“Part of the passion is having the persistence and resilience to change both your art and the way you deliver it” – Seth Godin
Architecture (the science of building design and not the wanna-be software architecture) is one of the oldest professions known to man. Wikipedia defines it as the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works are often perceived as a work of art and civilizations are often identified with their architectural elements.
The most important factor that drives the architecture of a building or a city is the concerned architect’s practice or practices, which brings us to the critical question, “What do architects do and how?”
The most common reaction when I tell someone that I am an architect and run my own practice is, “Wow, I always wanted to be one too.” And I think “Wow, either you were smart enough to choose another profession or stupid enough to not get admission.” When I talk to someone who is not an architect about my profession and what I do all day they think I am in a pretty glamorous profession and my work is always so creative and interesting (I also start believing so though only for the short span of that conversation). Even architecture students believe that the job is awesome and they would get to design new buildings or residences and have a control over what they will be creating with clients who respect them for their opinion.
However, what I hide is the not so glamorous (not so sexy) side of the profession, which takes up most of my or any other architect’s time. Of course I am passionate about what I do and I love to design and see my creations come to life and change lives, but that is not what takes up the majority of my time. What takes up a majority of time is kind of boring and monotonous.
Negotiations form an important part of day to day job. An architect has to be a good negotiator with his employees, his vendors and most importantly his clients. You are never served a design on a platter and you have to work hard to get it, by convincing your staff to understand the needs of the clients, to meet deadlines and to negotiate both your fee and your design with the client. Not to mention the pains of following for fees and writing off the last 10% of your fee (in a majority of cases).
No sooner you get the job, deadlines start to haunt you. No matter what the delays have been from the client side, the architect’s deadline is always as of yesterday. After all he just has to draw a few lines on paper and deliver it to the client, how much time can that take? And, this is not just one client, to sustain an architecture practice you have to be daily juggling between 8 – 10 projects. So on a normal working day you are generally keeping track of 10 of your own deadlines and another 10 deadlines which the consultant has to meet.
Consultants are there to make an architect’s life simpler by giving him design inputs and a project has its fair share of them ranging from, electrical to plumbing, structural to environmental, and many more. Did I mention that they are there to make an architect’s life simpler …… well …… they just do the opposite and you end up managing them too.
The part of this process which can drain away all your energy and make you realize that you are worthless is getting approval from a government department. Generally you can get an architect who specializes in dealing with the authorities and getting your drawings approved for construction, but God forbid you dwell into this territory alone, you are torn apart (along with your drawing sheets) and sent back packing to your design cove. (I won’t say much because I have some drawings coming up for approval in a few days).
Another thing about practicing architecture is that you should be able to take a lot of crap from other people. This includes the contractors, the client (their friends, parents, wives, relatives, sometimes their servants and drivers too). All this crap you are expected to politely use as a design input. At the end of it all nobody cares about what was said & all the matters is that a consensus on design is achieved.
At this point I would like to re-phrase the famous quote, “Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is only the architect’s baby”.
As an architect and an entrepreneur I am still not complaining and I do believe whatever cons mentioned above, I immensely enjoy what I do. The desire to perform better than the previous project and to see your design take shape in the form a building cannot be described in words.
A building in itself is so complex and to make it functional, aesthetically pleasing and economically viable is the architect’s job. To be a good architect, you not only have to be a good designer but an innovator, a good communicator, a good listener and simply able be to solve your client’s problem as your own.
Architecture is truly an art which changes the lives of people touched by it. The high you get while driving or walking past a building created by you is truly incomparable.