Dating an Architect

October 1, 2012 — 172 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.

Happily married,

Bob-AIA scale figure
Print Friendly

even better stuff from Life of an Architect

  • Tim Prevost

    Unlike Doris, I laughed so hard reading this article. Nice job.

    • I’m glad you took this article for what it was supposed to be – humourous. I don’t think Doris (or her embarrassed architect boyfriend) will be back here anytime soon.

      • I feel that Doris might be the kind of person that reads an article on The Onion and takes it very, very seriously indeed…

  • Pingback: Penktadienio sutrumpinimui | Archido()

  • Pingback: 34 | Jenny Roets()

  • Doris

    This is the stupidest thing I have ever read. I suppose you’re so high on coffee or your head is so far up your rear end that you can’t see reality. You are an arrogant toolbox.

    I have been dating an architect for 3 years, he is also very embarrassed by this article. These are traits that you like to think you have, as you are trying to convince yourselves that you have a personality, when in reality Architecture is all you have. Sad life. Fact. Time to go wash some dishes, my insignificant non-architectural mind loves to do dishes…

    • Carter

      No body likes doing dishes. That’s a fact. He never implies that non-architects have insignificant minds or anything that could be construed to the fact. A good amount of this article can be relatable to the vast majority of architects. However a handful of these sound like he was talking about himself and making an assumption that most others are the same as well. Never make uncertain assumptions; never assume, always confirm. When you start making assumptions that’s when start be wrong.

      Not being strong, can’t dress, are not all architects. That just means you’re not active enough. And you can’t dress. I know a lot of architects that have a pretty good sense of style, some eclectic styles and some just simply have bad attire choices.

      So Doris. It sounds like you are angry for some reason but I’m sure that there was no ill intent and that this article was meant in good fun and to be humorous. Not to be taken 100% literal. Some are screwed thoughts and opinions but the overall point is there that most architects can relate to. ;0)

    • Silas

      Lol, what? This article is for fun…

      • Everyone is entitled to their opinion – at least that’s what I tell myself.


    • Jerry

      Is this Bob’s ex?

      • C’mon Jerry!

        • Jerry Vanek

          It couldn’t have been just about the dishes. That kind of anger had to come from a dark, dark place.

    • blcsquared


    • Sam Marcionek

      I find it hilarious that you are so mad about this post. You obviously missed the point.

    • Hehe, wow. Getting angry is ok Doris, we’re all entitled to a rant. It’s more productive if you fight back with humour and creativity, of course…

    • hwylo

      may i suggest a splenectomy?

  • Aaron

    The second to the last trait does not apply to me..Besides architecture, bodybuilding is my other passion.. 🙂

  • Carter

    Personally, I think every architect who isn’t a handy man or woman, isn’t as good of an architect as they should be. If you can draw and tell the contractor how to construct a detail, but wouldn’t be able to do it your self in the real world if you had the right tools just means you don’t truly understand what you are drawing/designing. If you can’t do it, don’t try to draw it!

    • david

      “…everyone thinks he is handy” 😉

  • Steve

    Once again a well written article, albeit a little too close to home. Especially the last point about the coffee mug.

    And because I posses the expert knowledge talked about in the first point I’ve been able to use said mug everyday. Since 2005.

    • I knew it! We are an extremely predictable group despite all efforts to the contrary … but that doesn’t make it bad

  • Katie

    Wow! You have me pegged pretty well.(especially the part about not doing dishes and being obsessed with my exacto knife) You could add to the list that our children are the best dressed kids at school because I am obsessed with making (and designing) their clothes. My husband is going to LOVE this!

  • Canadese

    The French have a great expression for our condition; ‘Deformation professional’, no translation necessary. You become what you do.

  • MEP

    This is a great post. I am a graduate architecture student, and I definitely (unfortunately) prove many of these to be true. I have an opinion about almost everything, but don’t grill me too closely because you’ll probably realize I don’t know enough about it to actually back up my own opinion! I’m extremely addicted to coffee – my ex-husband (yes, ex) said I was a “coffee snob”, so your comment about our unnatural relationship with the beverage is spot-on. I love to learn new things about almost anything, really, and most people who meet me think I’m the next Martha Stewart, but you’re right: I’ve probably just read a book about how to do it. It doesn’t mean I’ve actually accomplished ever doing it! And lastly, I’m an amazing cook, but more specifically, a baker. Something about constructing something beautiful and tasty, and the requirement to be precise fulfills my anal-retentive need for perfection. Thank you for the post – I’m sorry I’m just now seeing it, but I enjoyed it no less!

  • davidmh

    As an architect I can honestly state that most architects I have met professionally and socially seem to wear their profession as a mask or as an extra limb that they believe they will die without. Try take it off,, divorce your “self” from your profession and you may find the “you” underneath it all. You will find it may help you be, yes, a better architect. The architect is defined by the person, not vice versa.

  • Charlie Burris

    Many years ago a girlfriend complained that out of the 100’s of photo taken on a trip, there were no people usually. I pointed out one she was in and her comeback was “yeah, a shot from behind because I happened to be walking in front of you”. Guilty!

  • NoIdontworkforRAMSA

    Architects assume that every other architect’s significant other is also an architect. This tends to be the result of working 14 hour days and seeing no one besides other architects, so when they return to the outside world, their sense of reality is completely skewed.

    architect: So are you an architect to?

    me: Nope. You know every person I’ve met at this firm has asked me that same question. First words out of their mouth after introduction. Why is that?

    architect: Oh don’t worry. We’re so bored of only thinking, speaking, and doing architecture that we’re enticed by what people from the outside world actually do. It’s exotic.

  • mike

    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. – VERY TRUE-…HAHAHA! 🙂

  • Pingback: Day 76: Dating Dancers « 4 0 2()

  • tc

    Also, we tend to like the houses better before the drywall goes on. All that structural honesty.

  • L M Brockway

    I would add this to the list: (adapted from the X-Acto blade item)
    Do you know difference between every type of ink pen? Don’t feel bad … unless you draw constantly, N O B O D Y knows that. Architects will make sure that when you need a pen, you will know what type of pen you should use.

    • Messy Vitality

      And a ballpoint pen is N E V E R the correct choice.

  • Anotherdamnarchitect

    Most architect’s are awful spellers and worse writers. Most only read picture books. Most architects need to get a life. Most are anal retentive, perfectionists with personality disorders most of the time. The good ones don’t appear to be architects at all on the surface.

    • Carter

      hmmm…if you can’t write, you are not an architect. Architects have to write A L L T H E T I M E! If you are an architect who can’t write, this means you are just starting out an WILL learn to write or you are at the top and have someone else type/edit what you had written or sat next to them telling them what to write.

  • You forgot, “when walking along together, be prepared to stop mid-conversation for your architect to tap, touch, or inspect the design or construction of EVERYTHING.”

  • eegoings

    who cares about grammar and punctuality, i punctuation. i have a totally unrelated question: how do u, bob, find the time to be an architect, dad, husband, and maintain a blog and a business (on the blog site)? i#d like to know, cos either u r a genius or i am an idiot.

    • I suppose based on how you phrased the question, that I am a genius. The alternative doesn’t bode well for you

  • nigelf

    when traveling like most architects do the ABC’s but architects families mean Another Bloody Church>

  • MMAndamon

    Great post! Definitely recognise majority of these traits!

  • Pingback: New Blog Discovery – Thank you Carolyn and Ben | The Biking Architect()

  • Pingback: My son and his Physics projects. | The DART Column()

  • Yoon Cha

    I can attest to the black clothing. Visited a firm for a college admissions alumni interview. Not only was my interviewer in all-black, but so was her husband, also an architect. Did I mention that this was a Sunday? Although I did hear weekends don’t mean much to architects 😛

  • Guest

    I can attest to the black clothing. Visited a firm for a college admissions alumni interview. Not only was my interviewer in all-black, but so was her husband, also an architect. Did I mention that this was a Sunday?

  • Kenny

    I’m married to a female architect, she just sent this to me and and I’m amazed that 80% of this is true.

    • “Amazed?”

      c’mon, save amazed for 95%

  • Scott

    How about incapable of communicating effectively without a pen and paper.

    • Kat

      I totally just did this. I stopped half way through my sentence to my co-worker and said, “I need to draw!”

  • Stephen

    These stereotypes are very dated. Maybe it’s a generational thing; but most architects I know are characteristically more progressive and motivated than this article renders them to be.

    • all I can say is that I write what I notice – with the exception of the wearing black, most of these seem to be spot on (that’s how the list was generated.)

      There are always exceptions to the rule but I don’t think this list is poorly assembled or paints an altogether inaccurate portrait.

      • I’m 28 years old, and have been an architect in the UK for 2 years: maybe we’re behind the times across the pond, but to my mind these ‘stereotypes’ are absolutely timeless*, being, as they are, 95% in line with my personality. Great post Bob, I can’t stop laughing (in between faint pangs of melancholy of course)

        *Presenting this particular opinion as fact makes it fact by definition… A circular argument in my favour, if you will.

  • once-an-architecture-student

    “architect’s” can also have very bad grammar. no offense to you. love your stuff. =]

  • rochelle

    I see a lot of myself in this article…..except I’m not such a good cook!

  • KC writer

    I’m surprised correcting people who use “cement” and “concrete” interchangably in conversation didn’t make the list. It is as big of a pet peeve to architects as the mis use of “there, they’re & their.” Funny post though!

  • Will C.

    You could also add:
    Any crossstitched item, if not immediatly boxed and put in storage, will be hung in the most faraway, dark, and obscure corner of the house.
    a curious thought…does anyone know of an architect living with/married to a toy collector, such as star wars memorablia or clown dolls. I dont believe it is possible-an architect worth their salt would squash those collecting dreams in the early stages–but if there is such a thing, I would love to hear some conversations about placement/display.

    • architectrunnerguy

      Interestingly, I’m an architect and I collect toy soldiers. Most are in a display case smack dab in the center of the main living room wall. 100’s from all historical periods and scales. Even a few have been known to grace the shelves of various workplaces.

    • Bw

      I know plenty of collector-type architects. The collections are usually small and quirky in taste and not driven by what’s popular

    • Miss Pooslie

      my husband is an architect and anytime i like something that is “merely” decorative he asks me what its PURPOSE is! I simply roll my eyes and buy it anyways! 🙂

  • JSLA

    This is fantastic….and could be, might be, ok it is, applicable to some graphic designers as well.

  • Geoffrey Butler

    I resemble some of those remarks….or is it resent? Anyway architects are darned handy and tend to try to do a lot of thing we are not capable of. I do a lot of work around my house for example and usually leave a trail of blood. For that reason, an architect could never commit a crime because we have a tendency to leave our DNA everywhere (and it is not DNA from sex).

  • “Any hope you had of remaining ignorant to unresolved plan geometries that create chaotic roof forms is lost.” ………especially if you happen to be said architect’s structural engineer!

  • Brendan

    Very interesting but you consistently misuse the apostrophe. Architects is plural. Architect’s is possessive. Architects’ is plural possessive.

    • Yes, despite knowing the rules, I frequently make the apostrophe error (and it drives my wife crazy!!)

      I should probably proof-read these things before publishing … right?

      • Kat

        I do believe in a past post you said you do review them, but just don’t care…some of you errors do make me cringe, however.

        • I would like to see someone else write these sorts of posts and not have some errors in them. The comments on my mistakes make me ill and I’m not sure what purpose they serve. I don’t want to rain down on you since you might just be the final straw but jeezus – enough already.

          • Rob

            Seriously people? as long as we can understand his posts easily (which we can) who cares about grammar and punctuation in an informal blog?

          • I thought the post was about architects. Somehow it seems as though it changed to be about your grammar and punctuation, how did that happen?? (Oops, I used two question marks!)
            This post was so funny and so true I couldn’t help but laugh as I read it. I have been working in an architecture firm for a year but related to so many of the points made! Thanks for the insight!

          • Ceci Pipe

            God is in the detail.

      • Hey we’re Architecture majors not English majors

      • JimInChicago

        I have what I call “Architect’s Dyslexia.” It’s not really dyslexia at all, but I think it’s at least how some of us proofread and look at the written page:

        “The left is flush, there’s enough kerning (white space) and “Justify” is good because there'”ragged right” unless I have a purpose of drawing one’s eye to a side of the page for emphasis, and there’s not a widow nor an orphan (unless it’s with deliberate intent and symbolism). The typeface is appropriate to the topic at hand without being distracting (unless, again there’s a purpose to that distraction); and, well, the page has an overall good look to it that’s balanced and easy to read. So I’m done proofreading.”

        Yeah, except for I actually didn’t check the spelling and grammar that much at all! Lots of typos!

  • entrepoid

    A friend observed once: ” you know, architects only date other architects”. It does seem to me to be true often enough to be noticeable. I’ve dated more than one other architect. I think it’s at least partly because of the hours- only other architects will put up with/understand the working hours. Also, somehow the movie architect is always the designer, never the guy doing waterproofing details or writing specifications.

    • you got that right

    • Architect married to Dr

      no they also date doctors (UK anyway) – same hours and length of training in university and the drs can fund their ‘projects’ and chairs

  • “endeavor to make the right decision to their own detriment.” How true!! I proved it today 🙁

    • try not to keep record, you’ll enjoy your weekends more

  • AnActualArhitect

    Specializes in modern design…hahahaha

  • MEL99

    You are awesome!! Where does your wife work? What does she do??

    • My wife would probably appreciate some higher level of anonymity than I provide her on this site … but I will say she is not an architect.

  • Pretty much sums up my husband now and the way he was when we dated, which was during his architecture undergrad! Hilarious.

  • Craig

    Wearing black? Check. Grey is part of “The Summer Wardrobe.”

    • I keep white on the list as it is part of my Summer wardrobe (it’s too hot in the Texas summers to wear black)

  • I had to check to see if Jody wrote this, especially when I got to the bottom bit about coffee. Very fun post. Love the science behind it!

    • although I personally don’t drink coffee, I have my own vices about drinking particular drinks and the vessels with which I do so…

      See how terrible that last sentence was? That’s how you know Jody didn’t write this – besides, he’s way more angsty than I am

  • Tyler Adams


    • of course you are … but of what is the real question (but don’t actually answer it here, we try to be a family friendly environment)

  • “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.” : I’m convinced it’s also because of the cool-looking props – models, rolls of drawings, etc.

    “The science fair and art projects of your future children will be amazing … (it just won’t be done by them.)”: When I printed out a 24″ x 36″ photo on our plotter of a raccoon for my 5th-grader to diagram for a school project, I said to my husband, “There’s a lot I wish we could afford to do for him, but at least we can help him put together a hell of a presentation.”

    • too funny! My daughter is only in the third grade but I have already been tapped to design some graphics for her class (and 1 awesome lemonade stand)

  • Other than wearing Black frequently and having little talkative socializing language, Architects have lowest rate in making on time for a date. Be assured the Architect will be late for the Dinner too, but on time for Consultancy meetings.
    If you are outgoing, most likely your Architect friend will accompany you in 1 out of 10 outings. You are tooooo beautiful the Architect friend has ‘fear’ and little time for you!

    • That’s something where I don’t fit the mold. I am overly punctual for all things (and I do mean all.) I think it drives my wife crazy but I can’t tell, there are so many possibilities.

  • “If it isn’t black”
    My wife is so glad that I’m influenced by Bob Stern, and don’t have to wear THE UNIFORM.

    • I’m starting to think that black is the uniform because it makes people look slimmer than they really are… but maybe that’s just me.

      • True… sort of… wonder who voted you down! Bob is the owner of this site!

      • :)

        The original reason for wearing black was because architects were drafting with pencil. So when you were erasing or wiping your hands down it would never appear on the clothes. But nowadays is not true for everyone.

      • Kat

        I learned to not wear so much black. It always fades and then you look like you haven’t bought new clothes in 20 years.

      • James

        Architects wear black because if people were furniture, we’d be the Barcelona chair.

      • an.architect

        it just makes dressing easier. if everything in your wardrobe is black, white, and grey… you get the most options with the fewest amounts of clothes… so you can be more particular with what you buy. (see: saving money for the perfect investments). you can dress up/down with the correct use of accessories

    • Bp

      I wouldn’t go around telling people that. Bob stern? Psssh

  • Besides the proper use of glue and building knowledge, I can safely say that the rest of the descriptions fit me perfectly… a little bit too perfectly… but I’m not an architect. Besides being a big fan of black/white/grey clothing, I mix in brown every once in a while! Doctor, what are your thoughts? :~}

    • mixing in brown is probably safe (although you won’t win any Pritzker’s as a result. Your call…)

      • Perhaps that can be balanced out with the requisite dark-rimmed glasses.

  • architectrunnerguy

    Architects tend to like photography. But you won’t be in any of the photos. No worry however, neither will anyone else.

    • Grace

      That made me laugh so hard.

      My fiance either takes pictures of buildings or me when he’s got his camera. 70% of the pictures will be of my ass.

      • San

        Ha isn’t that good? My gf never wants me to be in any of her “architectural” photos….

        • architectrunnerguy

          Our respected moderator is pushing the envelope here. No people yet but he did put his dog in one. That’s gotta be “outside the box” thinking.

        • rhett

          We will put you in there for scale.

    • Dan

      Agreed. Our trip to Rome included over 200 pictures of doors and knobs…f-ing DOORS AND KNOBS!!

      • We went to DisneyWorld with our 3 sons, and most of the pictures my husband took went into an album he calls “The Textures of Disney World” … It was filled with pictures of all the different textures and materials he could find! Haha!!

    • qtn

      yeahh,,thats y their picture folders are filled with in mine.. =D

    • ever so true!!

    • So true!