I’ve been in this industry now for over 20 years and my goodness has my perception of my own career changed! When I left school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, what I wanted to be. I actually ended up enrolling in Psychology…I did OK but after only 12 months I starting reconsidering my options. I wanted a career that would challenge me and give me a sense of achievement…if I’m to be totally honest, I think I was chasing a sense of glory???
I’m not sure about the glory part of things, but the next year I decided to switch from Psychology to Interior Design – it seemed like a pretty cool thing to do. Despite my Mum always telling people I was creative, I always considered myself a pretty mainstream left-brain kind of girl, so when I threw myself into the creative world of interior design, I certainly fulfilled my urge to find a career that challenged me.
Like I said, the glory part didn’t really come in to it at that stage, but the challenge was certainly present!
I did enjoy Interior Design (and my results suggested that I was pretty good at it) but I was told by the lecturers at the university (of all people) that there was no future in Interior Design in Australia, and that if I was serious about a career in this field I would have to move overseas. The idea of living OS not only scared the bejesus out of me, but really didn’t appeal to me – for whatever reason. So…on the advice from the Interior Design staff at the Uni, I again started reconsidering my career path.
I hadn’t really thought too much about architecture until this point. I mean, the lecturers had recommended I switch from Interior Design to Architecture, but really?...Architecture was a male-dominated career and one that I perceived as far too glamorous and important for little old me. It made sense I guess because I would get the full year credit for what I had already done, and it was in the same industry, but my perception of Architecture was that it was this prestigious career that was reserved for intelligent, powerful, creative and confident men. This prestigious perception, it seemed, was shared by my friends and family, judging by their astonished reaction to the news of my switch.
I will start by acknowledging something that some people may not realise – or even have thought about before….the term architect is not all-encompassing. What I mean by this is that architects are all very different…so much so that I would say it is impossible to place them all under the one umbrella. The differences, in my opinion, are directly influenced by the clients they work with and the firm they work for. For this reason, I have to state that MY opinion is purely based on MY experience, and I fully acknowledge that other architects will have a very different outlook on how architecture is perceived in society.
I have been lucky enough to work with some pretty amazing clients over the years, something I am very grateful for. I have also been exposed to some less-amazing clients, but that’s par for the course in any business. When I first considered architecture as a career, I knew it would be a HUGE challenge for me but one that I was certain would be worth it…if I could pull it off. According to the preconceived ideas I had in my mind, becoming an architect would automatic afford me respect and admiration from society…which in retrospect, was something I was craving as a young adult. Fast forward 20 years and I must say that while the journey has most definitely provided the challenges and sense of accomplishment that I had predicted, it hasn’t always been abundant with the glory, respect and admiration from society that I had forecast.
I guess it’s my own fault for being slightly (largely) naïve about how society works…people don’t just commend each other for the credible work they do, but they also tend to offer feedback (sometimes ruthless) on the less credible work that is carried out. I’m not suggesting that we have copped copious amounts of criticism – that said, we are delivering a subjective service so of course we have received critical feedback at times, but I am commenting on architecture in general. I never realised just how interested and passionate the everyday punter is about the built environment. It’s actually really great to know that people do concern themselves with how their built environment takes shape, but it would be ideal if people understood what goes into the architecture behind the building.
As I said, architecture is subjective – very subjective, and multi-faceted. Our brief is very rarely to simply design something beautiful. There are many hoops to jump through, and more often than not, many parties to satisfy. When we provide the architecture for a project, we not only take on the responsibility of designing, documenting and co-ordinating a building that is aesthetically pleasing (either to the client or to the market for which it has been designed to appeal to), but it must also be structurally sound, be compliant with all the regulations, satisfies council, doesn’t offend anyone, has all the services considered and allowed for, isn’t going to discriminate against anyone that might wish to occupy it, can be built within a specific budget…the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about this, in fact it keeps the job interesting and keeps us on our toes, I am simply trying to raise the awareness of what goes into the design of a building behind the scenes…so perhaps the critics can cut us some slack when they analyse the success or failure of a building.
Now, as a more mature young person (I still like to consider myself young at the ripe old age of 41), I can see that there is very little glory in our profession – which is OK because I no longer need nor desire it. What it does offer though is a sense of responsibility and accountability. One of our biggest assets is our unwillingness to provide irresponsible architecture (I can feel a future blog bubbling inside about this). When we put pencil to paper, and indeed finger to mouse (Aaron still designs on the drawing board, but don’t worry the rest of us use all the modern technology to turn his 2D magic into 3D masterpieces), we do so with the intention to produce fully resolved, compliant and rational designs…while aesthetically meeting the client/developer/market exactly where they need and want to be.