Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Architects need to have a better relationship with money

Emily Booth
  • 1 Comment

Architects need to make more money so they can create projects that capitalise on the value of what they do, writes Emily Booth

Shutterstock man with cash

Shutterstock man with cash

Architects have a difficult relationship with money. The latest RIBA Stirling Prize win – the most hotly debated and discussed outcome in years – sums it up. What does a (pretty much) unlimited budget mean for architecture? Crafted perfection or schemes that are overthought and overwrought? What does Fosters’ Bloomberg triumph say about architecture’s role for ordinary budgets and everyday people, and how wonderful design can change their lives? With this Stirling win, there is a message here going out to the wider world. On the cusp of Brexit, it’s a big-budget reminder that UK-based architects are world-class, and Great Britain (especially London) is open for business, big-time.

On the flip-side, and away from the billionaires and would-be billionaires, the latest salary survey from 9B Careers is another indicator of the tension between architects and money. Broadly, salaries have remained pretty much static for a decade. Women – still shockingly, still persistently – are paid less for doing the same job as men. The survey even finds that architectural salaries have dropped for many (both men and women) at the beginning of their careers.

Do architects recognise the monetary value of their efforts, so they can charge the right price?

And all this in a seemingly buoyant jobs market. It should be a sellers’ game. So there’s a message here too: the market does not recognise the value of what architects do. Unpick that a bit further: do architects recognise the monetary value of their efforts, so they can charge the right price?

Markets are supposed to be dispassionate (although they rely on confidence and are fuelled by greed). So, perhaps, this conundrum requires a dispassionate, accountant-like, line-by-line response. Just where is the practice revenue coming from? How could it be increased? What else can be charged for? Setting the appropriate fees, for starters, sets the value of what architects do. Why shouldn’t architects secure the principal designer role? Nobody knows their projects as well as the architects who designed them. Why should clients or contractors hire any number of specialists to do what architects could do? While it requires a little extra training and focus from architects, this could reap many financial rewards for their practices.

Not everybody is going to be able to push the business of architecture in the way architect and entrepreneur Jo Cowen does – although her thinking shows just what an innovative, bold approach can achieve. And everybody should listen to her words from the AJ interview: ‘Now, architects really are seen as just a component – a critical component, but just a component – of a bigger development machine.’

Money unlocks time and possibilities and influence. Architects need to make more of it: to be seen as more than ‘just a component’; so they can create projects that capitalise on the value of what they do.

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • John Kellett

    Hear hear. Architects ARE project managers, design managers, BIM managers, principle designers and technologists. It is why the training is long and difficult. It is also the reason why ALL building designers must be chartered professionals (engineer or surveyor etc) as a matter of public safety, as a number of recent events have proved.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.

Related Jobs