At the AIA Kansas annual conference last week, one audience member raised a question that has always disturbed me about the profession: Why do we continue to promote the idea that seventy hour workweeks are normal and expected? And what impact does that belief have on driving talented young people – especially young women — away from the profession, and on discouraging young architects from participating in their communities?
I was lucky to be a “non-traditional” student, with two college degrees behind me and soon-to-be married before I started architecture school. When I was advised that all architecture students lived lives of sleep deprivation and pulled all-nighters to complete their design projects, I thought “I’m not doing that!” And I didn’t. When I later started interviewing for jobs, I let the interviewers know that I had a new baby at home and a life outside of the office. But I have always recognized that my attitude is a minority view, even heretical to some basic (if perversely misplaced) value of the profession.
If the culture of architecture is going to change to a healthier promotion of balancing career, family, and community service, it’s going to start at the schools of architecture. Here’s a typical attitude from stuckinstudio.com:
Everyone knows that architecture students are always in studio. As an architecture student you are expected to pull all nighters and go days without sleep right before your final presentation.
Well, sorry, but “everyone knows” that nobody does their best work when they haven’t slept. Your project will be a lot more impressive if you have done a little time management and not saved half the work until there’s one percent of the schedule remaining.
And there’s this from the same site:
You Know You’re an Architecture Student When…
….you know the janitors by name.
….your roommates say “good morning,” and you reply “good night.”
….you carry a toothbrush in your backpack.
….you only leave studio to buy supplies.
Cute. Not smart, but cute.
At its most extreme, there is nothing even remotely cute about this attitude, just self-destructive and destructive to the quality of services we are providing our clients. This is from an archinect.com forum:
how many hours do you work as an architect
Dec 14, 09 2:31 pm
that all depends on the individual…a passionate individual will work as many hours as it takes for his/her fingers to bleed both in school and in practice…then the will sleep for 2.5 hours then start over. everyone else probably averages between 60-70 hours per week.
Note the grammatically challenged response, perhaps resulting from brain fatigue due to extreme sleep deprivation. I’m glad I don’t have to redline betamax’s drawings.
Thankfully, I’m not the only architect who feels this way. Here’s some good – if harsh — advice from lifeofanarchitect.com:
Studio: Top 10 things you should know…
1. All-nighters are not a requirement
Architecture students are terrible at managing their time. While part of the design process is the vetting that goes on between students, rarely do architecture students show up, put their heads down, and get to work in a methodical, productive manner. There is a lot of competition and gamesmanship that goes on but if you manage your time like the studio was your job, all-nighters simply wouldn’t happen. It’s the guy sleeping in the lounge during structures class whose desk is littered with Starbucks cups that pulls all-nighters. This person will also brag about pulling an all-nighter – as a “grown-up”, this makes me chuckle.”
Of course, one argument is that the stereotypical design studio experience is a necessary preparation for professional practice. This brings us back to the original question of the “seventy hour workweek.” I’ll try to tackle that issue in my next post.