...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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March 23, 2005 || 3:10 am

I'm sure everyone in the architecture world is writing about this, but I read today that a City and Guilds survey shows that architects are the unhappiest profession. Well, what can I say...those of us who are avid readers of the rags like BD and the AJ (yes, they even are sometimes spotted in Alabama) already know that architecture firms have a bad long hours culture, are underpaid, and put off women by the macho building culture and by being horribly un-family friendly. This always amuses me because people from outside of architecture always say how they wish they could be architects, how well-paid we all are, and apparently, how attractive, given the number of surveys which name architects as the ideal marriage material.

To all the moaning architects, I would say, just do something about it. The majority of you work for yourselves, or for relatively small firms. It's not like you're a civil servant in the faceless halls of bureaucracy, unable to change your job description or influence your bosses. If you don't like how you work or what you do, it's absolutely up to you to change it. Get involved proactively in projects that engage and interest you, whether or not you are asked to. Work in your communities, offering your manifold skills to groups that need them. You can look for the kind of partners (let's stop calling them clients, you archi-whores) that you want, not just wait for them to drop into your lap, and you can manage your relationship with them so that you are respected and not just a yes-man who jumps when they tell you to (or in our case, redesigns the toilets every week). If you're bored with AutoCAD, or dull house extensions, or faceless office refurbs, you really don't have to be doing them, because there are plenty of projects out there that desperately need to be tackled and you can be the ones to initiate and realise them.

I know that sounds rich from me, coming from somewhere cheap and lacking in planning officers or building regulations. But the Rural Studio and many other projects like it [cue plug for impending book] show that it is possible, even in places with planning officers and a high cost of living, to really engage and use your skills (who else can boast such a variety?) in useful, rewarding and unconventional ways. More than that, I would say (in my small soapbox moment) that it is the absolute responsibility of architects to take the initiative in making the world a more varied, stimulating and generous place. Our buildings will be shaping the lives of others for long after we are forgotten. Jut get off those swivelling chairs and stop complaining.

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