Money, job & sex appeal: Top 10 misconceptions about architects

All architects want to live beyond their deaths.

Philip Johnson



Money, job & sex appeal: Top 10 misconceptions about architects


1.         Architects are rich.

Very irritating misconception. Hell, we are not. (I wish!) We are so far from being wealthy. We are light-years (10 trillion km or 1016 m or 6 trillion miles) away from the lawyers or doctors which we are often compared with. Architecture is not a “big business”, rather a small-scale professional service. Some architectural practices owners (1%) are doing relatively fine. As for the regular architects/drafters/technicians/renderers (99%) – those are actually low-income people. Salaries in the architectural industry are way below the average. It’s a sad fact not an emotional claim.


2.         Architects build.

We don’t build projects. We design them. Think about us as of composer who invents music. And then orchestra plays it under conductor’s “management”. Developers build. If we would build we would be rich.


3.         Architects are responsible for the structural safety.

No. If building collapses it’s rarely architect’s fault, just so you know… Architects’ role is to integrate building structure developed by the structural engineer into the general design scheme. Structural engineering is a professional field, essentially a science, responsible for the structural safety of the buildings. Continuing the analogy: composer is hardly responsible for the performance of his symphony, conductor and musicians are…


4.         Architects are creative.

We kind of suppose to be. But in fact most of our time is dedicated to the resolution of the serious issues: financial (to get the money from the client), bureaucratic (to get the project approved by the authorities), technical (coordination of the engineering works and working drawings), administrative (monitoring constructions and fighting with the greedy builders), political (convincing clients not to pick the ugliest option because it’s cheap). We don’t have time for free imagination, arty design and other creative nonsense.


5.         Architects are shy.

The most successful architects, we call them starchitects are aggressive as football players and loud as pop-stars. They try to attract media attention using all means, they go to fashion shows and they prefer to see themselves (not their projects) on the cover of the trendy magazines. (Starchitects are rich, by the way… They are not exactly architects though…)


6.         Architects travel a lot.

Yes. Between the local city hall reception and the technical consultants office, usually located in some depressing industrial zone. We also visit messy construction sites on the other end of the city. Most of the American architects have been in Europe (Rome, Athens, Barcelona – speaking of architecture) much less than an average programmer. And it’s not only because of our low income. As I said we have more important issues on hand than this cultural BS.


7.         Architects are naïve.

We cannot afford such luxury trying to survive between arrogant clients rebuffing our vision, corrupted bureaucrats rejecting our drawings and cheap builders refusing to build in line with our designs. We have to be shrewd businessmen. We just have to…


8.         Architects draw, paint and do models.

Forget about it. Since the CAD (Computer Aided Design) systems were introduced in the 80s we have completely lost those unique gifts making us so outstanding, so different. We have lost things defining the very core of our field. So today we are just one of those “computerized industries”.


9.         Architects wear funky glasses

Well… if you think that every Spaniard is an El-matador (a bull-fighter) or every Frenchman has 2 mistresses … then yeah… we all have funky glasses a-la Elton John.


10.      Architects are cool and sexy.

The greatest misconception of all: at the very least we are super-cool & uber-sexy. I’m not kidding – ask my lady!


Oops… have I forgotten to mention a bow tie & cigars?



More of cool top-10 charts you can see here >>




46 Responses to “Money, job & sex appeal: Top 10 misconceptions about architects”
  1. Hi! Thanx for this investigation…:) I’ll print it and hang it on the wall behind me in my office…:)

    • Albert says:

      Is there anything else any author on Earth would wish more than a printout of his piece placed on the wall? A rhetoric question…
      Hey, framing’s on me 🙂

  2. Yes, but are all architects sarcastic on occasion? You didn’t mention a
    T-square anywhere. I’m so disappointed.

    • Albert says:

      Oh, T-square! That antique relic… I think I still keep one in my garage.
      Probably some historical museums could be interested in such a rare “artifact”…

  3. Great list – hilariously truthful! I love #10!

  4. Aidar says:

    Thank you, Albert for not adding “Architects are clever” to the misconceptions list. We stay hopeful yet.

  5. Nicole says:

    Great list! The only item I would object with is the one about architect’s being responsible for structural safety. For residential projects, we rarely use a structural engineer. In fact, we have done structural calculations to restore a homes damaged by a fire and seismic disruptions. Anyway, everything else I completely agree with and am so sick of these myths perpetuating!

  6. iko says:

    Love it! well…it’s true…but it’s different for each one of us….I travel quite a lot, still draw and build models, still creative…hope so))) and definitely not rich cos I’m not a stararchitect… but I work for one!

    • Albert says:

      Of course this is mostly a generic picture… just having fun & exposing the stereotypes.
      So you’re actually the one who makes starchitects rich then?

  7. Oh my god! Im still laughing!!!
    Awesome post!:)
    Saludos desde Peru!

    • Albert says:

      Thanks, Lorena. Apparently things are not much different in Peru.
      (Btw I’m crazy about prose of Mario Vargas Llosa one of the greatest writers ever, IMHO. Thanks God they presented him with Nobel Prize…)

  8. shetu says:

    One more misconception, ”Architects are satisfied with their earnings_regardless how much they earn”

  9. This average programmer wishes he’d been to Europe. 😛

  10. Rajoor says:

    i think one more misconception to to be added.. architects are expensive…

    and good architect is the who can prove.. all the above comments as a passing comments…

  11. nrf2010 says:

    Is that a T square in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

  12. Gil says:

    Thanks for the List Albert.

    Every word is engraved on the Ro(ar)ck…aren’t they…

  13. Maciek says:

    haha, i thought that only in poland functions misconception “architects are rich”

  14. Pj Suttle says:

    Great read! Made me think of my 73 year old Father who wanted badly to become an architect. Yet my Grandfather, I’m told, adamantly was against that notion and made my Father follow in his footsteps, to become, a Special Revenue Agent for the IRS.

    It’s uncanny the similarities between the professions or at least the ‘character’ as described in the top 10 compared to my Father.

    I’ll most definitely share this with him for Chanukah or shortly thereafter!

  15. 20 minutes later I am still laughing – thanks

  16. manmeet-shetty says:

    ha ha……so we finally realised ,
    we are an inconsequential,element,of a necessary industry……..

  17. wm says:

    True in most cases. But many issues are relative depending where one has established a practice, the scope of work (like the structural/typology issue) or the money issue: where one fits in this classist world society — either by being born into or surrounded by wealth — or have risen the economic ladder ethically or not.

    However, the last sentence of #4: …” We don’t have time for free imagination, arty design and other creative nonsense.” — is the most appalling thing of the whole article!

    One comes out of Architecture School having done exactly that — “creative sense”!!! (Or else one fails).
    Despite the fact that the work environment may or may not be perpetually creative, or one “chooses” solely to immerse into a managerial/technical practice — is up to the individual to keep and architect’s persona. (In other parts of the world, technical/managers have another name altogether: they ARE NOT ARCHITECTS)
    The rest of one’s day does not have to be non-creative. The individual is the owner of one’s creative self /soul (unless one has let the bosses kill one’s artistic/architectural convictions — if there was any to begin with…)
    The one who does not spend a minute a day of his architectural life in “creative sense” — IS NOT AN ARCHITECT.

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  20. depressedarckitekt says:

    truth hurts! lmao…now I’m depressed about my life!

  21. Lawrence Edw. Sturm, Sr. says:

    Hello Alex:
    Lost him in the listings, but Chris from Australia hit the nail directly on the head. If practitioners made enough income, they would happily pay their staff personnel much more money. Least they be fools, not recognizing the source of their bread and butter, not to mention the innate respect all Architects hold for their staff. Chris gives us the solution to our woes, yet most will not listen due to their educational indoctrination. Architects must simply learn to be developers. Starting small, then expanding to develop relationships with major insurance companies, and lenders of various sorts.
    Money is absolutely everywhere available, and Architects like many dedicated men of that ilk, are still highly respected everywhere. And no less in the view of loan officers, who feel their project risk is somehow safer if an Architect is at the helm of the project. If you cannot accept this as fact, then I simply ask you to take my word for it. As an Architect developer the customary fee is in excess of 23%, comprised of customary design and CM work. When you own the project you call all the shots. In addition, you find your lender will allow you to pay wealthy risk takers copious fees, and minor ownership, to execute loan guarantee agreements, leaving the Architect without loan liability and retain majority ownership. The major financial advantage comes when the project has reached the point when the construction loan is paid off by the permanent loan. Since the permanent loan is based on a capitalization of project income over 25 or 30 years, the differential after payoff of the construction loan is always a very large sum of tax free money, which is distributed to the ownership, and minority partners. Thus, the Architect. There is nothing, absolutely nothing involved that prevents an Architect from providing his most creative design work. To say there is, comes from the voice of ill informed idiot. I’ve had the opportunity to deal with a lender/JV partner, who did not want to collect interim interest, they preferred, as owners to leave that value in the project so it could be written off over 25 years. (tax code) So that fiscal component of the project funding went into the hardware and lobby finishes. It was spectacular. I must impress upon your readers that there is absolutely nothing that a developer does that a competent Architect cannot do better. Go do it, and stop whining about the lot you have created for yourself. The architecture of the world needs your leadership, resilience, and innate creativity. Extend your commitment, don’t whine and defer. Extend your minds, to the heights of your unique abilities, for the welfare of our built environment. Not the least of which would be to end this pathetic conglomeration of negative posting.

    Lawrence Edw. Sturm, Sr.
    TPD Architect

  22. Lawrence Edw. Sturm, Sr. says:

    Thank you for the surprising response. I suppose my contact info is readily available through the state offices anyway. Apparently somehow I struck a common nerve. No, I have no case studies, but if I had composed one, I would recommend against its use. It negates your learning curve. As in every worthwhile effort, it is struggling or failing that teaches you the most. To quote Edison: “The biggest mistake a man can make is not failure, but failing to try again.” Yes, I do have upfront advice: 1. Keep it simple. You have much to learn. 2. Run the numbers to death. Ask for help from real estate finance officers that are interested in architecture. 3. Marketing the project is very simple if you deliver good design. 4. You will be free to design, (within fiscal constraints) and you absolutely must deliver architecture, otherwise; resign your license. Finally, you asked, “What is a TPD Architect. A simple acronym of TOTAL PROJECT DELIVERY, identifying a group of medium to small architects who refuse to abandon the wonderful promise of the worlds greatest profession. I trust you would eventually learn what a capitalization rate will do to the fiscal aspects of a fully occupied small project when it closes into its no personal liability permanent loan, pays off the construction loan (that funded you 20+ percent in fees) returns your equity plus many tax benefits. Most importantly it makes a wonderful contribution to the community, and makes you proud to be its Architect. It would be necessary to decide if you can practice without a client, or at a minimum redefine your client. (I suggest your community as your client.) You must take full responsibility for supervision of the trades, replacing the general contractor. Therefore; all the subs become primes and provide co-insurance and bonding to you and the lender. You would no longer be an artist separated from his media. Rest assured that the trades strongly prefer to work directly with the architect, and have the daily opportunity to contribute to the esthetic success of the project. Therein, I have discovered a distinctly unexpected connection with the trades that pleases both of us to no end.. It is an undeniable fact that the Architect is, and will remain, the titular head of the construction industry. Why, simply because the first thing any RE Developer, CM at Risk, or other type of interloper must have is the Architect. If you can agree that Architects are indispensable then you certainly must understand our capacity as a profession to change the entire delivery process. But only If first we are willing the reassume the responsibilities inherent in a change that leads back to our historic roles as ARCHITECTS. I believe it has begun already. It has begun with the suffering medium to small practitioner. It requires only minimal perception to understand TPD is the solution for the medium to small practitioner and to end the degradation of the profession. This concept of practice is focused, at this time, on empowering the one-man firm to thrive and grow, and with the engagement of thousands of enterprising architects the profession would leap from last place in the professional and business polls to the very top of the rankings. How the profession got into its current state of degradation is far less important than the correct answer to the following question….WHY NOT? Is this an attack on the AGC, ABC and Generals in general. (pun) Certainly not. TPD is very foundational indeed, and as such would greatly serve us. But, while it is currently limited in scope, its future is unlimited due to the character, commitment to ideals, and the extreme professionalism of the men and women who have already begun to populate the concept. God Speed!!

  23. ziad sherif says:

    Who said that we lost the ability to draw … I’m a architecture student and I still study drawing and painting as a main subject 😀

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