The Collapse of the Architecture Profession

Recounting the exalted heights that the profession reached in the last decade, and its complete meltdown during the Great Recession, Scott Timberg asks: where does architecture go from here?
February 6, 2012, 10am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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The Bilbao Effect, Starchitects, Dwell Magazine -- merely half a decade later, these symbols connote an era when the field of architecture, tied to runaway spending in the housing and development sectors, was in the cultural ascendency. With the Great Recession, all that changed.

With firms large and small continuing to struggle with tight fees (when they can actually find projects) and with many of the tens of thousands of unemployed architects forced to leave the profession entirely, according to Timberg, "A once-thriving profession, one that requires considerable education and work ethic, and which has traditionally served a wide range of functions - designing mansions for the 1 percent as well as public libraries - is in trouble."

"[Architect Guy] Horton thinks architects are deeply out of touch with economic reality and aren't leveling with students and young designers. 'How do you keep the KoolAid and the boosterism flowing when there are no or few prospects after graduation?' he asks, describing what he calls a lost generation. 'But architecture just grinds on heroically, regardless.'"

"But overall, the state of architecture reflects the larger story of the creative class in the 21st century: Security and artistic freedom exist only for those who are independently wealthy. There are heavy casualties at small independent companies from which corporations are somewhat shielded. The middle levels get hollowed out. Barriers to entry tighten. And there's a lingering sense that even when the recession lifts, these industrywide problems will not abate."

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Published on Saturday, February 4, 2012 in
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