As a method of studying for an exam on Tuesday ,I am re-watching lectures throughout the semester. The subject is called Architectural Practice and it’s about learning what we need to know about running an architecture practice, believe it or not! Throughout the semester there were guest lecturers presenting a range a topics, and of course some harsh truths get laid out. I believe architecture students are some of the most optimistic people, as majority probably believe they will go on and be the next Bjarke Ingels, Frank Llyod Wright or Zaha Hadid. We believe we will be rich and well known, and control everything about our designs. We believe we will be designing once we leave university, but the reality is, none of that will probably happen.
The odds are not in our favor of becoming a starchitect, with only a handful around the globe. In Australia alone, there are 12,500 registered architects [http://archiparlour.org/counting-registered-architects-no-easy-matter/], and over 100,000 in the USofA. How optimistic does one need to be to think out of hundreds of thousands of architects and architecture students, they will have their work studied in the future? I’ll be honest, I have day-dreamed about being an starchitect, probably when I should have been doing studio, but the odds are not in my favour.
Friends, family and young architecture students think architects are rich, I know right! They probably hear “Oh they made 10% of that multi-million dollar project” and base income of that. Yes some architects are doing well for themselves, but the majority get by. As a entry level graduate you’ll probably make $45k a year, and when you become registered, expect around $55k [click here]. A carpenter’s salary can be around $65k and a crane operator $77k. If you want to earn a big salary, being an architect isn’t for you. Then when you start your own firm it’s expected we won’t even turn a profit for the first couple years. Despite all this doom-and-gloom, I’m still optimistic that I’ll live with a comfortable salary.
Many of us students, myself included, believe we are the man/woman. All our ideas are amazing, and basically our clients should accept what we design them. The truth is, clients, developers, builders, etc will dictate a lot of the design and the architect will be resorted to merely a draftsperson, drawing whatever they say. However, I do feel quite strong about this and believe the saying “Why hire an architect if you just tell them what to do?”. Architects have five years of formal education and 2+ years of experience, they are regarded as the experts when it comes to design. Why hire an architect to draw what you “designed” based on what you saw on The Block or a couple magazines?
As students we do five years of design studios, where effectively we are in charge of the design. We like to believe once we get a job as a graduate we will still be involved in the design process. The director will give us a project from scratch and we can do the concept, schematics, design development and then palm it off to the draftspeople. The harsh reality is for the first 5-10 years we will most likely be draftspeople, model makers and/or computer modelers. Our involvement would be drawing plans and modeling designs that the directors and project architects sketched, and on a rare occasion we might get a say in a minor detail. Of course this depends who you work for, the size of the firm, etc but I wouldn’t expect to get your very own design built until you are the director of the firm, or your parents, brother/sister or other relative wants your service and you do that project outside of work. Of course I have high hopes in that whoever I work for in the future will have my involvement in the design process, bbbbuutttt the realist in me knows that isn’t going to happen.
Despite all these realities of what it’s like to be a real architect, I’m optimistic. If I didn’t have these optimistic views and day-dreams about the future, and just accepted what will be the reality, it would make it very difficult to find motivation for studio. Without these optimistic views I’d probably struggle at work when I’m drawing countless site plans, because I believe things will get better in the future. If we weren’t optimistic about the future, graduation numbers would be significantly less. So when you hear how shitty being an architect is really like, don’t get discouraged. Yes, that will probably be you in the future, but least try and remain optimistic.
Main image from http://m.c.lnkd.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/p/5/000/2ca/1fb/235ade9.jpg