4 Myths about Architects

I’ve wanted to be an architect for almost as long as I can remember. I recall telling a relative of mine during Christmas that I wanted to be a police officer, and she said “like hell you do, cops get shot all the time!”, so I checked that off my list and went right down to architect. Architects don’t get shot all the time, that much is true. These 4 things that people think about architects are not.

Architects make a lot of money

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going hungry. But check out this Georgetown study outlining the earnings of those with a Bachelor’s degree in engineering-related fields. Go ahead, keep scrolling. Down. Well under the median of $75k, you’ll find architecture at $63k. I suspect if you broke it down to a per hour basis, architecture would be at the very bottom of this group. This is plenty to live comfortably on, but if I was looking to make bank, I’d have been a petroleum engineer or a dog whisperer.

If you’re in the mood, the rest of that study is pretty informative. Anyone want to guess whether “70% of architects are men” is high or low?

Architects are good at math

Here’s something I get all the time when I tell people I’m an architect: “I wanted to be an architect, but I wasn’t very good at math”. I never know whether to tell these people that they could have been a great architect without knowing much math at all. Most of the calculations we would have to do are already done in span tables, and the rest are done by our consultants. If you can visualize spaces and solve problems well, you’ll never need to know what a derivative is.

Architects mostly design houses

Actually, almost all new single-family residences (otherwise known as houses) are engineered once and built hundreds of times by development companies. These ‘spec’ homes need to be standardized to keep costs down, meaning that the role of the architect is minimized or eliminated. When architects get involved in residential projects, it’s usually for multi-family residences like apartments or condos. Architects do very few houses because of the cost to build a completely new home that has been designed to fit your lifestyle perfectly is much higher (in terms of money and time) than just getting something off the market.

Architects live forever through their buildings

Buildings have a lifespan just like you and I. There are some great and timeless buildings to be sure, but they’re all subject to the brutal forces of supply and demand. Buildings are bought, flipped, sold, remodeled and sold again. Then, when the land value is more than the value of the building, someone tears the building down and builds something more marketable. When I want to create something that will outlive me, I’ll make a piece of furniture or a painting, because I’ve never heard this conversation before:

Housewarmer: Hey, this is a really nice painting you guys found.

Homeowner: You think so? We thought so too, but we both think this corner down here should be red, and I figure while we’re making this part red, neither of us are really happy with that particular shade of green over there. And honestly, this isn’t the 60’s, nobody paints deer anymore. So, we’ll replace that with a rabbit, or maybe even a bear, we haven’t really talked about it. And of course when we have kids we’ll want to add on to it, so … you’re right, I’d say it’s a really great starter painting, for sure, but there’s a lot of work to do …

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3 thoughts on “4 Myths about Architects

  1. I’m sad to learn that these are myths. Until two minutes ago I held these statements as self-evident truths. NOT.

    I don’t even use a scientific calculator to work out the math I do everyday!

    I love your quipping, especially about the painting to architecture analogy.

    Out of spite, I might start editing people’s paintings. Perhaps next time I am volunteering at the museum, I’ll bring along a paintbrush 🙂

    • Oh good. I’ve always assumed that only architects give a shit about architecture, so I’m glad to know I was justified. I’m happy to know that I’ve not cultivated at least middling “normal conversation” skills in vain.

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