Selecting an Architecture School
I had been curious about architecture for years because it seemed to be the perfect intersection between my passion for art and my draw to the practical and functional. Yet, in considering making the switch to architecture, I ran into overwhelmingly pessimistic accounts of the profession. From websites and emails to face-to-face conversations with architecture graduates and practicing architects, I mostly saw red flags.
For example, in the Wall Street Journal’s “Best and Worst Jobs of 2010,” Architect ranked number 86 (out of 200), after Janitor, Forklift Operator and Tax Collector (not to say that those jobs aren’t admirable). A simple Google search mostly yielded articles with daunting titles such as “The Coming Crisis in the Architecture Profession,” “The Collapse of the Architecture Profession,” “The Architecture Meltdown,” and even, “ Why the Architecture Profession Must Die.”
I contacted Gettliffe Architecture for another opinion and a glimpse into the profession – and I was relieved to hear a different side of the story. Here are a few highlights from our conversation during studio lunch:
Focus on schools that match your interests. Neither an architecture degree nor the name of a school defines you or guarantees a job. Rather, firms like Gettliffe Architecture look for a strong match in design values, styles and interests as well as an impressive portfolio and non-academic architectural experience.
In light of that, it is wise to consider schools that offer programs that are well tailored to your interests, not necessarily “brand name” schools. Choosing schools based on where you plan to live or settle is not a bad idea either, as many important connections are made during school and can ease entry into an internship or the job market.
Architecture is cyclical. In responding to the widespread pessimism I encountered, Dominique Gettliffe pointed out that architecture goes through waves of feast and famine, fluctuating with the ups and downs of the economy and real estate market. From what he has witnessed throughout his schooling and career, the public’s view of architecture also naturally fluctuates.
Architecture is a lifestyle. Only do it if you love it. This was one piece of advice that was shared unanimously by everyone I spoke with. Not only is going into architecture a huge investment of energy, there are many other professions that pay more for less of your time (both in terms of schooling and work). It permeates many aspects of your life, even when you’re done with your workday. This can be wonderful if you love it, but overwhelming if you don’t.
The Gettliffe Architecture team’s overall enthusiasm and passion for the profession they have chosen – while still realistic – was a relief. Near the end of our conversation Raquel interjected and said something to the tune of: “I woke up one morning and decided I would try architecture – and I love it. Maybe you should stop putting so much thought into it and just go for it!” It was the first discussion of several I’ve had in which no one was advising me to steer clear of the profession. Instead the conversation helped me to see architecture within a broader and more optimistic context.
________________________________________________________________ Based on the following factors: “environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress” The Wall Street Journal, 5 January 2010. Online.wsj.com