Is Architecture Synonymous with Stress?


© Filipe Vasconcelos

© Filipe Vasconcelos

The idea of becoming an architect and working in the field can seem to go against notions of a good work-life balance. With long journeys, pressing deadlines and the need to make informed decisions quickly, combined with potentially low wages and a quagmire of tricky working relationships and red-tape, architecture is conceived to be one of the most stressful professions.

A survey by Architect’s Journal in 2016 found that 25% of UK architecture students are seeking mental health related treatments. In an article by Jennifer Whelan, published in May 2014 about mental health of architectural students, the author discusses the results of research conducted by the University of Toronto Graduate Student of Architecture, Landscape and Design (GALDSU) where the majority of students admitted to regularly pulling all-nighters, skipping meals, forgoing extracurricular social activities, and rarely exercising in order to finish projects on time.

Furthermore, many architecture offices seem to seek out people who will perpetuate these practices. It is not uncommon to read, in job and internship opportunities, skills such as “resistance to stress,” or “having a high level of stress control and the ability to maintain an overview in chaotic circumstances,” for example. This is already on top of other demands, from having years of experience to proficiency in various softwares and languages, agility in teamwork, and free availability for field trips.

Although these job postings state their requirements with remarkable frankness, what they ask for is not common if we compare it to companies outside the field. As architects, we always try to design spaces where people feel good and live comfortably. On the other hand, we do not apply these same concepts to our day to day life.

To discuss this, we proposed this AD Discussion. Do you think that architecture should be stressful? Does pressure lead to better work? Or do you think architecture offices should be better aligned with the value proposition that happier employees produce more? What is your experience? We want to know!

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