An Honest Look at Architecture

National, Newsletter
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Architecture Studio at Harvard University. (Cesar Harada / Flickr)

Architecture studio at Harvard University GSD. (Cesar Harada / Flickr)

After years of grueling through studios, crits, and all-nighters, there comes a time soon after entering the real world where it hits you: You’re lost. You didn’t learn any of this architect-business in school!

While we can’t help with the shock of the realization, we did stumble across a new humorous book by SCI-Arc-trained architecture writers Guy Horton (an AN contributor) and Sherin Wing called The Real Architect’s Handbook: Things I Didn’t Learn in Architecture School. The project is a hilarious and often sobering look at the realities of the architecture profession, including its low pay, inflated egos, and many misperceptions. “Most of the books we were seeing skewed toward an idealized vision of the architect. There was a definite disconnect between this romanticized Architecture and what we were seeing and hearing,” explained Horton, who added, “We annoyed a few people, but that tells us we were hitting the right chords.”

Here are some of our favorite words of wisdom:

#1 It’s architecture, not medicine. You can take a break and no one will die.

#10 Once you leave architecture school not everybody cares about architecture or wants to talk about it.

#35 The “privilege” of working for a firm is not compensation in itself. You cannot live on, buy food with, or pay the rent with, a firm’s “reputation.”

#39 If your firm is outsourcing work to save money, be concerned.

#43 If you are invited to be on a jury, don’t trash the student or contradict a rival just to make yourself look good. Be constructive and try to help the student. That is the point.

#51 Know the difference between architectural celebrity and what is actually important.

#58 Most architects believe they were destined to become architects because of their early childhood experiences. They showed signs of architectural greatness at a very young age. This is a myth that reinforces an unhealthy hero complex.

#70 Archi-babble does not make you sound cool.

#81 FAIA can mean different things to different people.

#88 Architect’s web pages are often out of control and take too long to load.

#97 Being good at software does not make you a good architect.

2 Responses to “An Honest Look at Architecture”

  1. Nichole L. Reber says:

    Brilliant! So reassuring to hear this anti-dwell magazine type of conversation. Having covered architecture from Sarasota to China and India and witnessing monstrosities put forth by major firms in those countries, I’m delighted especially with #35. Speaking of India, yes, there is a lot of outsourcing going there. #51 reminds me of certain projects I’ve seen around the world, when I stood there expecting something at least mediocre and seeing even less than that. #81 reminds me of an editor I often wrote for. The poor thing exalted most everything by one Florida architect and used as what he believed as proof: “But he’s a Fellow!”
    Unfortunately because of the overuse of software versus organic aesthetics in today’s architecture it’s renderings that win awards and competitions. Then the bloody finished projects come out horrifically.

  2. Rob Edwards says:

    Love this one: #70 “Archi-babble does not make you sound cool.” … that was one of the things us city planning students at PennDesign could not stomach about the architecture students in the same bldg. I think we were a tad bit more pragmatic. A dual tower office bldg as a metaphor for a butterfly taking flight always got more applause than deserved. If 600 employees cannot get out of the parking structure at 5 pm then IT JUST DOESNT WORK. :)

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