WHAT IS IT LIKE TO WORK AS AN ARCHITECT, BUILDING DESIGNER or INTERIOR DESIGNER?

I have written this article to give prospective students a realistic overview of what to expect working in the building industry as a designer, whether are an Architect, Building Designer or Interior Designer. There are some good parts of the industry, and a lot that overtime that many get tired of. Recently I have spoken a few Architects and Building Designers that have had enough of the indudtry and are looking to leave. I am not trying to disuade you from pursuing a career in Architecure, I want you to at least make an informed choice if its something you want to invest a lot of time in.

I started studying Landscape Architecture in 1997 at RMIT, I was 17 when I started, and even though I had just completed Year 12 VCE at high school, the work load in the 1st year of University was much more than I could have imagined.
I dropped out in 1998 as I found that particular course was not at all how it was advertised by the university, and so I then moved onto looking at building construction disciplines.

I won't go too much into the various courses you can study in this article, but I will say that building design courses are very demanding on your time to complete the assessment tasks.

THE DREAM:
Many students of architecture have grand dreams of just designing great impressive structures, as if they were an artist that manifests their art into designing buildings instead of a using a canvas to express themselves.
This is not quite the case.
Firstly, as a new graduate of a course in architecture, you will be seldom given design work. That is often done by someone more senior than you, or by one of the directors of the firm.
If you are given some design work for the external facade of a building at some point, you will find in certain locations that you will be highly restricted by council planning rules of heights of buildings, colours, materials, building dorm, design etc. Throw in actual building regulation and codes and you will find often great restrictions in what you are allowed to do. Of course then there is the client too, and they will have an aesthetic desire as a part of their design brief to you, but often they are not aware of the former restrictions I mentioned making it frustrating at times to realise the potential of the building design vision juggling betwen all things.
You can see this as a positive challenge however, to find a good design solution that satifies the client and authorities.
The grand public buildings you may see in capital cities are often allowed a lot more lead-way in terms of design, but that is an exception to the rule.


WHAT YOU WILL BE DOING:
As a new graduate, you will likely have a lot of drafting duties. Modern drafting is primarily done using computer software called (CAD) software - Computer Aided Design. There is a lot of sitting in this work, so ensure you sit correctly, have a great comfortable chair at your desk, stretch regualrly and exercise. I know quite a few people that have bad backs (including myself), from sitting at the computer and not looking after my back and posture.
The senior designer will give you often a hand sketch that you will then draft into the CAD software so the design is ready to be used in putting together planning and later, construction drawings.
You may need to do some research into materials to be used, what sizes the materials comes in, how it is to be installed, fire ratng (if relevant) etc.
If you are designing, you may need to read up on local council planning design guidelines to consider as a part of your design.
During various stages of preparing drawings for sketch design through to construction, you will converse with various consultants such as structural engineers, land surveyors, building surveyors, landscape architects etc. The types of consultants you work with will vary depending on the type of building and scope of project.
Working with structural engineers is a great way to learn more about construction and often you will learn things that are very interesting ways to construct something.

Most people that work as an architect will do a lot of drafting. This can be quite rewarding at times, although sometimes there are tight deadlines and you may need to work extended hours to get the work done, especially if you end up working for yourself.
There is often a design element in drafting, not so much aesthetic, but often you may need to come up with ideas on how to go about constructing elements of the design. I personally really enjoyed this part, as you can come up with creative construction and structural ideas to make something work. This is a great part of the design process.

You will receive drawings from various consultants as a part of the construction process, and a part of your role will be to check others work to ensure that it intergrates into your building without affecting anything else. For instance a mechanical engineer may send you a layout, but you will then see that it conflicts with the fire engineers location of sprinklers. So you need to have meetings sometimes getting all stakeholders together to find a solution that satifies each discipline.

Designing and drafting are 2 of the main tasks people think about in terms of being an architect, yet there are more things.
Something I personally found quite enjoyable was creating 3D models and presentation drawings and images for presentations to clients, or potential customers.
Some time ago, architect firms also made actual real models, but that is often outsourced if required to specialists.

WHY PEOPLE GET SICK OF THE INDUSTRY?
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people do get to a stage where they want to move on from architecture. People I have spoken to tend to be business owners primarily, and that can add a different level of why people want to do something else.
Drafting can be monotonous after a couple od decades if that's all you do. Some large architect firms that can happen, where you are sometimes pigeon holed into doing one thing. Places like this have been referred to as a sausage factory.
If you find this is the case, changing jobs may help. Getting work for smaller architect practices can be a lot more rewarding I have found due to having more options and responsibiltiy in your position. Smaller boutique firms can be harder to be employed at as youo will often need a good level more experience than a large firm, as smaller places won't have the resources for you to learn as much on the job in terms of mentors. A large firm has a lot of people in an office that can assist you greatly.

As a business owner, getting paid is challenging at time. I have personally had to take someone to court to be paid for the work I had done. As a business owner you will likely spend much more time getting clients and completing projects. You are also legally responsible for anything that goes wrong on site due to your drawings having errors. You will need insurances of different kinds, but there is often an added level of stress.
Designing can also be harder as time goes on as new codes, regulations and standards are altered or introduced. Trying to keep up to date takes a lot more time to read and learn taking away from constructive hours to actually work on projects to make a living.

The red tape in planning is one of the biggest complaints I hear from other architects and building desingers. It really makes the design process unenjoyable at times. As I mentioned earlier you have grand dreams of designs, that often can not be fully realised due to the red tape of planning, and codes and regulations.

 

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