When you are an architect…

January 20, 2011 — 133 Comments

I love what I do. There is no question in my mind that I made the right decision when I was 5 years old to become an architect. Sure there have been some bumps along the way and there is uncertainty in my future. Despite having been at this for a while, some things you just have to discover for yourself. I collected these off twitter a few weeks ago, thinking that I might find use for them.




When you’re an architect …

· you have probably heard all 1,000 songs off your ipod in just one night

· you spend hours looking at & buying arch books but never have the time to actually read them

· you can’t afford your own taste

· you hate the shelter magazines your clients love

· CAD is your co-pilot

· your closet is mostly full of black clothing

· there are no people in your travel photos

· you don’t think twice about taking notes on your lunch napkin

· instead of scissors, you use an x-acto knife to cut everything

· you turn impossibilities into possibilities

· folks want free design advice during dinner parties

· you help communities improve their quality of life

· every project has budget challenges

· you will only drive a black, gray, or silver car

· you’ve paid too much for your education, but don’t get paid enough in your job

· CD’s don’t mean money or music

· obsessive compulsive disorder is not a disorder at all… it’s your way of life

· you will go into an off-limit area to look at a construction detail

· you have carpet sample doormats and tile sample coasters

· you will die an architect, there is no retirement

· you go to the theater and look at the ceiling

· you can buy glossy coffee table books and claim them as a work-related tax expense

· you can live without human contact, sunlight, water or real food for days … but if you can’t plot, that’s bad

· the most important date in your calendar is your next deadline

· paying $200 for a paper lamp seems perfectly normal

· if someone asks “can you model that?” is not because you are attractive

· your vacations always become research.

· you stare more at the buildings than the people gathered around them

· you draw, write, sketch and plan on a Moleskine

· you like to complain about other’s work

· you hate the font ‘times new roman’

· you see the sun rise… and set… and rise…

· the statement “It’s only 1 A.M.” seems perfectly reasonable

· you visit an art museum and take pictures of the building

· everybody at parties will tell you “I thought about being an architect but I couldn’t do the math”

· when you go to a restaurant, you look at the walls, roof, and structure  before you check the menu

· you slice your finger and the first thing you think is “don’t bleed on the model”

· you know CAD, REVIT, Sketch up, 3dmax, Corel, Illustrator, and Photoshop … but struggle with Microsoft Excel

· you will be kick-ass and admired as much as you are unappreciated and misunderstood


Feel free to add your own, I’m sure there a many others worth adding to the list. Cheers.



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  • Scott E.A. Davis

    From Urban Dictionary – Architect is a person who works in the design field whose job is seriously underrated and under appreciated. Though they go through more schooling then most people, they earn a fraction of the pay and usually die in debt. However, the sheer joy of knowing they made a difference in the world is enough to sustain them and make every CEO, Lawyer and Stockbroker wish they had done something better with their lives.
    Mies Van Der Rohe was a famous architect, who died in a Penn Station bathroom and wasn’t identified for three days. However, in his short life, he managed to acomplish more then any lawyer ever could.

  • Matt

    Can you afford an Audi?

  • mrsarkitek

    When we bought a house (had to settle in something first, coming from another country) and it was under construction, I would sneak in on the weekends with a measuring tape, level, notepad and pencil, and do inspection. Did this all the way to completion and probably had the longest list of defects to send to the builder. Brought in my architect friends at owner inspection day for a defect-finding mission that needed to be submitted on paper for builder rectification.

    My friends went everywhere. “WC is not centered.” “Tap pressure upstairs no good.” “Pipe here is exposed?” “Tiles were not laid out from a center point.” (Suffice to say that quality control in building North American houses seem to be lacking.) That, in addition to my own list, literally drove out the builder mad and screaming his head off. Haha.

  • Bori

    Instead of blood you have caffeine in your veins…

  • Bill Reeves

    I like your note about car color. I used to drive a black car. When I replaced it, I wanted gray. I ended up with dark green because it had the sound system in it I wanted. ouch.

    You use an x-acto, I use my snap blade at work, and I have one at home. I use it for everything.

    I see you did this in January of 2011. Any updates for us?

    • I keep adding a few to the list but the folks leaving the comments also keep adding them (and those are typically better!)

  • Farah Zaher Qadan

    when u r an architect u look at verything with disdain

  • Emily

    I told someone that I was and architect and he said, “Me too! A software architect!” UGH…

  • Tom S.

    you forever write in upper case. there is no turning back to lower case or even cursive writing.

  • designer

    also you are pretentious a* everyone hates

  • Mark Mc Swain

    Oh, and “you need a back-up hard drive just for the “we didn’t used that design, but might go back to it” project files.

    Or, if you are watching something on youtube, and try to zoom by rolling the scroll wheel (or by pressing ‘z ).

  • Mark Mc Swain

    You know the shipping rates and costs for every size & weight of shipping tube.

  • a lemos

    you have a graphic designer girlfriend and all the theoretical artist crap around you

    doent phase you out

  • Steve Richard

    You have a razor thin, 3/8″ long scar on your thigh to remind you of perils while opening plot paper shipping boxes with exacto.
    Moral of story: don’t wear white pants while trying to gracefully exit office and head to E.R.

  • arch wife

    When your children regularly say during vacation photo shoot – “I’ll be scale”

  • nathan

    you complain constantly that delivery isn’t ever available after 10pm

  • Paul Pyfferoen

    It’s funny… I just went on a mini “vacation” to Dallas for a seminar on Building Systems… afterwards, I went “uptown” and took photos… of buildings!! And, visited the Perot museum…(not to go inside, but to photograph the uniqueness!)

    So many comments… I was nodding my head “yes!”

  • Gooey

    People confuse you with an engineer. 🙁

  • … you can find any material you need at any time (sory about my english

  • Rozh

    ArchiCAD or Revit, can you please explain.

    • Mark Mc Swain

      Or that similar–“Hey can you teach me AutoCAD quick?” question.

  • Saramich

    [You know you’re an architect if] You can’t spell. At all. We abbreviate EVERYTHING…when in doubt leave vowels out 😉

    • Flora Xiao

      This applies to just about every profession I’ve come in contact with. ECE professors, MSE consultants, etc (I’m studying engineering). Everything gets its abbr., it’s just easier when you assume your audience shares context with you.

      • I also think that this current generation abbreviate everything as a result of growing up sending text messages. The number of emails I receive that are in text shorthand is staggering. Let you in on a little secret – I don’t answer those ever. If you can’t take the time to send me a properly written message, I’m not going to take the time to answer.

        • Flora Xiao

          That is absolutely fair. Colleagues who use abbreviations stick to generally accepted ones for the sake of clarity and convenience.

  • adric

    I might add:
    ….your parents have more of a social life than you.
    ….you know all the 24-hour food places in the area.

  • Jearl

    Probably if all these things fit you except you actually want to see people in your photographs you are a landscape architect. “Gardens are for People;” “Landscapes for the living;” we all love Jan Gehl (though he is an architect): “Cities for people.” It’s our duty.

  • You do it with models..

  • there never have been any people in my photos, anyway… and I was delighted to learn photoshop well enough to obliterate any people that might be in photos other people gave me. I’m a graphic designer, but many of these hold true for me, as well. thanks!

    • for some reason they conjured up an antique profile pic… very sorry about that.

  • amy

    one second is it boring do you get to hang out with friends.b.t.w my list when i become an architect w ill be diffrent.

  • Keira

    AGREED. Why do architects really wear in black anyway?

    • gabbywhite

      because black looks good.

    • Mark Mc Swain

      Because we seem to wind up in meetings with high-level Accountants, and “C-Level” executives, who all seem to wear somber dark suits?

      • Mark Mc Swain

        Although, it’s probably due to our near-universal post-graduate poverty meaning we tend to have habitate near, or co-habitate with bohemian life-style folk much given to attire as dark as the french cigarettes they smoke (often in great irony).

  • dirge

    Being a product designer is almost the same.
    We know the pain -_-

  • Simpleman

    Architect Loved Lived Smiled
    His Spirit is in Family Now
    Above two lines I must choose one for my brother’s grave marker, a 37 year Architect who died.
    He was all and more in this post by Bob.

  • MJ

    When at a social function someone asks what you do…you say ‘I am an Architect,’ and they reply, “Is this room made well?” Haha. 

  • HA!  Love “… you can’t afford your own taste.”  I often find myself putting off purchasing a lamp or table even when I need it because it has to be certain design, and the designs I like are too expensive so I end up not buying anything at all  🙂

  • rajanbhatt

    ” you never have a client who understands your ideas……”

  • Eva Ppp

    When the deadline come you always think “If I had just one more day…. ”

  • Let’s not forget when your friends and relatives who did not ask you to design their home or addition but want your opinion after it’s done!

    • Mark Mc Swain

      Or, having asked, repeatedly, what such a projects costs, and if you made any money for it, then expect you to do their own for free.

  • “…when you go to a restaurant, you look at the walls, roof, and structure  before you check the menu.”  
    Designer variation: soffits, lighting, layout, materials. Every single time.

    • …and flipping chairs over to see who made them.

      My Graphic Designer girlfriend gets distracted by the poor layouts and typefaces on the menus, and forgets to look at the food-items themselves!

  • ali

    Wat about sketchup 😛

  • Brian Boatright

    Oh man… great stuff: “you slice your finger and the first thing you think…” In college I had the record for most days without sleep (at least 5… it’s fuzzy). Inking a mylar aerial perspective of a design, I felt my nose running. When I wiped, it was blood (nose bleed).  First thought:  somebody get my mylar away form me!.  Dude.  I can relate.

  • Fouad Zein


    Get’s addictive at some point!