Architects are lower down the pecking order now!

Updated on November 4, 2018 in Debates, Ideas and Discussion 2019

Piers Gough Architect

Listen up kids, Uncle Piers Gough from CZWG Architects had a Groovy interview at Building.co.uk, according to him, people used to sweep the construction site prior inspection, graduate architects has the same treatment as well, but that was all history. Life as an architect back then must be like a king.

Is architecture a tougher job these days? The trouble is architects are lower down the pecking order now. You are almost seen as a subcontractor who provides drawings. When we came out of college, people used to sweep the site before we went to visit. However young, spotty and inexperienced you were, you were the architect, so you were important. You can’t really say that anymore. Maybe it is more friendly not having a hierarchy, but I don’t think it quite reflects what architects do. It is a stupendously difficult job.

Every architect seems to be shouting the same thing – ‘Underpaid’, ‘Too Much Work’, ‘It Tough!’ and blah blah blah, and they end it with – ‘I did it because of passion.’ Ironic.

16 Comments

  1. I think it also has something to do with the way architects carry themselves on the jobsite. I think that someone who is respected (and commands that respect) for the work they are doing, their overall knowledge of not only architecture, but also construction and the building process gets treated differently than someone who says that something should be this way or that way because that´s what they taught us in college. But it could also be that nowadays architects are a dime a dozen and nobody cares anymore.

  2. you know they should have one of those reality shows on us; students and an architect firm too. Like those fashion designer, hair dressers, and chefs…
    borringggg…(rolled eyes)
    they they’ll know WHO’S THEIR DADDY ei..

  3. The question is what really happen that made things change like this. Part of the answer I believe is CAD and 3D modelling: computerization of the way we work made us slaves of the computer instead of slave of the drawing table. If you were to produce a plan, and then changes came and you had to redraw the whole thing, architects where tougher on the work so that their design be respected as drawn. Now that the smallest change can be dealt by a simple re-print, we are stuck in an abuse of perpetual changes. Now with 3D, anyone can look professionnal with a 3D rendering of a project, although it is not always good architecture. Maybe the difference is that 20 years ago, a bad architect would simply not work, now they work against the profession like prostitutes, and get the jobs for the now wll established “lowest bid” competitions.

  4. Etienne, you’ve got a point there. Then again, could it be the modernization of the entire human civilization? Education is important, back then not many people have the luxury of education, whereas today, a degree is nothing, almost every single person from the first world has one.

  5. I’m not an architect/architecture student. I’m a cad monkey. I architecture but i chose building design because the course was only two years, vs 5-6 and a 5 digit HECS debt.
    It wasn’t just that, though.
    I called lots of architects and building designers and the continuous complaint I heard from both is “grad architects are useless, they don’t know anything about construction or costing.” Also, there was the fact that building designers (evil, souless creatures that we are) get 85% of the design work out there – and the grad architects I spoke to were only making 35-40K a year. Looking at Job ads, I realised that a building designer with 5 years experience earns around the same as an architect with 5 yrs experience (85-100K)-and the building designer has no HECS debt.
    From my contact with the building industry so far (very minimal) it seems that architects have gotten a bad rep for often being impractical with actual building and structural specifics.
    Construction is at the heart of building design and architecture. Whichever is better, if you don’t know construction and are dependant on others to provide it you’re wages will reflect this. It’s that sentence, “As per engineers specifications” – everytime you write that, what you’re saying is, “I’m not capable of working this out, I’m referring it to someone who can -” and that engineer will be better paid than you because his skills are more necessary.
    A long time ago architects did all this technical planning themselves. The only modern equiviant is Santiago Calatrava. He says, “As per MY specifications.”
    The more divorced architects become from the origin of their profession the less necessary they will be to it, and they’ll be paid less.

  6. Us programmers do the same thing. Actually, current methods were made in order to serve our clients better and be ready for change in software at any time.
    If you want to draw freely on paper and ignore costs or engineering problems, you’re “just” an artist, and therefore getting paid like one.

  7. As a sole practitioner and a relatively young Architect, (30) I can easily remember life as a graduate. I have found that the more relevant to the decision making process the architect is, the greater respect they are shown by the contractor. I spent some time working on PPP/PFI schools after graduating and even the senior Architects got short shift from the builders because we were essentially their employees. Once I began working on JCT contracts the reverse was true, the contractor frequently disagreed with us but was always respectful because, under the contract, our word was final.

  8. I think at one point architects could talk the talk and walk the walk. Today you spend 4 or 6 years in school without truly learning a tangible skill set. The only skills we learn are autocad and photoshop if your lucky! Whatever happened to learning on site…apprenticeship anyone?

  9. I think at one point architects could talk the talk and walk the walk. Today you spend 4 or 6 years in school without truly learning a tangible skill set. The only skills we learn are AutoCAD and Photoshop if you’re lucky! Whatever happened to learning on site… by the time your get your licence you are due for retirement. Apprenticeship anyone?

  10. Actually the more I read the comments of “James” and “Shem” who bring up good points, along with the knowledge I already have (since I have attended architecture school) the more I learn about how the architecture field is becoming exposed. James is right about the statistics stated and the fact that construction is at the heart of building design. The role of architecture is slowly deteriorating into the only source of studying there is left to do in the field…if there is anything to study about it at all…which is art. Shem brings up good points about how all you learn today in architecture is photoshop and autocad… seems like bringing those skills to the work force will you leave you with debt and a hard way to gain any good reputation. Since when have we seen artists rolling in the Benjamins?
    Learning architecture in school, has made me seriously wonder the future of the profession; if you don’t think about design in the real world, all those “good ideas” you hear architects say, will stay in their head.

  11. right and what is even more sad is those that have technical degrees such as engineering and are also architects are never hired by architecture firms- gee are they scared or something? i think they made their own beds by constantly hiring incompetent people- as long as those people were their friends and relatives!

  12. Back in reality, modern business has very little interest in paying money to construct pretty buildings adding marginal value to their company.
    They are very much more interested in people that can solve complex technical issues and actually add value rather than wasting time and money on people sketching on a notepad or dragging shapes around on a glorified version of Paint all day.
    I you’re an architect and find yourself with less pay and in lower demand, learn something useful.

  13. PR”

    The role of architecture is slowly deteriorating into the only source of studying there is left to do in the field…if there is anything to study about it at all…which is art”

    Art, or the aesthetics of the building plays a significant role in the value of the building. Without being artistic, then leave architecture alone. This is what separates architecture from other areas within construction.

  14. PR, your wrong again!

    “Since when have we seen artists rolling in the Benjamins?”

    Artists are everywhere, think about the leaders in communication design, which is a lucrative area for financial gains. Banks and other institutions fork out millions through time for communication plans done by “artists.” In fact, architecture is a subtle form of visual communication.

  15. “They are very much more interested in people that can solve complex technical issues and actually add value rather than wasting time and money on people sketching on a notepad or dragging shapes around on a glorified version of Paint all day”

    Tell that to those within DUBAI, who work of massive projects and earn a huge income that is all tax free. Us “artists” are valued, and I have lived in Dubai to witness it. My only regret is living within Australia and I will return back to dubai for my amazing career:)

  16. “Back in reality, modern business has very little interest in paying money to construct pretty buildings adding marginal value to their company.”

    Your reality, not other peoples. Reality is subjective. Seems like you live within a poor country, so perhaps move to dubai instead of being a hopeless whinge, my fellow architect =)

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