Why Architects Drink
August 15, 2010 5:35 PM   Subscribe

In all my years of architecture school and practice, there seems to be a pervasive myth that my job is pretty and easy. Here, I reveal the painful, ugly truth about why it takes so long to build a building, what it is exactly that we do, and why that's not creamer you smell in my coffee.
posted by Joe Beese (47 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I looked through the first few posts and it seemed mostly to be GRAR GRAR GRAR. Where's the interesting stuff about why X materials were selected, how he was inspired to design the hospital Y way, etc, etc.

Yeah, yeah, nobody knows how hard your job is. Try explaining to a sales rep or client why the 72dpi logo that looks great on his screen will not work for print.
posted by nomadicink at 5:46 PM on August 15, 2010 [11 favorites]


I cannot contemplate how hard it must be to be an architect. Hell, I can barely construct a building with Legos. I'm amazed anyone could ever find the design and construction of a building to be "pretty and easy."
posted by cheapskatebay at 5:47 PM on August 15, 2010


If believing that architecture is easy is a pervasive myth, it's not pervasive enough.
posted by applemeat at 5:49 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I believe there's whine in that coffee cup.
posted by gum at 5:52 PM on August 15, 2010 [13 favorites]


Architects, at least in the US are in a pretty crappy position. Responsibility, but no real power.

*As a young man, switched from architecture school to art school. Best decision of my life. Plus, the money is better, really.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:54 PM on August 15, 2010


Part of the problem is that Design Associates' powers-that-be think that an architect (or architect-like person) should be in charge of the seminar coordination

Classic bad-business architect move. Must. Not. Relinquish. Modicum. Of. Control.
You know how sometimes people can be really smart, but SO STUPID?
posted by Casimir at 5:56 PM on August 15, 2010


Try explaining to a sales rep or client why the 72dpi logo that looks great on his screen will not work for print.

Behold!
posted by kersplunk at 6:00 PM on August 15, 2010 [12 favorites]


Gee, in the movies, it looks so glamourous!
posted by Ideefixe at 6:16 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


People think that?

I couldnt imagine how massively nuts of a vocabulary designwise (materials, codes, standards, etc) you'd need to be a good architect.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 6:19 PM on August 15, 2010


Still time to blog about no time to--wait, wasn't there some architect guy in Atlas Shrugged?
posted by emhutchinson at 6:21 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know Ellen Page had a lot of natural talent and all, but I don't think any of the team thought it was easy. Why would they have to go all the way to Paris if it was easy?
posted by Think_Long at 6:22 PM on August 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


I couldnt imagine how massively nuts of a vocabulary designwise (materials, codes, standards, etc) you'd need to be a good architect.

Exactly. Plus, the test can be brutal.

What is your reward for your knowledge and experience?

Being treated like a whore by developers and bankers!
posted by R. Mutt at 6:26 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but if you don't like the resulting building, as the architect, you are legally entitled to blow it up without being punished (if you can give a good enough speech to the courtroom, of course.)
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:42 PM on August 15, 2010


Sometimes I consult on architectural projects and let me tell you- there are plenty of reasons to drink. Like the time a giant I-beam was rushed from the US to Asia overnight on a private plane at a cost of many hundreds of thousands of dollars for a massively behind-schedule project just so they could meet an arbitrary deadline. That I-beam sat in a warehouse for 6 months. Meanwhile they "value-engineered" out things like spare fixtures and mounting clips. ("Value engineering" is one of my favorite euphemisms. It means the integrity of your project has "passed away" or is "with Jesus now".)

Then there was the time (also in Asia) when the huge water feature was filled weeks before the filtration/pump system could be turned on and the walls were closed up. So waterbugs and mosquitoes infested... then the snakes came...

Or the sporting goods chain that opened a meeting with a famous British designer by showing him Larry the Cable Guy's TV special.

But in between those times, meetings are boring, billable hours suck, micromanagers abound and your favorite project is canceled. Maybe a blog isn't the best format since it amplifies the day to day irritations by requiring frequent updates and misses the bigger more absurd circus of building buildings.

And yeah, I don't know anyone that thinks it's easy... maybe interior design gets a bad rap, but I've never heard that about architecture.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 7:00 PM on August 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


So this is the architect equivalent of yelling "What, you think this is easy?" at the audience?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:01 PM on August 15, 2010


I know you're joking, but the prospect of Ayn Rand novels being taken as legal precedence is a frightening one indeed.
posted by twirlypen at 7:04 PM on August 15, 2010


Where's the interesting stuff about why X materials were selected, how he was inspired to design the hospital Y way, etc, etc.

Because, probably much like your job, or anyone else's, those things are largely a result of what the client was willing to pay for. In architecture, that's generally also mixed in with a little bit of what code will allow.
posted by LionIndex at 7:13 PM on August 15, 2010


The CA post rings pretty true, though.
posted by LionIndex at 7:18 PM on August 15, 2010


if you don't like the resulting building, as the architect, you are legally entitled to blow it up without being punished...

I didn't know this very amusing item about the movie:
Rand demanded that the entire speech that Howard Roark gives at the end of the film be read exactly as in her original screenplay. Vidor initially agreed, but when shooting commenced on the scene, he decided to tighten it up a bit. Upon hearing this, Rand called the head of the studio demanding that the whole speech be filmed. In the end, most of the speech was put in, but some parts that were in the novel were omitted in the film.
They changed it! The speech, her perfect speech! The one she thought she got them agree to put in unaltered! Life imitates art!

Except, of course, Rand didn't destroy the resulting film.

I suppose I should comment on the blog itself. I like the phrase “new nadirs of "meh"”.
posted by weston at 7:35 PM on August 15, 2010


Metafilter: then the snakes came...

that's not creamer you smell in my coffee.

Ew...
posted by dirigibleman at 8:11 PM on August 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


whatever.

I don't know anything about this myth that architecture is easy. I've never thought it was.

But wah wah wah I have to deal with clients, I have to deal with a lot of different, potentially conflicting demands - sounds like most white collar service industries..
posted by wilful at 8:14 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Behold! posted by kersplunk at 6:00 PM on August 15 [+] [!]

I'm sorry to derail, but I was enjoying that site until I got to this one. This is a Reverse WTF.

int main (void) {
char c;
while (!feof(stdin)) c=getchar() && c=tolower(c) && putchar(c);
return 0;
}

for i in WithCaps*.txt; do cat "$i" | ./lowercase > "$i.lowercase.txt"; done

posted by thesmophoron at 8:31 PM on August 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


It feels like highly-educated, angry young career-peoply have in mind a fat, drunken strawman who just assumes their job is easy, regardless of whether they've met one or not.

Rocket science? Well ain't that jus' tyin' a firecracker to a tin can?
posted by griphus at 8:34 PM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I work with building architects. I am very glad I am not one.
posted by Xoebe at 8:42 PM on August 15, 2010


If you are the male lead in a romantic comedy you should really be an architect.
posted by I Foody at 9:16 PM on August 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


She is amazing. As in, how-can-you-breathe-with-that-enormous-monkey-on-your-back amazing.

The truth is she's probably not that good at her job, or at least insecure about it, or both. The wildly disproportionate aggression is a front.
posted by eeeeeez at 9:31 PM on August 15, 2010


twirlypen: Indeed.

It is said that Thomas's favorite movie is "The Fountainhead" - a film based on the Ayn Rand novel in which the protagonist, an architect, blows up his own building rather than compromise the purity of his architectural vision. Indeed, Thomas's allegiance to this story is so strong that, each year, he requires his new law clerks to attend a screening that he hosts.
posted by dhartung at 9:45 PM on August 15, 2010


Everyone else's job is better than mine. Therefore, an architect's job is pretty and easy. QED.
posted by LogicalDash at 10:25 PM on August 15, 2010


thesmophoron: That won't work because any real-life web site is going to contain a lot of URLs, scripts, etc. that will break if you change the case willy-nilly. Go back to enjoying the site.

Also:
for i in WithCaps*.txt; do tr A-Z a-z "$i" > "$i.lowercase"; done # Nyah!

posted by shponglespore at 11:00 PM on August 15, 2010


Everyone else's job is better than mine. Therefore, an architect's job is pretty and easy. QED.

"Every hooker I ever speak to tells me that it beats the hell out of waitressing. Waitressing's gotta be the worst fucking job in the world."
posted by griphus at 11:20 PM on August 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


In today's economy, the fact that she's working means that she's probably awesome at her job. Denver's unemployment rate for architects is thought to be 50%. Our office is doing relatively well and we've shed about 40% of our staff over the last 2 years. The profession is in survival mode right now. Architects need to be cheap, productive and "easy to work with" to keep a job. No place like a blog to vent.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 11:54 PM on August 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


Architects have strictly "high class" problems. Each being no more a "problem" then say, having two girl/boyfriends.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:59 PM on August 15, 2010


thesmophoron: that definitely doesn't solve the problem.

1. there might be URLs or embedded Javascript code that will fail if you change its case.
2. it won't work on Unicode characters.
3. It's quite likely that some of the "text" is in fact rendered as images.

On preview: shponglespore said much of this...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:01 AM on August 16, 2010


Thin Lizzy: "And yeah, I don't know anyone that thinks it's easy... maybe interior design gets a bad rap, but I've never heard that about architecture."

As I recall from my college days was that there were two degrees, one in Architectural Engineering from the College of Engineering, and one in plain Architecture from the College of Architecture. The impression I got my Architectural Engineering buddies was that architects design things and then hand it off to archE's to make sure it stands. Looking at the curriculum, architects appear to take a single non-calculus physics course and spend way more time more time in studio drawing than studying materials and construction. I have no doubt that engineers believe their non-engineer counterparts have an easy job, and my impression is that architects are getting hit worse than archE's in the recession.

After reading a few posts from this blog, I can't say for sure which camp they're in. If I had to guess, I'd say Architect, rather than ArchE.
posted by pwnguin at 1:54 AM on August 16, 2010


What is your reward for your knowledge and experience?

Getting paid is your reward. Everybody has this problem.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:07 AM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Talented middle class person complains about well paid job with commensurate level of difficulty, yet somehow still has time to blog in mind-mumbing detail about it. Boo hoo.
posted by dickasso at 4:20 AM on August 16, 2010


That won't work because any real-life web site is going to contain a lot of URLs, scripts, etc. that will break if you change the case willy-nilly.

But since the web designer is not "from hell", naturally s/he separated the content from the scripts and links....right? So just lowerfy that. Alternatively, judicious addition of grep, awk and sed to that script will still solve 95% percent of the problem and testing will flush out the other 5%.

posted by DU at 4:53 AM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Writing about architecture is, evidently, like dancing without music.
posted by jbickers at 5:05 AM on August 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


The first post I read was about how cute his cat was. The second was some whining about clients.

I didn't make it to the third.

Colour me disappointed -- I have always had an amateur interest in architecture and was hoping for some unique insights into that world.
posted by modernnomad at 5:15 AM on August 16, 2010


I went you one better, modernnomad, and read the third entry. More fool me.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:53 AM on August 16, 2010




shponglespore & lupus_yonderboy: add in a bracketcount variable and appropriate < and > matching. printf("%c", (bracketcount)?c:tolower(c))
posted by thesmophoron at 7:45 AM on August 16, 2010


Pwnguin- I looked at her site again and read the sidebar where she says she works exclusively on health care facilities. I was aware of the rift between architects and engineers but she probably notices it much more than I do since her projects require (or at least inspire) a bit of gravitas. I work on the opposite of the spectrum in architainment (themed restaurants and retail, nightclubs, casinos, and such) and none of us can really bicker about whose job saves more lives. We can also afford to have a few lulz about a project that's turned into a bit of a circus whereas a problematic hospital is a bit of a different story.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 8:18 AM on August 16, 2010


My dad's an architect. I decided to become a concept artist so I could design buildings any way I wanted and not have to worry about code and liability insurance.

Working with unobtainium is much easier.

albrecht's link is great.
posted by zoogleplex at 8:47 AM on August 16, 2010


So, in the middle of a devastating recession, particular focused on the construction and building sectors, a highly paid professional kvetches because they have to email an attendee list for a meeting once a week.

Sorry, this is gross.

The bit where she complains that some of her tasks would be best performed by someone 'without a B.S. in Architecture' was hilariously narcissistic.

I look forwards to reading more. Perhaps there will be a 300 word piece about the author having to pour their own coffee, due to a lack of administrative personnel.
posted by mrdaneri at 8:59 AM on August 16, 2010


I have always had an amateur interest in architecture and was hoping for some unique insights into that world.

Probably best you didn't. It's typically boring stuff. My morning consisted of...

- emailing an asbestos inspector trying to get the results back so I can file a new job (that's basically a whopping two doors and a wall),
- trying to get a price out of a subcontractor for some terrazzo work,
- trying to get another firm to get their work from 1996 signed off at the Building Department so we can obtain a new certificate of occupancy,
- trying to get our expediter to close out a sidewalk shed permit from 1999 for that same project,
- finding out why the DEP is taking so long to review our application for an RPZ (backflow preventor valve)
- figuring out we are getting the permit for Public Assembly for a job that was inspected two months ago
- correcting the saddle detail that the vendor incorrectly has on their shop drawings,
- correcting the plumbing fixture count on forms for the Building Department
- sending a revised Electric lighting plan to the contractor.

Zzzzzzzzz.
posted by yeti at 11:10 AM on August 16, 2010


"My friend exclaimed positively upon seeing me HOW DARE SHE DO THAT? She then invited me out for drinks SO I RELIEVED THE STRAIN BY IMAGINING HER BEING PUNCHED IN THE FACE"

"I have to work 40 hours this week instead of 36 HOWEVER SHALL I COPE because I only have 36 hours of work to do WHICH IS AWFUL but then they gave me more work to do HOWEVER SHALL I COPE?"

"My 90 minute user group meeting ran to 120 minutes I WILL STAB THEM WITH PENS"

"Here are some pictures of my cats!"


This is basically perfect. It's 100% pure distilled Essence Of Blog.
posted by ook at 1:18 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


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