Cut-Price Architecture

A few months ago, I decided to sign up on one of those websites where architects are put in contact with potential customers. I’d already tried out this type of system on another platform, but I decided to give it another try.

Screenshot of a real job offer on Wallapop

Screenshot of a real job offer on Wallapop

For those unfamiliar with the system, it works like this: you sign up and pay a monthly or three-monthly fee (around 50€/month) to be able to access job offers like “Architect needed for energy efficiency certification” or “I’ve bought a house and I want to completely refurbish it. I’d like to blablabla”.

The scale of the jobs advertised ranges from short reports to complete projects for new build single-family dwellings. You can see the job offers, but you can’t see the actual brief or any details about the customer. To do that you have to pay – on average about 12€ per contact. All platforms of this type assure you that information about the job will only be disclosed to a maximum of four professionals. So far, then, it all sounds more or less reasonable. Basically, it’s like having your own sales team out looking for work for you.

I worked the system hard for several months, and when I say “worked it” I mean I spent money on it. But the situations I came across got crazier and crazier with each call. I can tell you now that I received no return on my investment. But the strangest thing of all was that certain situations recurred over and over again.

Case 1: A large part of the time I couldn’t even get to speak to the potential customer. At best they answered my WhatsApp message and as soon as they were given the slightest inkling of an estimate it was impossible to get back in touch with them. Which brings us to the next thing…

Case 2: “Look, I’ve already talked to 5 or 6 architects, and one of them will do the job for X. If you can do it for X-1, it’s yours”. Two of these cases were especially outrageous.

The first involved building a single-family dwelling with 150 m2 above grade and another 150 m2 below. The fee they’d been offered was 3,000 € for design and project management (5,000 € including the construction technician). They even told me the name of the studio that had made the offer, because I didn’t believe them.

The second was another pearl. They sent me another architect’s layout proposal and estimate and asked me straight out if I could do it for a lower price – even 50€ less.

After having spent so much time, effort and money – enough to have paid for a very nice holiday! –  and considering the huge number of users registered on these platforms and the fact that our future marketplace seems to be Wallapop, all I can do is write this account of my experience and share some reflections with you.

Is this what our profession has become? Putting each and every job up for auction? It’s no secret that the most successfully accomplished jobs are generally those that pay the most, for the simple reason that you can give them all the time they need.

Competition based exclusively on price? What about quality? Have we become some sort of paper-shuffling bureaucrats? On more than one occasion people have told me that they only called a professional because the local council made them, otherwise they’d have done the job themselves. If the future of our profession is for us to be seen as an imposition, then things are not going at all well!

Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
(Murcia, 1986) Arquitecto y Arquitecto Técnico por la UCAM. Dirige el blog Pedacicos Arquitectónicos junto a Antonio Navarro y Juan Francisco Martínez además de MetaSpace Blog junto a Manuel Saga, desarrollando paralelamente su labor profesional en el campo de la construcción, el diseño y la docencia.

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