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Architects in search of happiness

Before finishing the degree, in the first two thousand, there were teachers who tried to explain to us how harsh the professional reality of the architect was.

At that time, we only dreamed of Koolhass and his book “S, M, L, XL”, which was so difficult for us to understand, and the most daring or unconscious, we trusted that when we had to jump into the ring in a few years, we would be able to contribute some interesting aspect to architecture, in its most social and general sense.

The profession can be divided according to the different motivations of each architect and the degree of achievement of the objectives of their professional development plan.


Of course, we could qualify this very reductionist classification, with more subcategories. However, I think that in this case it is better to focus on these three. Here we are not going to talk about the architects who have become stars thanks to their architectural genius or, at least, business. These belong to the world of the intangible and their value will not meet normal criteria, as happens with artists.

The first. Architects who make a living from creating architecture are those who, for different reasons, have reached a point where their job consists of selling committed architecture, both to private and public clients, and their fees, although they have decreased due to the crisis, are according to the quality of their proposals and the degree of responsibility of the profession.

The seconds. The architects who survive are those who have focused mainly on the most commercial part of the profession,… .. “Let’s see what I can do to live comfortably and fulfill my hobbies”…. Perhaps, occasionally, the vein of a passionate architect comes out, but it is not the usual thing. This large group of colleagues are those who do not understand the option of submitting to ideas competitions, too much effort for almost certainly nonexistent prize. Their job search is usually in the sphere of the private promoter, and the product they sell is usually imposed by the promoter, no matter a community, a company, an individual, etc. “Red oceans” that before 1997 and the liberalization of prices, supposed a higher remuneration. These types of projects, where there is no architectural component, beyond the architect’s signature, were very profitable because they developed quickly. Today it is not like that, the red oceans where the majority of a group offers the same, private and / or public clients are only interested in our economic offer. We all know that committed architecture also helps to improve the economic result of the real estate operation.

Those in the middle. Architects who love architecture as much as the first, but are “lost” struggling to make “committed architecture” for clients who may not demand it. This group combines in its professional activity: jobs where the developer only requires a signature and an ARCHITECTURE order. In search of the latter, he participates in multiple ideas competitions, usually with a lack of time given that he needs to support the structure of the studio with projects without interest or architectural commitment, which are currently lacking.

The paradox is that these three architects are unhappy. The successful ones; speaking with them they confess the difficulty of developing quality architecture once the competition has been won, in many cases without financial compensation. The most “mercantilist”, not for that reason the worst professionals, find themselves embarked on a fierce struggle of communities, farm administrators, city councils, etc., where the prize is equally deficient projects. The dreamers who are “neither here nor there” are also studies with deficits; With the handicap that they have not yet clearly focused the focus of their activity, they are frustrated because they do moderately interesting things but they do not obtain recognition or financial compensation.

It is important that every day we value our profession. Let’s take time for our client to understand the vicissitudes of it, so that we are taken seriously. It is a profession of high risk, of enormous responsibility that requires great involvement, seriousness and passion. When we compete, let us think that the objective is to put architecture and our profession in value. When we work below economic minimums, nobody wins; not even the promoter, public or private, since a project that does not respond to committed architecture criteria usually suffers from sufficient reflection and, normally, is uneconomical for the developer.

Bilbao, March 8, 2016.

Borja Angulo.