Architect, Landscape Architect, Urban Designer, Land Use Planner, Environmental Observer

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why Architects Eat Their Young !!!

Why would someone want to be an architect? Certainly not because they are thrilled about the prospect of sitting in front of a computer screen for 40 or more hours a week cranking out construction documents. Sadly, this is the primary function for the interns in the profession. Is there some different scenario possible ?

The training of an architect is a very medieval idea - you serve an apprenticeship under a master (interesting that attorneys do not have to serve apprenticeships...but that's another rant). After a minimum of three years from graduation (from a five year degree), one is allowed to sit for a grueling set of exams. After all of THAT (at least in California) you must sit before an oral board of three architects and answer 35 pre-determined questions (sound medieval?). If you pass that AND pay your licensing fee, you are then considered an ARCHITECT. Essentially you are now minimally qualified. Very few actually start an office at this point.

So, where's the beef?

Here's my point...Very few architects solely practice design. Yet, architectural schools not just stress design - they worship it. You cannot get through school without passing your design classes. But what is the profession about? Do all architects sit around designing after their graduation? - Hardly.

First, there is an ENORMOUS amount of time assembling the Construction Documents. These include both creating a set of drawings that a contractor theoretically can build from. The matching part of this is a book of specifications, explaining all the materials and how they are to be installed. To top if off, there is a very complex set of agreements that the owner, the architect and the contractor agree to (combinations of two out of those three).

The construction of a building requires that the Architect perform Construction Administration. This is the review of changes, visits to the building site, processing of pay requests, etc. It's a job that very few architects train for, yet it is the way a building actualizes from the paper to the reality.


What if schools acknowledged the process of creating a building, running an office, making a profit (oh no!), and the role our profession takes in doing that?

Maybe, the curriculum and degrees might change appropriately....

1. You could get a degree in Architectural degree with a specialization in Design. That might look somewhat similar (but pared down on the non-design courses) to the curriculum that most schools have now.

2. You could get a degree in Architectural degree with a specialization in Business. That might include supervision of people, introduction to accounting, writing professional reports, etc.

3. You could get a degree in Architectural degree with a specialization in Administration. That might stress a deep understand of consultant relationships, preparation of construction documents, time and project management, introduction to construction law, etc.

4. You could get a degree in Architectural degree with a specialization in Construction Management. That might have courses in materials and methods of construction that could take two or three years. It would include a year course in inspection procedures, etc.

None of the above degrees would be considered less qualifying than the rest. It takes a team to get large buildings done.

But how would the architectural profession get cheap labor?

- from Junior Colleges, who actually could provide well qualified computer operators who didn't feel it was a failure if they were not top level designers.

NOTE: 50% of the architectural firms in the U.S. are sole practitioners. However, they recieve only 10% of the fees ! How would they survive if the above system were implemented?....they would hire people as consultants and enjoy the practice of Architecture.

another view of the architectural internship may be found at

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  1. What a novel concept! It will never work...makes too much sense.


    here is a website about architects who eat their young! Ha.



Recommended Books

  • - Precedents in Architecture
  • - City Comforts
  • - A Pattern Language
  • - The Architecture of Happiness
  • - Architectural Composition
  • - Design Language
  • - Elements of Garden Design
  • - Chambers for a Memory Palace