Being an Architect

Reflections on the profession, design, art, books and life in general



Architecture as a profession

My friend’s son wanted to meet me. It was a bit of surprise to know that he needed counseling from me in choosing his career. To be more specific, he got caught in the latest fad of becoming an Architect (thanks to recent media for glamorizing the trade).

I remember reading my earlier boss’ article describing a similar situation in which he tried (in vein) to explain to a student how the career of an architect is more than making pots of money, but about knowing ‘gaps’. Explaining in length about gap was primarily meant to indicate the importance of detailing, difference in schedules and budget etc in the profession.( Importance of detailing in itself demands more than a few posts.) It was not at all surprising that the starry eyed student opted for a much safer choice.

So, is it all about mundane details or schedule? Can’t he get paid handsomely for ‘dreaming creatively’ also?




Architecture as a profession


Well, to put it straight, its a profession in which its very hard to get paid(and, harder still, for just 'dreaming creatively’!). Design is still not that valued in this part of the world. The collective social aesthetics is yet to get evolved into a refined taste to appreciate a good design from a bad one(and to make it as a priority in decision making). Unless a product has a ‘perceivable value’, it cant be sold. I still believe in a day when people start appreciates real value of design(and ready to pay for it). I am deeply encouraged by recent scenes in the product design world where ‘good designs’ universally becoming the real differentiator (think apple!). 


Architecture as a profession


When the American Institute of Architects was founded in 1857, architecture was not yet considered a profession—it was one step up from carpentry and contracting. The profession has evolved a lot from then. It become mandatory, in most developed countries, to get architects to design and coordinate building construction, making it inevitable to bring in better design, professionalism and accountability and not to forget payment for the job. The silver lining for a country like India is that, with the arrival of global players and multinational companies, more and more projects are getting dealt professionally.


As a choice of profession, architecture proves very unforgiving with endless days (and nights!) of learning the trade with paltry remuneration. Its not a profession which rewards you quickly. It is not a profession where you are destined to be successful if you are the most creative in the group. It is not a profession which recognizes good work and rewards appropriately and timely. Its not a profession where everybody plays by book! One tends to shed her illusions about the profession in the first year out of academics itself. Your concepts, unlike what you are taught, are mostly guided by building rules, client’s budget and, at many times, market responses. One has to find a fine line between creativity, meeting aspirations, coordination, technical competence, team work, entrepreneurship, marketing, man management and financial management to end up any where near as a successful architect.


Architecture as a profession


is may not sound encouraging enough, its not all that bad. When one starts to enjoy his work, his schedule, his meetings, his endless cups of coffees and discussions, the joy of seeing a project getting built, he is on path to becoming an architect. If one could enjoy being an architect, it’s a job which is one of the most ‘fruitful and complete’.

Both my friend and his son sat there for some more time. They were, off-course, a bit disappointed by my discourse. They have to give it a thorough thought, for sure. If he opts out, he has chosen the logical(and safer!) decision and shall be appreciated. But if he is still persistent, and believes that he is right in doing so, he is in for a long, intriguing journey.


Welcome to becoming an architect.


Further reading for the persistent: