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Why I Left Architecture

Before coming to SVA to study Interaction Design, I worked for three years as an architectural designer at an architecture office here in New York City. I had discovered a passion for architecture and design while studying art history during my undergraduate degree. Not having graduated from an accredited program, my plan had always been to get some experience working in the real world before applying to a masters program to receive the training necessary to becoming a registered architect. For a while, it was a dream come true. Sure, the pay wasn’t great and the workplace hierarchies of a traditional architecture firm didn’t always gel with my personality, but I learned more than I could have ever imagined. I learned about systems thinking and how to approach complex, multitiered problems through design. I learned the importance of taking the time to learn how something is built, and just how satisfying it is to release something into the world. But most importantly, I learned that I didn’t want to be an architect. For a long time, I struggled to articulate an adequate reason for my change of heart. At least until now. You see, all to often architecture forgets about one important thing: the user. There are many reasons for this, and more often than not it is not the architects fault. All to often stakeholders demand buildings that are on time, under budget, and look good in the photos from the opening ceremony. Even a little design decision on a medium sized building can cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is a shame, that in the end, many architects end up designing buildings to meet the desires of the client, not for needs of the people who inhabit their buildings. Obviously, this is not so bad if the client is also the one living in the building, but when designing buildings that house schools, hospitals or apartment buildings, this can become a real problem. Its not as though architects dont fight for the user. I have been in many meetings when we championed design decisions that were good for the user but were pulled off the table because they were too expensive, or because they didn’t align with the client’s “vision.” Sure, the principals and senior designers of the firm could have fought harder for the user, but the users weren’t the ones signing the commission checks. And so I left, to take my talents and passion to another field. One that has the possibility to affect millions of people, one that is not yet hampered by the status quo. One where the end-user is the most important thing.

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