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The Secret Life of the Architect

Autora del post: Nuria Heras Diez

Immersed in a coordination meeting, I’m surprised to find myself thinking about how many hours a day I spend doing things that have nothing at all to do with the stereotyped image of an architect’s life.

And as a reflex action triggered by such familiar thoughts, I can’t help but picture a university professor giving us our introductory chat on our first day as undergraduate students. Imperiously pacing backwards and forwards on the podium in one of the lecture rooms, and without a hint of chagrin, he assured us that “more than half of you will never work as architects”.

All those years fighting to keep doing what I love make me nod in agreement at the memory and ask myself, “Is this being an architect, too?”

The image that usually circulates of architects, portraying us a creative people with artistic skills and a carefree, bohemian attitude, is distorted. That’s not to deny that many of us would fit that description, but it’s time to start drawing attention to the wide variety of facets our profession encompasses and to highlight the importance of the transverse vision our job requires.

I re-examine my first projects and recall how I made the most of every available second to keep honing my designs. Later, when I’d gained more experience and responsibilities, my time allocations flipped as I took on important tasks related to such diverse worlds as economics, psychology and marketing.

I enjoy having an empty plot in front of me; seeing the sun light the space up and the creeping shadows. I like a blank sheet of paper, tabula rasa, the heady excitement of drawing the first line before even fully understanding all the programme’s needs. And I love spending time doing just that: designing with indulgence but above all with responsibility.

Unfortunately, I have to say that in my everyday activity I only dedicate around 30% of my time to that first phase of design. In my daily work, I coordinate my team to optimise performance; I design, but more from a distance, and I listen to their problems – an indispensable way of fully understanding their efficiency and their commitment to the company. We talk to consultants about specific problems in our designs, trying to be engineers, acoustics experts or landscapers. We also negotiate fees with our customers, but never without first having conducted an in-depth study into how much a project is going to cost us to execute and confirming the availability of resources.

Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
La Fundación Caja de Arquitectos se constituye como Fundación cultural privada el 23 de Mayo de 1990, con el objetivo de promover y fomentar fines de carácter cultural, social, asistencial, profesional y formativo en el campo de la arquitectura, la construcción, el diseño, el urbanismo y, en general, de todo aquello relacionado con la actividad de los arquitectos.

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