I would guess that most of you have seen this image circulating around Facebook in recent weeks. If you’re like me you laughed out loud, uttered the words “That’s so true” and then reposted it on your page to share with your friends. Between this comical but true image and a recent comical but far-from-the-truth US News article about the architectural profession I started asking myself this question: “What does society really think an architect does?”
For years, Architects have been falsely portrayed to the public by people with little knowledge about the architectural profession. Architects have been portrayed as young, rich, successful, good-looking, and smart professionals that seem to spend more time hanging out with their friends at the local bar rather than actually working. While I suppose there is some truth in those common misconceptions, there remains to be little attention focused on the amount of schooling or experience required or what it means to be a licensed architect. The false image of an architect is what I call the “Ted Mosby Illusion”.
Ted Mosby is a fictional character on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Ted is a young, good-looking, successful architect living in New York City. His architectural career, as portrayed on the show, goes a little something like this: Ted worked at an architecture firm where is boss was a jerk and gave him little respect till one day Ted took it upon himself to redesign a skyscraper – by himself, in one night – in which everyone fell in love with his design, except his boss. Ted gets fired from that job but is hired by the owner of said skyscraper, a National Bank, to finish the design he started. Unfortunately, Ted learns the lessons that one man can’t design a skyscraper by himself therefore, for a second time, gets fired. Doing what any architect would do in that situation; Ted decides to open his own firm, Mosbius Designs. After his only project, a restaurant shaped like a cowboy hat, falls through Ted decides that he’s not cut out for being a sole practitioner. Finally, Ted becomes an architectural professor. As a regular HIMYM viewer I was shocked to find out that not only was Ted, Ted Mosby, AIA but also Ted Mosby, PHD.
I share Ted’s story with you only because I think it is a perfect example of why society has misconceptions of what architects really do. They see the “Hollywood” version of our profession and read ill-researched articles that lead them to believe we are something that we are not. Even Brad Pitt clams to be an architect – currently designing a five-star hotel and resort in Dubai. I think it’s great that Hollywood is fascinated with our profession. The more movies and hit TV shows about architects only boost the awareness of the profession, however, it’s up to us, the real life professionals, to change these stereotypical misconceptions. There’s nothing glamorous about working 65 hours a week on a project deadline only to spend what little hours are left studying for your next ARE but that’s the reality of being an architect. Next time somebody asks you what you do be honest with them and tell them the truth about the profession. I think we’ll gain a lot more respect if they find out the truth rather than thinking we are all like Ted Mosby.