Architecture conjures up all sorts of images in the minds of non-architects: rolls of blueprints, soaring buildings, a life of glamour and fame. But even the most famous architects say the past and present realities of the profession are markedly different. Becoming an architect today requires grueling hours, a disproportionate amount of education,years-long licensing hurdles, and finicky clients, while yielding relatively low pay and career stability compared to other learned professions.
More detrimentally for both the public’s perception and opportunities within the field, architecture remains a luxury available only to a privileged few. The field has long wrestled with its elitism; books have been written, conferences staged, and museum exhibitions mounted around estimates that architecture and good design are accessible to only a select sliver of the population. Yet architecture shapes everyone by creating the environments around us, impacting our collective quality of life. As philosopher Alain de Botton once wrote, “Belief in the significance of architecture is premised on the notion that we are, for better or worse, different people in different places—and on the conviction that it is architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be.”