There are many types of architectural practices out there. Gill Matthewson suggests that young practitioners keep trying until they find one that suits them.
Over 20 years ago when I was working in London we had a deadline. I worked until 10 pm, but came in early; the guy I was working with did an all-nighter. After we had handed the drawings over I sat there thinking “I wish he hadn’t worked all night”. At 3 in the morning he had started hand drawing vehicles on the site plan, by 8 am the whole building complex was grid-locked by an extraordinary range of vehicles – I thought it looked ridiculous and that he had near wrecked the drawing. He, I suspect, was thinking “she’s not a proper architect”. Everyone knows you have to work all night before a deadline; it isn’t ‘architecture’ unless you do. It was for him another point against me (along with being antipodean and female).
I worked for another place where I was expressly told I was not to work long hours or weekends. Decisions made under such circumstances are not good ones and the practice thought good architecture came from making good decisions. They worked hard to make working conditions that supported the best decision making.
What does it take to be an architect? Is it about the kind of commitment demonstrated by long hours, and tolerance of poor pay and ‘rite of passage’ bullying? Or is it clear thinking and a broad rich life beyond the work studio? There are an almost infinite range of practices out there from big to small, name to anonymous, commercial to residential. They range too in their attitude as to what makes a good architect.
Some practices can make people feel like they are a failure because they don’t fit with that practice’s definition of what it takes to be or become a ‘good’ architect, but in another practice the same person might be highly valued. Goldilocks kept going until she found the right fit for her – young architects need to do the same. It’s a bit hard with the current financial situation, but the right fit is out there in one of the many different practice types that populate the profession.