Architects: Perception vs Reality

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

I have a plan to educate the entire world as to what an architect actually is and what we actually do. Lofty, I know! Even if I can enlighten one person, I will feel accomplished! So to that end, I felt it was necessary I start by reviewing and commenting on a few of the stereotypical ideas about architects. At least a few that I hear and notice on a regular basis.…….

Perception 01 : Architects make a lot of money.

Reality: Not really. Most of us do not. We deal in large amount of money at times, but we never actually see any of it go into our pockets. We have lists of other people we have to pay with the fees we receive. Engineers, consultants, reviewers, etc. it all adds up. Now there are some among us who do make big dollars, but my guess is that is about 10% of the profession. And those the guys whose names are well known. (not just by architects)

Perception 02: Architects are arrogant and pompous. They act superior.

Reality: Again maybe some of us. The rest of us are just quiet and somewhat socially reserved. That is why we sometimes don’t say much. This silence is often mistaken for disdain. My wife tells me this all too often after social events.  Its not that we dont want to talk to certain people at social events, its just that we dont want to talk period. We are usually much happier in our minds.

Perception 03: Architects can only talk about architecture.

Reality: I dont think this is true. When I am with other architects, I usually do talk  mostly about architecture. But my friends who are not architects do not want to hear about the latest developments in rain screen assemblies or the newest BIM trick I just learned last week.  So to them I speak about the normal everyday things that we share. Or I listen to them talk about what is important to them. Or when in public/social settings we listen more than we talk. (see #2)

Perception 04: Architects portrayed in the movies. This is what its like to be and architect.

Reality: Ha! I love love love the way that almost all architects are portrayed in the movies. My favorite parts are always the desks/work environments. Most of the office spaces look like the offices of 30+ years ago. Now, I know there are most likely some firms in the country that still draw by hand and have drafting tables all over the office, but most of us now do not. We have computers and typical office environments. Now we still usually do have space for large documents to be viewed, but all the tools of drafting have long since left modern practice. For better or worse.

Perception 05: Architects are computer programmers.

Reality: This is only according to the latest job search engine! The computer system architects stole our title!! But those guys get a WHOLE different wrap in the movies. At least we win that one!

I am sure at some point I will come up with more. I know there are lots more to be countered. Maybe even some of the perceptions are actually true. But I am not sure I would ever admit to them. Well unless they just make architects look like fabulous people. But not many stereotypes actually ever do that!