difficult to work with sometimes


Architects can be difficult to work with sometimes.

Yes, I know you’re surprised, but I’ll admit it.

There are reasons; we mean no harm. Without being defensive, I think it’s important to know what we’re thinking so that perhaps people will understand us a bit better. Here are a few reasons that came to mind as I’ve been pondering this. Four years ago I wrote that we were intense.

It’s challenging to articulate our quirks and unique characteristics. In fact the reasons that follow are not isolated but work together. I’ve only separated them as a means of exploring it and discussing it.

Fragile ego – Many of us find our identity in what we do (right or wrong). Our work is naturally open to public criticism. When that occurs, it’s possible that we take it personally if we haven’t conditioned ourselves to keep our work separate from ourselves. We say we do this, but at times, we fall back into past habits. I also think our creative nature is one that simply thrives on accolades and is crushed by disappointment.

Birth ideas to reality – Our ideas come from a process that at times is likened to giving birth. We struggle, agonize and develop our work much like a child is born. It can be painful but we soon forget the pain when our work is before us. We see our work much like people see their children – don’t mess with it. Yet, our work isn’t for us, it’s for others. In a way we’re architectural surrogates too connected to work given up to others.

Already considered it – Typically our solutions have multiple layers to them. Our responses are based on a multitude of issues and seemingly contradictory demands. That “thing” is rarely there simply because it looks good. It’s doing something I’m sure. So when a “question” is asked with a tone of negative assumption, we’re frustrated because we’ve probably already considered what you’re asking. Our work is thoughtful and deep and we do appreciate collaboration. Architectural elements must serve a multitude of needs. When you ask “did you consider…” most likely the answer is “yes” we’ve already considered that and have a reason why it won’t work. However, sometimes our brain blanks and we are prone to mistakes too. Let us admit that, don’t point it out. Why? See point number one above.

Broad values where money is not the highest priority – If you haven’t figured it out, money and budget is everything when it comes to architecture. Buildings are expensive. However, we see projects for what they could be as well as for what they must be. We care about the people using the spaces, your brand, the environment, and quality. We care what others will think of us too. We do care very much about your budget, but we care about all of these other things too. If we only designed to the budget, you would get ill considered, uninspired solutions. You could do that without us, but wouldn’t want to live in that type of world.


Greater good – This goes along with the last item. We are generally ‘cut from a cloth’ that is simultaneously concerned with community and the surrounding environment as much or more than just the person paying for the project – especially if the person or entity paying for it is NOT the end user. We know that architecture should outlive us and requires a large amount of money and planning to be built. Therefore, we have a difficult time ignoring the other people and surrounding area just to please one person’s whims. We appreciate your idiosyncrasies, but not at the expense of everyone and everything else. We are always seeking the delicate balance.

Struggled to get solution – Not only do we go through the pain of conceiving the ideas behind a project, but we work with a variety of people and processes to see a building built. There are so many hurdles to overcome from start to finish that any additional friction can set us off. Budgets, codes, approvals, meetings, engineering, team meetings, personalities, redesign just to name a few. We mean no harm, we just ask for patience.


Want others to care as much as we do – Appreciation and gratitude go a long way with us. Perhaps it’s the ego thing again. However, since we make (OK plan) buildings that take so much effort, time and money, we’d really like it if others would get that and care as much about the result and we do. Will that happen? It’s not likely. Yet, the more I talk about architecture with others, the more they begin to see the depth and power of it. It’s intoxicating at times.

Long term versus short term – Perhaps this has already been stated, but we are concerned about more than “right now.” However, much of what is being built is all about now. There’s ROI, short term gain, only living here for a few years, 5 or 10 year leases and other modes of thinking springing from what I believe is an ideology more than expediency. We plan for the next generation and their grandchildren. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that we’ve done good things and not harm for them? When you don’t share this value, you’ll find a reaction from us.

Balance the artistic and the technical – This is what many people do understand about us. We daily balance visual and intangible aspects of architecture and environments with a multitude of technical demands. Not only do these spring from opposite hemispheres in our brains, but they tug at the priority list. Keeping dry and safe is ultimately at the spirit of why we’re issued a license, but as humans we’re not capable of thriving in pure pragmatism. It’s a delicate balance. It’s why I respect architects and it’s why I love this profession.


We don’t mean to be difficult. Please be patient with us. You’ll truly love the result.

photo 1 credit: IMG_1362 via photopin (license)
photo 2 credit: 满地金钱 via photopin (license)
photo 3 credit: DSCF3099 via photopin (license)
photo 4 credit: Easier than I thought via photopin (license)

difficult to work with sometimes

4 thoughts on “difficult to work with sometimes

  1. This is one of the most insightful and best descriptions of what good architects truly value; and deservingly reflects the attributes of what those outside the design domain truly admire most about the profession. Thank you for the reminder.

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