Saturday, February 4, 2012

Architecture and the Creative Class

THINGS seemed to be going so well: The architect was a figure tailor-made for the heyday of bourgeois bohemia, and Frank Gehry was palling around with Brad Pitt.

But things changed, badly, and it's not clear now when, or how, they'll change back. Corporate firms are in some cases doing fine, and architects who design for the 1% are doing better than those who depend on civic projects, but many others are hurting.

The latest of my stories about the creative class in the 21st century -- part of Salon's Art in Crisis series -- just went up HERE. I spoke to a number of architects and observers to get a sense of this important but imperiled field.


Semihandmade said...


Good piece. Something missing, though, was the notion of Design/Build firms - many of them staffed with school-trained architects who opt to become licensed general contractors to better their chances of getting work. It's the best of both worlds, really - good training and real-world experience, without the fees and overhead (and, sometimes, ego) of shingled architects.

We've worked with a few here in LA in the last few years, and the experience has been really positive.

Scott Timberg said...

This is a good point -- I think that side of the field is, indeed, thriving. There are certainly pockets that are doing okay, but they're the exceptions in the larger field.

KFCee-Lo said...

Hi Scott,
Found your blog through the Salon article. Great timely article.

I found Horton's comments about the profession's ethos-idealism, dues paying, etc.- to be right on point.

My wife recently graduated from Harvard's GSD and it's really noticeable how much this ethos is institutionally reinforced in the culture there. Professors will really crack the whip on unpaid student interns. And this is as students trying to get summer experience. And after they graduate, the three year internship for licensure has evolved into something particularly exploitive.

I mean it's nothing new that there's a disconnect between academia and the marketplace/real world. But the gap seems so big at a professional graduate school like the GSD. They're accepting even more students (increasing supply)and they're embarking on an expansion project in the next few years to be able to accept even more. Probably foreign students because they don't have to give them financial aid. But come on. Schools like GSD should be leading the profession into adapting to the new realities and not becoming more of a film school!

Also, a cursory look at the tuition rates AFTER the market crash shows an increase. But a closer look that teases out lowered health care costs, etc. shows that tuition is accelerating even higher as the job prospects and the market for architects crumbles. It's crazy.

Sorry, I got carried away a bit. Great article! I hope it will make the industry and schools pause and reevaluate how things are done.