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The Coach: ‘I can’t stand my self-regarding employers’

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Careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect disillusioned with the outlook of the practice s/he works for

When I look at my bosses I don’t see a future I want, does that mean I should look to get out of architecture and go into something radically different? They are successful as a practice, but all they do is service the capitalist economy, designing beautiful houses for people richer than them. What seems to motivate them is the publicity and a narcissistic belief in themselves as quasi-artists. They impart their aesthetic judgement as if it were a religion. I find their snobbery dull and sense of righteousness arrogant. I don’t ‘believe’ in architecture in that way.

Matthew turner

You almost sound angry, which is a powerful emotion with the ability to propel, but it is also sometimes corrosive. This degree of emotion is understandable given you are finding your work clashes head-on with your ideals.

Working with people whose approach grates with you can be especially difficult when they are people who have an elevated sense of their own mission. I was at an event recently on another topic where I saw a well-known architect speak in an incredibly self-regarding way. Architects, especially successful ones, can at times be incredibly conceited, with a singular, and unabashedly self-contained world view. It is worth remembering that such starchitects, whilst they might have disproportionate air time, aren’t the only role model in town; there are many other ways to fulfilled as an architect.

That leads me to what is missing from your email. What is it that you do want to believe in? Though you are clearly energised and exercised by your distaste of your bosses, it generally makes sense in life to head positively towards something, rather than focusing on repulsion. So I would take time to look inwards and reflect on what it is that you would prefer to do with your Iife. It sounds like a big question, but in your case I would say it was an important one.

To answer your question whether you should you go and do something else, I would say ‘not necessarily’. Your options might be radical, but they don’t have to be. You will no doubt have lots to build on: you have skills, you have a profession.

Not all work related to architecture is about rich clients

Not all work related to architecture is about rich clients; there are many architects who do socially helpful work (if that is where your anger lies), and much work around the construction industry can be seen as helpful and progressive, and not about the aesthetic judgements you find so dull.

It is generally a good idea to do something with your life that is more aligned with your world view. However, work may not always be the answer. Remember, the world outside work is a crucial component of a fulfilled life, so putting all your idealistic eggs in the one basket of your career can be a risky move.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Sounds like someone needs a job in academia, away from those pesky issues about earning fees through being an architect.

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