Why? Here’s why… (part I)

Recently I’ve posted a link to my “Why?” on an architectural forum of the professional network LinkedIn. I was amazed of the huge reaction that my rather emotional (and yes slightly provocative) essay has generated.

The comments provided by the “industry insiders” were great. Actually it would be wrong to call it just “replies”. People shared their visions, described original observations, offered concrete solutions. So sincere, so intelligent, so multi-layered. They were talking about the education and the entrepreneurship, about the public services, financial methods, moral aspects… It was overwhelming indeed.

Forum participants (whether they wanted it or not) have delivered powerful answers to my loud, partially desperate “why?” Those answers are not direct and simple, yet those answers are extremely valuable coming from the architects and designers, not from some public figures or trendy speakers. It was coming from you, fellows-architects, hard-working, creative and wise people. From your hearts and minds. And to me this is the highest reward ever.

I asked the forum if I can publish the best comments, which are practically little essays… There were 20 or so participants on the board. They are from all over the world, they don’t know me personally, they have no reason to trust me. NONE of them refused. People want to share their thoughts. They want to spread their word. And they trusted me with this. I am very thankful to ALL of you, colleagues. It’s such a privilege to belong to the brotherhood of architects.

So I publish a series of few essays, which are fully comprised of people’s reactions to my “Why?”  I will accurately group it so the reading is logical and pleasurable. Read it please. It’s not my personal, at times very subjective reflections. This is the voice of our profession.

Now… as always, ladies are first. “Part I” of the answers are intelligent and uncompromising thoughts coming from the ladies.


Laura DeSantis Gagliano

I’ve found that many architects feel that they are above the discussions of money and profit.

For me that concept was begun back in school where we were discouraged from asking about grades; the belief was that the project’s merit spoke for itself – if it was good, we’d be lauded for it. That concept continues into the profession.

Unfortunately, architecture is also a business. We have fallen short on explaining to the public – the common person – what we really do, and what the value of it is. I don’t believe that anything the AIA is doing will help change this, the organization still seems to be enjoying the “ego” of architecture rather than promoting the business of it. Some states require an architect for any structure over 100 sf, others only require them for commercial structures. We as a profession need to take back our pride, stop backstabbing each other and join together to publicize and teach others what we really do.


Katy Purviance

Laura, I really appreciate your comment. Despite it’s length, schools do a poor job of preparing the rising generation of architects for the profession. I was disturbed by how little of the business side of this business is taught in school. I’m founding a school where students will learn not only how to actually build (another important thing not taught in school), but also how to set up and brand their business, including building business credit.


Pat Leitzen Fye

I adore and am in awe of architects – you carry so much in your heads and hearts and put it all on paper and then make it real! I have long wondered why architects get so little respect and recognition, and even suffered through a period in which I thought it was just “us”, the firm I work for.

Over time I’ve come to realize that’s not the case, indeed all architects, save for starchitects, tend to be overlooked – ever have someone (quite often a builder) come into your office and say something like, “yeah, I just need the bloody stamp” . . . at my daughter’s Midwestern liberal arts university they recently completed a LEED certified campus center. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Named the street it’s on after the builder, did a many page full color spread on the building and the contractor in the university magazine and NOT ONE MENTION anywhere of who the architect was who made the whole LEED thing happen, who worked with all the players to make the building beautiful and functional and one in which the campus, and the city, can take pride.

Geezlouize. . . when will architects get their collective professional act together?


Susan Pelczynski

Fortunately or unfortunately I think many architects have such passion for their work, they will give 150% for the art and love of it, and not what is paid for. This equates to more hours than clients wish to pay and perhaps a willingness to low bid themselves to get that “really special project” that will take huge amounts of time. Engineers, builders and others in related industries simply do not have this emotional love-they are in business to make a profit. And if you are not in business to make a profit-well…sometimes you are not in business for long. Passion is not wrong, but it explains why many do what they do for very little money. It has been this way for many years.


Tara Imani

Gee, and I thought I was outspoken! 😉
I’ve been talking about similar things over on the AIA Knowledge Net site. I thought to post a link here in case you might like to join the conversation. I thought I was being bold, after reading your posts, I think I’ve been too tame.
Anyhow, I appreciate your honesty and willingness to talk about this issue: of how architects undervalue ourselves and therefore get under-valued, overlooked, and underpaid.


P.S. As for my “third why”… I do remember the promise I’ve made. It will come. (Successful movies always have a sequel…) I just think that listening to the people is way more important than to talk loud about myself.



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