Are architects spoilt for choice?

In a recent RIBA publication named 21 things you won’t learn in architecture school Adrian Dobson claims that architects have so many ‘options for personal growth and career development’ that they are ‘spoilt for choice’[1]. An article published last week on ArchDaily supports that idea by listing a number of careers (21 to be exact) architectural graduates can pursue once they graduate [2].

The topic of the expanded role of the architect is close to my heart as I based my final year Master’s dissertation on it. Therefore, I was interested to read ArchDaily’s article and compare its conclusions to the ones I outlined in my work 6 months ago.

Of course, the styles of these two written pieces are completely different – one is a short and sweet online article, the other – a 6,000 word academic assignment. However, they share the view that architects can pursue many careers within the design industry and some outside of it.

In my opinion, ArchDaily’s article focuses far too much on career options that I would say are quite obvious – landscape architect, urban planner, restoration architect, etc. It then lists a lot of potential professions for architects in the design field that can hardly surprise anyone – furniture designer, industrial designer, video game designer, etc. At the same time, it does not mention any of the positions in the construction industry an architect can pursue – project manager, quantity surveyor, site supervisor and others.

architects and construction ind.jpg
In the past the Architect used to be in charge of most operations related to the construction process. Today, new players have overtaken many services previously associated with the Architect. In the future Architects should claim back their lost positions and engage with some of the new jobs emerging within the industry.

Of course, what is most interesting is the potential careers architects can pursue beyond the fields of design and construction. ArchDaily lists only 6 options – teacher, philanthropist, politician, conservationist, writer, entrepreneur. These are probably the most important ones, and working in a list format can be quite limiting. But what about all architects working as policy-makers. Or the ones organising events and festivals and indirectly changing our urban environment? Or those who negotiate between local communities and municipalities and make cities better? As their jobs can hardly be given a name, they can hardly fit into a list format. But they are important examples of the breadth of the architectural profession. And there sure are many more examples.

The internet is full of anecdotes about clever small business ideas that were conceived by architects who were forced out of work during the recession [3]. From transforming a truck to sell home-made ice-cream named after starchitects to making pottery or stuffed animals to delivering fresh salads. However remote these operations may appear, they are still informed, on some level, by architectural expertise. Should these practices be considered a formal form of architectural operation? Probably not. But it is good that we know about them.

architects and design ind.jpg
Architects should extend their services to the wider design industry and start identifying opportunities beyond it. Once Architects start operating at the peripheries of the profession they can remove the perceived boundaries limiting their scope of work and thus re-frame the profession as a whole.

I believe architectural graduates have problem-solving and design-thinking skills they can easily use in many fields. Therefore, they have many career options to chose from if they don’t want to practice architecture in the traditional way. That does not imply those individuals can not be architects, as one can influence the built environment in a number of ways, not only through the design of buildings.

What do you think? Are architects spoilt for choice? What other examples of architects working in other fields do you know? PI would love to make an alternative list/diagram/text about that. If you are interested in the topic, you can read my dissertation on it (p. 40-75) or write a comment with your thoughts and suggestions.


Sources:

[1] Dobson, A. (2014). 21 things you won’t learn in architecture school. Newcastle: RIBA Publishing.
[2] ArchDaily: 21 Careers You Can Pursue With A Degree in Architecture
[3] Shevory, K. (2010) Architect, or whatever. New York Times, [online] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/21/garden/21architects.html?_r=0 [Accessed 23/01/2016].

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