“The architect should strive continually to simplify; the ensemble of the rooms should then be carefully considered that comfort and utility may go hand in hand with beauty,” said Frank Lloyd Wright, well-known American architect and designer. Architecture is the practice of designing and constructing buildings. It is an art form and there are many reasons why one might consider pursuing a course of study in architecture -- for one thing, it might turn your lifelong passion for design and making beautiful things into a successful career of constructing from your imagination.
Romance is in the design and construction of utilitarian things. Remember the glass house in the romance drama The Lake House, featuring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock? The house itself becomes a character in the film. Its presence and beautiful construction -- a see-through house made entirely of glass and steel -- holds the plot of the film together and is the canvas on which the actors paint their romance. The house, hovering over the lake on stilts, was built specifically for the film and is striking in its design and composition. Imagine designing something similar!
As an architect, your job is to create structures that are functional, utilitarian, and also, yes, beautiful. Many architects are also asked to design commemorative spaces, or memorials to events or traumatic historical time periods. Think: Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the 9/11 memorial and museum in New York City, and the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC, to name a few. There are many facets of this career that can be rewarding, challenging, and inspiring. Here are some top reasons why you should consider studying architecture.
1. You love to solve problems.
Are you someone who rises to the challenge of solving problems? Then the job of an architect might be the perfect fit for you. Architects are constantly solving problems -- it is a challenge to consider all aspects of a building’s needs, design elements, structural elements, aesthetics, and much more. “Architecture school teaches you to take a pile of data and information and interpret it to inform how to design a building or solve a problem,” writes Michael Riscica in Young Architect.
In addition to creating buildings and living spaces, architects are at the forefront of planning and helping to solve solutions to our current climate crisis? Barbara Nelson of Breathing Lights says, “As a designer, I am more drawn to problem-solving [more] than to style. As a human, I share a concern for the planet. Cities themselves are critical to the preservation of open space for agriculture and biodiversity. So I am drawn to the challenge of preserving our cities as sustainable and healthy places to live. A healthy city includes neighborhoods of diverse character and culture, but if even one neighborhood struggles the whole city suffers.” Because architecture synthesizes the artistic, scientific, and technological fields of study, it is an excellent career for anyone hungry to problem-solve.
2. You love to travel.
If travel appeals to you, you also might want to consider studying architecture. Some architects claim “it is a lifestyle not a job.” Many incorporate frequent travel in their busy schedules, both for pleasure and for business. Obviously, the best place to learn about gothic architecture is at the source! Consider the difference between studying about cathedrals and their construction in a textbook versus in person standing at the base of the Sagrada Familia. Architects travel to see different cultures, to be inspired by the way light hits a building at a certain angle at a certain time of day, to understand how different structures integrate with each other.
Architect Lora Teagarden writes, “I love traveling to new places, experiencing the culture and immersing myself into the local life as much as possible. An architect by trade, I need someone who will patiently smile while I gawk at buildings. [...] Architecture and travel. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. Cookies and milk. Jack and Diane. Anyone who knows an architect knows they are predisposed to want to travel the world.” It seems like a no-brainer, but if you have an interest in architecture then you probably also are a travel enthusiast. As a potential student of architecture, you’ll likely be able to take advantage of study abroad opportunities to expand your knowledge and to soak in another country and culture's principles of design.
3. You’ll get to be both artistic and analytical
Architecture is an interdisciplinary field. Drawing concepts and design sketches requires artistic skills, while the technical side of building construction requires deep analytical skills. Architect Brandon Hubbard writes, “Architecture is one of the rare professions that allows you to be both creative and analytical on a daily basis. For example on a typical work day I might calculate and compare multiple floor area options. Then later in the day I will sketch up a design for a particular detail or portion of a project.” Don’t worry -- this doesn’t mean you have to be a math genius. Portico Journal explains, “The logic of maths is a critical tool of the architect. But it’s a skill -- so it can be learnt, practiced, and mastered. With time, the maths architects use becomes little more than habit.” So, don’t let the fear of math hold you back from studying architecture!
4. You won’t be bored -- it’s a constantly evolving field.
If you’re looking for a field of study that won’t become stale, then look no further. Architecture is a constantly evolving and changing field. Expert architects say, “There are constantly evolving materials and construction methods out there and we are required as a profession to address the demands of the public at large (building performance, energy consumption, incorporating recycled materials, etc.). Architects create new design concepts that push how modern day construction is executed. Architecture is one of the few professions that is never static.”
Recently, architects have become more and more concerned with environmental and socially responsible building practices and materials. Often referred to as “green building,” Steven Holl, an architect on the rise (so to speak), says he has to consider many factors when thinking about these types of buildings and their constraints. He explains, “The space, the geometry, the light of an architecture in great proportions must remain the core aim, while engineering aims for zero carbon, ultra-green architecture. But this balance between the poetry of architecture and its green engineering is crucial.”
5. You like the idea of working for yourself.
If you like to be in charge of your own schedule, and ideally would like to work from home, or more importantly work for yourself, then a career in architecture might be the right fit for you. Hubbard adds, “architecture is such a ubiquitous profession that you can work anywhere. I spoke recently to a friend who said his classmate is currently in a very remote fishing village in China. He is the only architect for miles, and has been finding very fascinating projects there. I also know other architects working in global hub cities as well as the rural countryside.”
Architect Richard Meier says in an interview with Architectural Digest, “Sometimes it’s not the architecture but the qualities of a place that make you think of things in a different way. I was in Taiwan recently and was completely amazed by the density of population. It makes New York look like no one is out on the streets.” Imagine being able to work anywhere in the world and letting the world you explore influence and bleed into your designs. Once trained and certified in the profession, the world truly becomes your oyster. Working for yourself will also allow you the ability to collaborate and work with others who are like-minded and motivated to pursue independent work.
6. Your efforts produce tangible -- and potentially transformational -- results.
If you think buildings or structures do not matter, then consider the Vietnam War Memorial. At the time, 21-year old Maya Lin beat over 1,400 design submissions. Her memorial, black stone walls etched with the names of the dead, sparked much controversy, but provided a fitting, moving experience for many who visited it. Lin said, “One can argue that even with the Vietnam Memorial, there’s no object to the wall, it’s pure surface -- the names are the object. [There’s] a bit of a dematerialization and a rethinking of what a monument is and it’s actually quite personal and intimate, and in a funny way anti-monumental. I think that’s just me and my personality -- these things are very quiet.” This type of work becomes your legacy. Imagine being commissioned for such an important project...quite literally, the sky’s the limit!
7. You’ll be working in an esteemed profession.
As well as being a fulfilling study and career choice, architecture is a respected and esteemed profession that, generally speaking, pays well. Many architects start out as employees for a firm or company, and they might stay working in that capacity for their entire careers. Others might branch off and create their own firms or run their own businesses or consultant services. The U.S News and World Report reports that architects made a median salary of $78,470 in 2017, with the best-paid 25 percent earning $102,680 and the lowest-paid 25 percent making $60,550.
The best advice comes from those working in the field. David Chipperfield, a successful architect, when asked about what advice he would give to those starting out in the field, said, ”Look at buildings, study them. go and see as many places as you can and develop your own values, opinions. judge things for yourself, don’t just look at touched-up images in magazines or online, that’s a kind of beauty parade, that’s completely shallow.”
So anything is possible for an architect. Studying architecture might be the key to unlocking a whole new world!