What sort of ‘status narrative’ do you anticipate as the year slowly unfolds like a forgotten nappy?
STATUS UPDATE. I recently conducted my own Status of the Profession survey. There has been a massive response from architects of all statuses. Thank you. You know who you are. Data were sampled, quantised, adjusted to take incomes into account, then weighted for ages as usual. The results are illuminating and a bit gloomy at the same time.
QUESTION 1. In terms of your overall status, how are you at the moment, generally?
Just over a third of architects reported moderate to severe status slippage in the previous quarter. More than half assessed their status as ‘wobbly’. A total of 78 per cent reported ‘feelings of anxiety, nausea and mild existential indigestion’. Asked about clients’ perceptions of their status, 21 per cent said clients were not returning calls, ‘not even the cold ones’. And 47 per cent said clients had NOT asked for a reduction in fees, as the project was cancelled anyway.
When asked how ‘that all-important status is impacting on issues around workload etc.’, roughly three out of four architects said their workload was slightly down on yesterday but at least all the filing’s done now.
QUESTION 2. What sort of ‘status narrative’ do you anticipate as the year slowly unfolds like a forgotten nappy?
Most architects (96 per cent) said they feared the worst, in the hope that an imagined worst-case scenario might in some way ‘bottom out’ the recession through sheer willpower. Respondents aged between 25 and 30 were the most optimistic and carefree and most likely to ‘sod it let’s get pissed and order in from that nice Thai place’.
In London – World Capital of Financial Services and Culture 2006 – the status narrative picture was very different. A staggering 12 per cent were carrying heavy stuff that would have been cabbed a few months ago. Within the M25 area, a total of 29 per cent predicted a narrative of ‘pay cut, three-day week, collapse of practice and unemployment, with all the dangerous societal implications that has for the loss of my design skills’ during the course of the year.
QUESTION 3. How are you planning to diversify your status during the recession?
Around one-tenth of some architects – and up to 200 per cent of architects with an architect spouse – are planning to work overseas in the next 18 months. There was a wide spectrum, from ‘clerk of works in Croatia’ to ‘timeshare apartments project manager, discretion required, Moscow’. And from ‘bed and breakfast, Cumbria’ to ‘anything in the Middle East, anything’.
A surprising 37 per cent said they were going to rebadge as Aaarchitects and get in the Yellow Pages. An equally surprising 37 per cent said they planned to transfer their problem-solving skills to the world of pure theory, and gardening.
QUESTION 4. How does your status quo compare with your status quo ante? ‘Down’: 65 per cent. ‘Down Down’: 75 per cent. ‘Down The Fucking Dustpipe’: 85 per cent.
QUESTION 5. Is the RIPBA doing enough to look after the status of architects at this difficult time?
One per cent of respondents, from an anonymous practice in Portland Place, said: ‘Definitely, I’m very grateful, I certainly don’t have the time to welcome government initiatives, it’s brilliant someone’s covering that.’
A third agreed with the statement: ‘The RIPBA are doing OK, but I wish they would host more competitions. I am gagging to have a go at a challenging stretch of Maidstone High Street or a footbridge or something…’ Nearly 50 per cent (half) of RIPBA members said they liked the letters after their name ‘but at £241 a year for newly qualified architects rising to £370 five years in, when you add it up over a whole career you’d expect at least an MBE, surely’.
QUESTION 6. When do you foresee an upturn in your status?
About a third of retired architects living in residential care agreed with the statement: ‘Oh, very soon. That VAT cut has seen us turn the corner, I think.’ Among those still in possession of their epic space faculties, 17 per cent said an upturn ‘may be a while yet, I’m mostly working out of a demountable cabin on a building site and OK also living there’.
A slightly darker 3 per cent said ‘Upturn? Certainly not in my lifetime, as I plan to commit suicide by Easter’.
In what might be construed as professional determination, around one in 10 architects said they would no longer work on Sundays and that they had mischievously renamed their adjustable leisure chair ‘the decliner’.