Friday, September 10, 2004

Architecture: What Price Sanity?

This morning a coworker and I went and crawled around in an old building that is going to be gutted and rehabbed. Once I came back to the office I realized I hadn’t managed to take any of the measurements relative to what I needed for floor-to-floor heights. Actually, I was told, in a fashion befitting an idiot, that I hadn’t. And then I “realized” he was right.

I had been happy to get out of the office and do something different, and started having thoughts about this place working out after all...this exchange put the kibosh on that. Again. My mood flipped from happy-to-get-out-of-the-office to you’re-a-moron-why-do-you-bother in an instant.

Every time I am brought down by something like this, I instantly blame that bitch, Architecture. I am constantly trying to come to grips with what it is that makes me so unhappy with practicing architecture.

After 5 years, I feel like I don’t know enough; and the knowledge I will feel that way for years to come, due to the nature of the business, is disheartening. Wall sections still elude me. Not having all the information about projects (budget? program? client expectations??) from the beginning causes me to spend a lot of time being confused about what is expected- from me, and the project.

Because I’ve always worked for someone, I haven’t stretched my design muscles since leaving school. BossMen tend to keep the fun bits to themselves. By the time I get onto a project, it has already been designed, and all that is left for me is to fix what they’ve screwed up in the way of code compliance and “build-ability.”

Healthcare architecture has gotten old for me- it’s project type I’ve been working on for the last five years. I know it’s the most lucrative right now, and I know I’m well versed in it, but I want to do something different!! The problem, however, is that it’s in high-demand, and the longer I do it, the less likely it will be that a company will want to waste that knowledge to let me go “play” on a project type I’ve never done before. There is no time or budget for exploration. Additionally, I have no other project types in my portfolio to show a company I’m capable of doing other things because…you guessed it….I haven’t done other things!

Money, or more accurately, the lack thereof, is a concern, but by no means the most important one. I knew, from Day One in architecture school, this was not a high-dollar industry unless you came from money, or knew people with money, to begin with. Right now I am below the pay scale for my experience level due to a couple of bad years with no raises and an unfortunate job change choice. I am hoping to remedy this somewhat with the next move I make.

As for starting my own business, I don't think I'd want to take a traditional approach. Designing something from the ground-up hasn’t felt nearly as attractive to me as taking something existing and making it better. I can see the potential in so many old buildings, but opportunity is the problem. Lack of money to buy the real estate. Lack of a client to pay for the work. Fear of inability to sell the buildings after sinking money into them. These things stop the thought process before it even begins. In school, this wasn’t a problem, because you were encouraged to follow through a project that would never be built. It was the whole point. In the working world, if it’s completely infeasible, you’re not supposed to waste time on it.

The familiar feeling that something’s got to change has been poking its head out. I’ve been feeling that a lot, and I can’t even say “lately,” because it’s been lurking, bouncing back and forth between my conscious and subconscious brains, for years. Not only my job path, but treating my body better, and treating my depression.

But that’s a different entry.

1 comment:

Kent said...

Wow, logic would tell me that other people in the industry would experience similar things, but wow you hit everything right on the head. The way as you call them "bossmen" treat you like a moron, the pigeonholing into a particular building type or even drawing task, hell even the urge to fix old buildings instead of creating new ones. All things that I deal with everyday too. Just wanted to let you know YOUR NOT ALONE.