there is nothing glamourous being an architect

Booting the PC and opening Excel every morning is, beside of taking phone calls and reading tons of emails, the first thing I do at the office. There is nothing glamorous like talking to politicians or artists, there are no meetings in high end meeting rooms and there are no creative corners in the office. There is a little coffee machine which I brought some months ago to survive the every day 8-6 routine. No, there is no 9-5-job. If I am lucky, I can go at 4 pm but most times it went 5 before I think about going home.

The most innovative feature at the office is and I only use it for me alone. There is no Team-movement online. I use it to organize my dates and my to do lists because I take most days some work to the train: creating the next-days-to-do-list. This costs me maybe 30 minutes, but this 30 minutes I can use to travel homewards. So I do. Most days.
Trello makes it easy to organize everything with everyone.“ This is the slogan on the official Trello-Website and they are right. It is a free service with which you can create boards and lists and cards like a huge digital white board. It is really great and would be greater if there is someone else in the office who is open to new online optimizing tools…

Trello boards

Trello boards

what is on my to do list?

The term that I can read on the most cards in my lists is named „checking bills“ from all the contractors we work with.
This is not what I expected as I finished university. Sure this is something someone has to do but that this would take this much time was a surprise for me. Especially when you have to check a bill which building site you never have seen or you do not know well it is very difficult to check this. You have to look for the prices they gave you before they signed the contract – this is the easiest part if your office has all the papers together. Then you have to check the amount of the pieces. This is quite difficult if you don’t know the building. And even if you know it, it is not this easy the most times. The next step is easy again, but it need so much time. You have to multiplicate every single position with the given price and the amount you said it would be right.

It is not rarely that I sit 4-8hrs on one bill and after a meeting I have to check some positions again. This and cost-estimation are the things I would give in other hands best. I would be so much happier without this annoying activity.

to be ripped out the workflow

One of the big problems I see in a very little office is that there are too many very spontaneous meetings which interrupt your work and cut off all your thoughts. If you are in the middle of something and just starting to understand a problem that you have to fix and then someone (your boss) came in and started talking to you about another (maybe in this moment not so important) topic, all your thoughts blow out your brain. You need some moments to come into the topic of the new conversation and when you finally got the central theme, you maybe missed the half message. Then you have to ask again (which is a very unpleasant situation for both sites) and then you’ll maybe spend 30 or 45 minutes in this ‚short question‘-meeting. After this you need at least 15 minutes to get back into your old topic and all the thoughts which were on the right way to come to the resolution, are scattered in the broad expanse of the ocean your mind.

Most times I feel like these spontaneous meetings are not worth the time they got because they are not that necessary (for me) in this moment. Maybe for the boss or the fellow they are incredibly important for one of their problems, but they disturb the workflow of others and affect the assigned job of the person who is interrupted. Unbelievable, but true!

delegate and coordinate

What I like maybe most in this job is to coordinate dates. When which contractor has to do his work before the next can start and maybe when can they work at the same time because they work on different places at the building site. I like that more than dates with the clients, because I feel related to the contractors. We all work together to reach the same goal: a finished building which hopefully brings a smile on the clients face.

Meetings with the clients are not easy to describe. Some of them are very open minded for the architects ideas and advices but some have a very strong own mind. If they have correct and usable ideas, it’s easy to transform them into reality, but if they have abstruse ideas, it is very tricky to make them understand, that their idea will not work, or maybe will just be a very bad solution. Especially if their wish brings you in the situation to fix a questionable technical construction, you will get some stomaches with it.

maintaining one’s hopes… erm… maintaining correspondence

Writing is one of the time-consuming activities in the office. Sometimes very short messages with maybe 50 words take longer than an hour, depending of what you have to say and what you want to get as a result. Accusatory emails or faxes are the most difficult, because you have to look for the right words that the other site understand their mistake but will repair the work they did. Or when they ignore the time table without telling you. As an architect you are the coordinator and you have to know when which contractor can or can’t come to the building site. If they change their dates without telling you, you can’t communicate it to the other contractors and all the timetables will crash because these other contractors of course have their own timetables in other contracts. If this happens (and this happens very often, nearly every day) it is the most annoying situation for me because then the trouble begins and you start trying to reach all the other contractors and the client to re-organize the workflow.

and where is all the glamour?

It feels quite good if a building is finished but this is a long way to go and there are several moments you really feel the urgent necessity to crawl away into your shell and cry silent and tearless.
Okay it might not be so dramatic but you can be in a very pissy mood and this for a long time or multiple times a day. Every day. Every week.

Keep the goal in mind, that the building should be built once upon a time and then all the stress can be forgotten. Maybe. Do not burn out!

How are your experiences in your job and how did they distinguish from your expectations?

Photo: Tim Reckmann  /

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Diplomierte Herzblut-Architektin, die auf Abwegen dennoch weiterhin ihrer Passion nachkommt. Hier wird von den vielfältigen Möglichkeiten berichtet, die man neben dem 0815-Architektenjob haben kann.

2 thoughts on “there is nothing glamourous being an architect

  1. Sehr süß beschrieben, das nicht-glamouröse Jung-Architekten-Leben. Für die meisten von uns „Arbeitern“ an einer schöneren = besseren (?) Welt bleibt es ja so, denn was wäre los, wenn wir alle zu Stars unserer Branchen würden? Irgendjemand muß ja auch die konkrete Arbeit tun… Aber kein Award und keine Geldsumme kann das Glück erzeugen, das man empfindet, wenn man die Arbeit liebt, die man tut. Spricht eine weise Eule, seit nun 24 Jahren als Grafik-Designerin selbständig.

    • Es ist gerade die Herausforderung, herauszufinden was einem wirklich Spaß macht und dann noch mal die viel größere Herausforderung, es irgendwie zu meistern, dass man davon auch wirklich leben kann. Das ist ja dann das, was man wirklich machen will. Arbeiten zu erledigen, für die man völlig überqualifiziert ist, lässt einen schließlich auch irgendwie in negativen Stress verfallen.

      Vielen Dank für deine Gedanken!

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