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The Coach: ‘I want to engage more with environmental issues in my work’

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Careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect who feels they don’t have enough influence on the world in their career

Social and environmental issues really matter to me. I want to have real influence but, as an architect, I don’t.

Matthew turner

Many architects contact me expressing a similar sentiment. Our profession tends to attract and develop idealists, and that can make some of our work little more rewarding than working on a factory production line.

The important thing is to harness your feelings and convert them to a useful energy, rather than harbour frustration. Ideally, the aim should be to align them to your real world of work. 

Idealism is great but, mixed with naïvity, the danger is it will remain unrealised. An architect who as a student explored an enticing proposition such as the impact of driverless cars might think they are in a good position to solve these issues in the real world. But architects aren’t normally the people singlehandedly entrusted to envision such complex projects.

You are more likely to be closer to the action as a politician, planner, campaigner, or engineer, than as an architect

You are more likely to be closer to the action as a politician, planner, campaigner, or engineer, than as an architect. All of these are possible career routes for architects. 

The other mindset you could develop is to think and act small. What we do is way more results-focused than most professions. Your view may be coloured by the kind of practice you work for, and its workload. The everyday can be humbly influential. Even with a simple extension you can aim to develop a highly energy-efficient house, or directly help improve the quality of life of a family.

Sure, you can think big, and who knows, be the next Steve Jobs. But to do this, you are more likely to need to work alongside, rather than in, architecture.

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)

  • Matthew, Architects do have a huge influence on the social and environmental impacts of buildings and there are quite a few really good firms around who can demonstrate that. Tell your correspondent to aim for a job with one of them to see how the science and engineering works combines with architecture in practice. Also, there's nothing to stop an architect being a politician and/or campaigner at the same time.

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