Architectural Dysfunctionalism

Oh Architecture! Why must thou be so dysfunctional? In my short career so far, I have been frustrated by the profession’s archaic, outdated, and sometimes upside-down characteristics. But fear not, reader! My enthusiasm for architecture is at an all-time high regardless.

The root of this backwardness perhaps lies in the profession’s love of the past. And for good reason—we have all seen that 90-year old architect, still working, still causing havic, yet worshiped by employees for all the knowledge they have accumulated in their career. They have literally seen it all. Somehow it doesn’t matter that they can’t move a wall in Revit or edit a magnificent rendering in Photoshop. They have lived architecture.

Yet therein lies the problem. With that age and experience, you get what I have seen in my work experience: sexism, misunderstanding of new technology, and a severe abuse of work conditions and hours.

I am put at ease regarding the first issue when I look around my studio and notice an even split of females and males. Yet at the same time, I know that the workplace and school are very different beasts. I used to optimistically think that, in this day in age, sexism in the workplace had been solved. I thought those hard-hitting businesswomen of the 1980s paved the way for my generation. Yet the roots of sexism grow deep and I’ve seen things among cohorts which have shown me otherwise. I’m not convinced this one will truly be solved soon.

New technology is wonderful. Who hasn’t edited their Facebook pic in Photoshop…er, I mean, edited that rendering an hour before a review? But the hand-drafting generation sometimes has trouble understanding all the new technology. And rightly so! I find myself surprised at new programs, new functions, and new gadgets. I can only imagine how older architects feel. At my last firm, they were super efficient with AutoCAD and SketchUp. When we made the switch to Revit, many of them thought we could do SketchUp things in Revit. Which many times we could…sorta. You Reviteers know what I mean!

Finally, work hours. Ah, the bane of the profession. In school, we are whipped into shape by our professors to the point where sleep is a luxury and students wonder of they can take coffee by IV-drip. And when school is done, we join an elite group of people with a similar mindset. I can say from experience that I do not like working between the hours of 11:00pm and 3:00am. Even if I get a complementary dinner and taxi ride home.
But be that as it may, as a CAD-monkey or Reviteer, we must deal with these challenges until we can get promoted to some glorious position of 9 to 5-ness. Oh how we marvel at dentists and school administrators (and other professions) who can head home at 5pm and relax!

But don’t misunderstand me, reader! When I think of that which we must endure, I am relieved to know what amazing work we do. To see the bare bones steel of a new structure being built, my heart is filled with excitement and wonder.

So is it dysfunctional? It can be. But what other profession mixes art with engineering to produce new places? Where else can one mix fluffy, artistic watercolor paintings with salt-of-the-earth masons, steelworkers, and plumbers?

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