Top Ten Reasons to be an Architect

February 22, 2010 — 189 Comments

Top 10 Reasons to be an Architect

I have seen a lot of lists recently that have reasons why not to be an architect so I thought I would come up with a list of reasons why you should be an architect. To make things interesting, I am only allowing myself 30 minutes to write this entry so hopefully this limitation will force my own reasons to the surface.

1. It’s a lifestyle, not a job.
Architects typically tend to think about architecture all the time, I know I do. Not just the big ‘A’ type of buildings or projects, but every little thing from every where I go. I go somewhere and start looking at materials, form, massing, lighting, etc. If I take a trip somewhere, I start by planning it around the buildings I want to visit. Probably 90% of all the books I buy (not including children’s titles) are about architecture – I even put them on my Christmas list.

2. People respect architects.
Even if they don’t really understand what we do, there is a perception that architects are ethical and responsible and will endeavor to make the right decision to our own detriment. It’s part of the reason that ‘architect’ is chosen so often as the vocation for title characters in movie and TV roles. Architects aren’t generally viewed as driven by financial rewards like doctors or as scurrilous as lawyers (can be).

3. Job is constantly evolving.
Architects are not artists – we have to address building technology and programming. There are constantly evolving materials and construction methods out there and we are required as a profession to address the demands of the public at large (building performance, energy consumption, incorporating recycled materials, etc.). Architects create new design concepts that push how modern day construction is executed. Architecture is one of the few professions that is never static.

4. Artistic freedom and personal expression.
As an architect, we are given certain project parameters that help guide the direction of our projects. We are then given the freedom to pursue the artistic embodiment of those parameters. 10 architects with the same client and the same project parameters will provide 10 different solutions. Every time.

5. You can be your own boss.
You can be your own firm of one and still be a viable service provider on almost any size project. You can enter contests and win commissions for major projects by yourself – I can’t think of another vocation that can provide similar latitudes. I have also seen a team of 3 people design and prepare construction documents on a mall over 1,000,000 square feet.

6. There are tangible (and sometimes euphoric) results.
Anyone who has ever seen a building that they worked get built knows exactly what I am talking about. I am still excited to watch one of my projects getting built – it’s like having your own laboratory where you can experiment and refine things that you consider to be important and worthwhile. It ties into the artistic freedom listed in #4 but architects generally have a sense of ownership on every project they work.

7. We can positively impact peoples lives.
It is rewarding to develop a personal relationship with your client, particularly when you know that the process will yield a more fruitful end product. By understanding the process, our clients appreciate the product. By appreciating the product, they are acknowledging the role it plays.

8. 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 are here 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.

9. Longevity of Career.
You can practice the profession of architecture for as long as you want – you’ll always be an architect even when it isn’t your job anymore. Most architects don’t really start to become good until later in life – I’m talking in their 50’s. I imagine that you have to come to some sort of understanding as to who you are as an individual before you can start to be consistent with imparting your imprint onto a building.

10. Incredible variety of options within the profession.
Unlike other professions, you graduate with a degree in architecture without having to know what type of architecture you are going to focus on. This is really great because when you graduate, you don’t know enough about the possibilities to know what you want to do. You can float between big and little firms, the role of project architect, designer, or management. You can work on building types from different market sectors like hospitality, residential, civic, retail, etc. and will still be an architect. Your degree will have a marketable value beyond the time of your immediate graduation.

Bonus. We can wear ridiculous eye wear and get away with it.
People expect architects to be a little bit nerd mixed with creative artist. This conflict of known social paradigms allows generous liberties to be taken with your personal billboard (but you have to earn it).



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  • Simon Heng

    i was software engineer, and worked as architecture intern in a arch firm for past one year.

    Below are what i like :
    – I like rendering. I feel excited working with colours and shapes.
    – I like to see the final build product.
    – I enjoyed make things feel better, looks nicer.
    – I like to think what makes me feel good toward the building, or what makes me feel bad towards the building. and enjoy to figure out better solution.
    – I happy to convince client, the process in guiding them to realise what they like and need.
    – i find it meaningful to shape the look of the city for the country.
    – I find it meaningful to build good houses for the poor. make sure no jerry house is built.

    Below are what I dislike:
    – the drawing is revised many times and getting ugly to the extend you don’t dare to tell people you are the designer.
    – the drawing/ design being rejected without a valid reason. they can’t justify why they don’t like it. You need to spend another night to propose another solution simply because they don’t like it, but without telling which part they don’t like it.
    – Nasty client treat you like a slave, shouted and scolded at you even though you did nothing wrong.
    – no tIme for family, no girl fren, as working overtime is very common in this industry.

    Im hesitating if i should proceed my career in this industry.
    what do you think ?

  • Michele Grace Hottel

    I think both “top ten lists” are funny in their own ways, lol!!!

    • and most of the comments would apply to any profession. When I originally wrote these posts, I thought they were so unique to the architectural experience. Almost immediately after they were written, I thought to myself … this could be any job.

      • Michele Grace Hottel

        very true, except there are a few jobs that i can think of that i won’t mention here, that probably don’t get, “i always wanted to be an _______”.

        • Michele Grace Hottel

          and i’m pretty sure they all make more money than i do…

  • G

    Not entirely sure how I got to this site, maybe it was the hippies vs architects thing – then this.

    I’m an architect with 25 years experience and have run my own office for more than half that time. Architecture encompasses a much broader body of knowledge than most people comprehend. the degree is probably the best formal education available in creative thinking and problem solving.

    You learn a great deal about a very small part of the job (design) in architecture school then you learn the more practical part during the next…(22 years and counting).

    For those of you that want some training to see if you will be a good architect – I got nothing. Personally, I worked construction during the summers to learn how buildings function, then I was a bartender at night to figure out how people functioned.

    It’s a great profession. You aren’t stuck behind a desk or out in the field full time.There’s not a week that I don’t design, lay out a site, detail or specify something, review a technical submittal or visit a construction site. At this point I spend as much time managing people and making presentations to clients, cities, lenders, etc.
    There are fewer “designer” positions and less money associated with “design” than there is with the more technical portion of the job (i.e. design development, documentation and administration). So, if you want more job security and opportunities, then learn to put a building together. When it’s all boiled down our job is designing what the owner wants and communicating that design to the contractor through construction documents.
    Oh yeah, really good “designers” design buildings within budget, so they don’t have to redesign it.

    • David Burgett

      Excellent and helpful comments!

  • Danyelia Gardener

    Hi, Bob i am a huge fan of your’s. i am trying to figure out if architecture will truly suit me. I am only fifteen but have plenty of experience with the drawing, math and hands on workshop. I’m not quite sure if i’ll be able to handle the real work when it comes. But, i guess i have time to make this life changing decision.

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  • Shalini Shalz

    hi am a student of architecture and i would really like to join as an intern in a firm in my holidays…so how can i do that? is there a procedure or by simply asking?

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  • marie

    Hello sir! I am from philippines anyways, im in 10th grade now and I will take up stem that is in line with the course I will take which is Architecture. My question sir is what will be my preparations as of now? should read more about arch, start practicing sketching like those perspectives, etc… Would you also give us some tips being an architect about healthy lifestyles inspite of having difficulty engaging sleeping hours and describe the aura or the environment while having your job..

    • nelvin

      Unsolicited advice kid. Make reading a hobby, its a big plus for the later stages of college and even till practice in any profession. As for drawing and sketches, you’ll have classes about that, I think you’ll just pick up techniques faster when you have some drawing background. As for lack of sleep, procrastination and sudden deadlines are some of the reasons we lose time for it, best to start doing your part early on than setting it aside for later. Good luck and have fun kid.

  • Mia

    I’m an architecture student and I notice how I am not as creative as the others, I grew up always making sure I dont spend too much because we dont have ‘much’ so whenever I do my plans I always think of a budget limit, which sucks because as a student we are given free reigns to design what we want. I feel like a frugal Chinese whenever I’m designing a building. Its no surprise that I am in love with the tiny home living concept, it is something that I am good at, designing with limited space but unfortunately my exterior designs are not up to par.

  • Does an architecture has good job prospect in future? It seems like an successful architect needs to build something that unique, if no, then one will be disqualified or low paid or difficult to secure a job.

  • maxx

    i want to become an architect as well as a musician and a sportsperson too is it possible ? 🙁

    • Jules

      No. You gonna have to forget about sleeping if you wanna achieve everything to the full potential

  • Gabriella.P.

    I want to know that what are the main subjects in which an architect should be perfect?

  • Gabriella.P.

    Hi Bob! I want to become an architect in future but i am just 15 and in about two weeks i have my final exams for my 10th the problem is that i recently had a mock test and i didn’t score well at all in my exams so i am very upset as i worked hard and still didn’t score in my exams and because i didn’t score well in my exams i won’t get science stream which means i can’t become an architect and also can’t fulfill my as well as my parents dream!!! So if you could just inspire me maybe I will be able to do better in my finals!!! plz if you could just……..

  • arq, miryam vera

    I love my profession, it’s versatile, there are many opportunities to improve the lives of the less privileged society …, played an important role in the urban development of our peoples paper .. we have the ability to make positive changes in society, where else we need to remember that a greater knowledge greatest humility … being an architect is to have an independent, creative, positive living, full of colors, materials, somo partakers of god … he created the wonders of nature,, and we create the wonders of the methods embodied in physical material elements creeds man,,,,,,,

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  • Ravi Shekhar

    true, most people think architects make a lot of money. Im sure they do because they have to invest in a lot too. The thing that gets me is that we as architects are really not profit driven, we just love doing it!

  • Frankys

    hello bob i am an aspiring architect in high school but i want to become better at what I want to do. Do you know of anything that could help me to become a better architect in the future? Thanks!

    • Pay attention to your surroundings, try and think about how to articulate why you either like – or do not like something. Pay attention to the buildings you like, the spaces you move through – why do you like them?

      If you can figure those things out, you will be further along than most architects who are currently practicing.

  • prerna

    do an architect live a lavish life… i mean good pay and all..?

  • SC Architect

    Great blog! I agree with all your reasons for being (and not being) an Architect. My career has been in commercial and not residential architecture, but would not trade it for any other profession. It is a lot of work, but enjoyable work. I graduated in 1977 with a BArch and passed the ARE IN 1981 so I have a few years on you but we think alike. I made the transition from manual drafting to AutoCAD almost 30 years ago and then on to Revit/BIM 10 years ago. I think architecture schools today put too little emphasis on the technical side of the profession. Would love to discuss all this with you sometime.

    • you know where to find me!
      I will say that the curriculum seems to vary greatly from school to school – some are definitely more technical than others.

  • Terra

    Thank you for pointing out so many positive things about this career and lifestyle! Everyone is always complaining. I am in agreement with all of your points and appreciate the positive point of view! Thank you.

  • Kerry Hogue

    well I disagree with number one. Architecture might be a lifestyle but it is a career. those that view it as a job should leave the profession. I find that architects that only think about architecture are limited in their interests and miss out a lot on what life has to offer. Yes I look at buildings and drive my family nuts with the constant analysis, however I have a lot of other interests that also occupy my time and are destinations to do things, without a building agenda, and the spontaneous building discovery is often quite rewarding. I don’t live eat and breath architecture, and I an passionate about what I do.

  • Gary

    I’m having a problem with #3 Architects are not artists??? I have always viewed Architecture as art pure and simple. It is an art to be able to apply spatial reasoning skills and envision rooms, traffic flow, mechanical needs, material choices and application, use of light for comfortable living, solar heating and cooling, designing an aesthetic exterior, envisioning an overall style of a structure. designing a functional kitchen layout. creating a structure for a given piece of land and using it wisely.
    I’m a builder, home designer, furniture designer and inventor and consider almost everything I do to be art. It is even an art to frame a house beautifully and efficiently with well thought out construction techniques.
    Architects are artists and possess a unique quality not enjoyed by everybody. Spatial reasoning is an ability to envision space and put it on paper. One must interpret a vision in three dimensions and express it in two dimensions. It is not the same as intelligence and relies more on an aspect of imagination. Stephen Hawkins the world renowned physicist says he has no spatial reasoning skills. It is also something I was not aware of how easily it came to me until working in the field showed me how difficult it is for many people. I often correct mistakes by Architects, Engineers, Designers, Carpenters and frame houses with consideration for the mechanical needs after I have left

    • JoseSmoe

      I have to agree with Gary. Here at PENN, most of the Architectural courses here are labeled at Art History instead of ARCH as a requirement for the major, however, it is a B.A and not a B.Arch.

  • Alex

    Hi Bob. I’ve been looking your posts and I have to say I’m really glad for the things you share with us. It’s great to read your experiences about the profession and these sort of things, the different perspectives we can get once we “make it” I’m a student of architecture and I deeply appreciate all your entries. Speacially those about sketches, I think are the core of our thinking proces and sadly in many schools (faculties) are ignoring them. Again thanks so much. Greetings. Saludos desde ColOmbia.

  • Covey

    Hi bob. I am a freshman in high school and currently looking at becoming an architect. You are right about one thing — looks like architecture is A LOT more than just designing building. I already knew that it can take up to 8 years of college to become an architect, and that they get paid well. I also know you gotta know LOTS of math (algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus) Got any more info/advice for me?

    • Alex

      Hi Covey. I’m architecture student myself and from my humble expierence, from this corner of the earth, yes sir, surelly you’re gonna get a lot of algebra, geometry, trigonometry and a little bit of calculus (maybe). Geometry it’s very, important and it’s the basis to learn everything regarded to architectural drawing and representation. Also physics, speacially statics if we’re talking about structures. but don’t let that get you down, If you’re really going for it, you will realize that it’s really a lifestyle. Greetings and good luck.

  • Tina

    Hi Bob,
    I am a student in 8th grade, and I would like to be an architect. What steps should I take (as of now) in order to become one? Should I read books on architecture, draw buildings as a hobby,etc.? Also, what colleges are the best in architecture?

    • Damilare

      Read books on architecture, study iconic buildings and the materials used to construct them. Try and find stories on Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry and Louis Sullivan and their design patterns.

  • paru

    nice words