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What is the most difficult thing in architecture?

I've been thinking of being an architect, I consider myself a great drawer and am good with numbers. Ever since I was younger I had a pull towards creating or building something. I really find it exciting when you get pull those ideas and create a physical design of a model or building.

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Alexis’s Answer

Do it. I wanted to be architect because I loved playing and creating with my Legos. When I took drafting in high school, and later did undergrad in architecture, I kept loving everything I was learning about and doing. As long as it feeds your passion, it can be your path. You will know right away if it is not for you.

And with all the knowledge you gain, you can pursue so many avenues in architecture, construction, design, problem solving...so many opportunities are available. Enjoy the investigation and the friends you will make with a similar passion.
Thank you comment icon Hey Alexis, I love your passion for architecture (and love for Legos)! Can you elaborate on if there are any difficulties associated with your profession? Gurpreet Lally, Admin
Thank you comment icon Yes, a ton ALL THE TIME. The challenges I face are constantly having to address not only the design part, but the Health, Safety, and Welfare part which isn't as much fun as design. Then there is the zoning requirement, client relationships, managing various consultants, understanding a number of construction assemblies and codes, dealing with contractors that don't care as much as they should, and getting clients to pay for all the work put forth. These are things that are not really taught in school which is unfortunate and a hard lesson to learn. But man, I have loved gaining all this experience even at its worst moments. The only way it's possible is because of the passion. Otherwise, it could drain you and leave you defeated. Alexis Flores, AIA, LEED AP
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Mariya’s Answer

Hello David,
I think Eric Packer gave you a very good answer. I will start with what is great about architecture, before I give you my answer to your question. Architecture is multidisciplinary at its core. Both studying and working as an architect opens doors to so much knowledge, that you can become a lot of things, not just an architect in a studio, working for a salary. The possibilities are infinite and if you manage to take a little from everything and then find your personal interest and develop it, you will end up probably very happy with your career.

And now back to your question: Generally what people find hard in architecture depends on the person. However, I can tell you that from my personal experience and from the experience of many people I studied with, we all share one big struggle and this is the reality of the practice.

While you are in university studying things can be great or not so great depending on the school. Some schools propagate very rigid curricula not leaving too much for the imagination, some have a very experimental and open-ended approach, which might also be misguiding. There are great architecture schools and you can make the best out of any of them. Generally finding your way and navigating through academia can be challenging, but also exceptionally satisfying. I personally had a great experience, so after a few years of practice, I returned to academia to become a researcher. Anyways, the reality of the conventional practice is that this industry is driven by money and profit and if you begin your work in a big company you might end up counting windows and doors or designing suspenders for suspended ceilings for a few years before you get to design anything of substance and this is where reality hits. You might be lucky to start with a smaller company where you can learn faster and get more responsibilities sooner. However, these companies also have to stay afloat, so they usually strive to work faster and the demand on the employees is greater. Either way, working for clients, under strict building laws and regulations with a senior architect telling you what to do can feel the opposite of creative work and this is where the real struggle lies for me.

At the end of the day, you might find some other path that doesn’t necessarily follow either of these ways. If you are up for and academic challenge, a journey of self discovery and exploration in the human realm (from habitat to behaviour and more), architecture is the right pat for you.

I know it was for me and the opportunities and knowledge you gain are so much, that I have never met a person regretting embarking on this journey.
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Eric’s Answer

David, I imagine that the most difficult things in architecture will vary from person to person based on the strengths and weaknesses of that architect. Architecture requires a broad, general understanding of all of the disciplines that go into a building (e.g., electrical design, mechanical and plumbing systems, structural systems, interior design, etc.). While these are usually designed by consultants, architects need to know enough about those systems to properly design the architecture with those systems in mind and to coordinate those designs throughout the design of the building. Architects need to have a strong understanding of building science (e.g., building envelopes that need to be waterproof and airtight, fire resistant systems, and how the layout and materials affect heat gain, etc.). Architects should be strong communicators, both written and oral communication. Proposals for a job need to be written well and presentations require strong oral communication. Project managers need to be organized and need to lead the other team members effectively. Principal architects need to have a background in business and leadership. Designers need to be able to think in three dimensions and need to know how to develop raw ideas so that they become elegant and practical solutions.
Some architects are good at all of these areas; but, more often than not, most architects become good in one area and become utilized in their architectural firms in the capacity for which they are best suited. I hope this helps and I wish you the best as you work out your future.
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Mariah’s Answer

Hi David,

I think the skills you have are a great foundation to an architecture career. It certainly helps to have those strengths to get you started. Like you, I had desired to create, but also wanted that to be pragmatic. Though I am not an Architect, I work in a 6-person architecture firm (including myself), and have done the typical work of an architect for much of my career, which is unusual for an Interior Designer. I’ve made a list of the things I have found difficult in this role, and have also witnessed:
- Like others have mentioned, the knowledge required is vast and you wear many hats. Being in a smaller firm, you play the role of architect, designer, engineer, manager, lawyer, salesperson, accountant, etc. In a larger firm your roll can be more specialized, but I have had to operate under these roles and it requires so much knowledge.
- How underpaid the industry is. It hurts to see that as a profession so critical to society that we are incredibly undervalued. Seeing my friends who are in different professions making more than me having 7 years of solid experience in my role stings a bit. You really have to love what you do to stick with it.

Now some redeeming qualities:
- This industry is so fun. If you find the right group of people to work with, work will feel very fulfilling. Everyone in my office is like family (seriously – they came to my 35 person wedding), and they make the hard days less hard. It is easy to create a bond with individuals in this field.
- This may be more applicable to small firms, but the work is collaborative, creative, and fulfilling. Being on a design team is stimulating and rewarding.
- Seeing ideas started in your brain come to fruition is the coolest thing ever. To know all of the work put in is now a space where people can live, learn, work, play, grow, is gratifying – especially when you’re managing a project during construction and you get to experience it yourself. Realizing the influence you have over experiences is empowering.

All this being said, I’d like to reinforce Alexis’s point – you will know right away if it is not for you. I’m not sure what level of school you are at, but doing a freshman year architecture studio program will quickly let you know if it’s for you or not. I think it’s worth pursuing!
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