With this being the start of the July 4th weekend, I find myself thinking about the concept of freedom. I’m not talking about the general concepts of freedom that we all enjoy here in the good old USA. Those are paramount, but not what this post is about. I’m talking about a very special sort of freedom. One that is perhaps unique to the creative professions, to which I prescribe the practice of architecture. It is not always apparent, and I know full well you can’t feel it every day. But it is there. It can make even the darkest of all nighters, or slimmest of paycheck seem somehow more palatable. It may take a moment to uncover, but bear with me and share in the fruits…you may find this applies to your career as well.
I’ve heard my whole life that architecture is a “binge and purge” profession. “You’re either scrambling to meet a deadline or your scrambling to drum up more work.” In the blandest of terms, this ebb and flow of workload means the occasional difficulty with cash flow projections…in actuality this fact is a horrible little monster lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce at the first sign of weakness! It can be very daunting, particularly in these difficult economic times, to simply make a living, let alone keep the inspiration burning that brought you here in the first place.
So in my constant personal attempt to see the silver lining in all of life’s troubles, I’m going to paint a slightly rosier picture of this issue.
In architecture, simply being “between work” does not translate into a lack of things to do. I suppose as with all businesses there are the mundane tasks to be completed: financial projections, sales tracking, marketing initiatives, public outreach, etc. etc. But unlike, say, a dentist, we also have the opportunity, even the desire, to hone our craft, even if not for immediate financial gain. We don’t have to just focus on getting more “folks in the door.” We can actually do what we love while we wait. Sketching, visiting museums, design competitions, community involvement; these are all cherished and frankly enjoyable ways to improve ourselves. We can do what we love and still further our careers. What could be more freeing!? I may be wrong, but I don’t think there are any dental competitions out there.
And this, to me, is the basis of a very important benefit of architecture as a career choice: the freedom from monotony at work. Every day is different, every project unique. You rarely get bored and you’re regularly challenged. We can wear as many hats as we can, juggle as many balls as we can keep in the air, and pursue avenues not seemingly related to the direct practice of architecture. Ok, so sometimes the paychecks don’t seem to match the hours, but the effort is always worth the reward, and that reward can be a definite sense of freedom.
Have a happy and safe 4th of July!