Future Landscapes
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Articles of Interest

This freelancer’s tangentially related musings on the fields of architecture, landscape architecture & urban design. Useful sometimes. Acerbic always.

Other writings: City Blogs / Urban Nature

Architecture: Feeling good about doing Nothing.

In my interviews thus far, no one has shown a sign of having actually read my resume, cover letter, or portfolio.

To take a mental break, I went over to the archinect forums and updated myself on WHO'S WHO in the most favoured schools for M.Arch II applicants... reviewed portfolios.... and generally wallowed in my unemployment. 

One of the posts there caught my eye a few days ago, and stirred me sufficiently to respond. The post was:

Hi there,

I'm currently a high school senior in Canada and hoping to pursue a career in architecture. I was wondering if any of you know programs in or outside Canada (excluding the US) for a Bachelor's Degree, specifically one that is professional and well known.

Thank you.

Oh dear. Don't they teach high-schoolers to use the interweb these days?

A .03 second search on google yielded links to the Canadian architecture accreditation board website stating the exact programs on offer for both B.Arch and M.Arch across Canada. A similar search yielded a full list of English-taught programs abroad.

I helpfully posted the links, but then I stopped to think. What advice would I give myself if I could go back in time to pre-architecture school Stephanie, now that I'm finished my master's and am looking for work?

Probably something like this:

'Sure, the movies make architecture sound prestigious and well-paid. The reality is that the average bus driver will make more than you in spite of all your fancy 'education' and 'experience'.

If you want a short-cut to the world of architecture, go and take a 6 month CAD program, a 6 month 3D modelling program, and then learn the leading rendering software. Take some graphic design courses, specifically in illustrator, photoshop, and print/logo design. Finally, take a project-management course and get some experience at a construction/engineering firm where they have things like 'processes' and 'methods' and some kind of 'end goal'.

Then, take a year to learn another language, preferably German, French, or Spanish. Take an immersion course in another country--you get travel experience and language experience all at the same time.

'Once you've done that, you will be better skilled then most graduate architects who hold a master's degree. They (graduates) will try to convince you that the things they learned in school were 'intangible' and meant 'so much more' than autoCAD and rendering. They will try to tell you that you can't design because you didn't learn design. That is a crock of shit. 90% of the people I graduated with couldn't design their way out of a box.

'If you have a modicum of intelligence, common sense, and the ability to organize yourself and others; if you are able to seek problems and then seek solutions; if you know that generating ideas doesn't come from a parti drawing or 'inspiration' that dawns on you from above but rather requires research and critical thinking.... then you are well beyond most graduate architects.'

You see, I'm not one of those 'I did my time, sonny, and back in my day it was both ways uphill, and now it's your turn to suffer through the same educational agony that I did so you can wind up in the same position I am in' kinda people. 

I'm more of a... 'time for a system overhaul!' kinda person.

I got to thinking. Is there such a thing as an architecture program that actually teaches you what you need to know to be an architect? What exactly would that be?

It's not very useful to ask what architects are good at, because all of those things can be accomplished magnificently outside of architecture school. The question is: what are we bad at? For your convenience, I've compiled a list of 

Architecture Weaknesses: Things Architects Suck At (That They Should Be Experts At)

  1. Making Money

  2. Paying attention to the USER, ENVIRONMENT and IMMEDIATE CONTEXT

  3. Administration and organization of time, money and resources.

  4. Effectively consulting with disciplines and experts who know more than them (this would mean admitting that someone knows more than them)

  5. Generating and developing creative ideas in a methodical, process-oriented, replicable manner.

  6. Communicating / Presenting their work, ideas and intentions to other people.

  7. Advertising, marketing and soliciting work

  8. Understanding, drawing and detailing projects as they could/should be carried out in reality

  9. What it means to be a professional

I put 'making money' first, because it is what is most often railed against in architecture schools. There is a Culture of Poverty engendered by architects and architecture professors alike, and it is beaten into you from the get-go that architecture is THE HIGHEST profession in the universe and you do it, not for money, but out of blind, passionate, burning love for beauty and the world.

Financial gain, alas, is not to be thought of when delivering your personal genius and craft to the world. Professionals we may be, but artists of form we are at heart, and there's no greater satisfaction than seeing your work brought forth like a giant, pointy, reinforced concrete baby with a mal-formed skull. 

What this does is create a ripe source of motivated, inspired, highly educated people who have been told not only that they must pay dearly for the torture of architecture school, and that they must endure that torture for 6 long years; but also that once they finish they are worth less than the average high-school dropout. And then watch as talented grads fight like starving pit bulls over the scantily paid scraps of 'practical experience' you throw their way. And then continue the process forever!

That is what really gets to me about architects. They are so self-satisfied about their poorness and their sacrifices to be creative.

"The world doesn't value creativity and design anymore!!'

...I've heard on hundreds of occasions when talking about low wages. To which I say: Bullshit.

Architects & designers THEMSELVES do not value creativity and design, and the world simply follows their lead.


I would like you to meet my new mentor: Architectural sociologist, Dr. Garry, from Australia.

In response to a review on his most recent and final book, 'The Favored Circle', Dr. Garry responds:

Prof Pressman had many other epithets for the book: ‘near comic', ‘stunningly naive’, ‘allegedly novel’, ‘puzzling and annoying’, ‘a dubious retrospective’, ‘thin veracity’, ‘awfully glib’. Not good, is it?

My own reading of his review was that I have not given him and his occupation the unctuous adulation that he so clearly feels is his occupation's irrefragable due.

I am always wary of ‘award-winning’ architectural teachers, as Andy is. Good on him for his educational skills and his enthusiasm! My own experience is that the great architectural educators—of which no doubt Prof Pressman is one—are also the most humourless prigs.

Make a light jest of their ‘calling’, as they are fond of referring to it, and you might as well be making risque pork jokes about the Prophet to Osama bin Laden.

My own attitude is that each and every profession is a pompous balloon well worth pricking. From what I saw of his review, Prof Andy Pressman was a devotee of the ancient Anglo-American school of the sociology of the professions, a body of work that he takes me to task for ignoring. True! I ignore it completely! I think there is little of worth in it, much of it being simply a justification of the professionals' view of themselves as superior human beings.

Prof Pressman also attacked me for ignoring the notion of ‘[community] service’ that the highly paid professions use to justify their paychecks. Again, very true! I think that is self-serving crap. When the architect or the doctor or Prof Pressman holds himself or herself out as an altruistic benefactor of humanity, they do so only to justify their condescension to the construction worker or the medical aide who, they claim, only grubs for money.

I think this is the beginning of a long and fruitful mentorship...