair and art projects of your future children will be amazing … (it just won’t be done by them.)” I don’t have kids, but when I do, I’d like to think that I won’t be one of those parents who interferes in their kid’s school projects. But, I’ve seen nine year-olds’ science fair projects. The lettering getting progressively squished in a downward slant as it nears the edge of the presentation board. Lower case letters in titles… Inconsistent color schemes… Glitter… I’m afraid I won’t be able to control myself.

    • Angie

      Symmetry is extremely important. Things have to line up, be square, coordinate, compliment – “Let me just look that over before you turn it in. Why hand written? Lets use a printer.”

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  • Cymone Speed

    Hahaha. Love this! Not my profession, but looks like I’m a true architect at heart! Well done.