Friday, June 25, 2010

Is not the Architecture profession in the midst of a deep depression?

I don’t profess to know the exact fall-off in employment in the Architecture profession since the current “recession” in the Design/Development/Construction Industry began, but I’m sure that most of you would agree that the words “severe fall-off” would adequately describe what happened. One of my earliest mentors in the reprographics business was an architect who was the managing principal of our largest customer at the time I got into the business. As a reprographer, I always had a distinct fondness for architects. If you were in the reprographics business and took good care of the architects who gave you the opportunity to serve them, then they took good care of you. Just “thinking about” the negative impact this recession has had on architects makes me sad.

I recently visited this internet site - - to scan the news that architects are reading and to “listen in” on discussions that architects are having about the current state of affairs in their profession.

Some of the architects who posted comments in one of the discussion forums (found on the above internet site) included references to articles published elsewhere. So, before I share with you the comments architects made in the discussion forum, I’m first going to share with you excerpts from two different referenced articles:

An excerpt from an article written by Gregory J. Scott and published in the MPP DowntownJournal
“First to Suffer, Last to Recover”

“According to the latest data available from the Department of Labor, employment at American architecture firms, which peaked last July at 224,500, had dropped to 184,600 by November. And many among those counted as “employed” have seen their hours reduced to part-time, their status changed to independent contractor or their salaries replaced by smaller hourly wages. Such measures make it difficult to pin down a precise unemployment percentage, but here in Minnesota, most industry watchers estimate joblessness to be between 40 and 60 percent.”

Excerpts from an article from the Dallas, TX CBS affiliate (on April 23, 2010)
“Architects Facing 48 Percent Unemployment:

“Unemployment is high all across the country. But few groups are facing 48 percent unemployment in their field.”

“Mechele Rittenberry always dreamed of creating the downtown Dallas skyline, but 14 months ago she was laid off from her job as an interior designer. At the time Rittenberry had just completed a project at The House, a new high-rise housing project just north of the Woodall Rogers Freeway just north of Dallas.
"It's frightening," says Rittenberry. "You wonder where's my paycheck going? How much savings do I have. I should have saved more."

Rittenberry and Commercial Interior Designer Ernesto Miranda formed a support group for the hundreds of architects, designers, and project developers who have lost their jobs since the recession began. Figures vary, but experts estimate there is about a 48% unemployment rate for these individuals and about 500 people in North Texas who are looking for full-time work in these professions.

Tom Lamson is an Executive Recruiter for Babich and Associates. He specializes in finding work for architects, designers, engineers, people in construction and property development. Lamson says the layoffs have been devastating in this industry and some of the most well-respected companies are trying to find new projects. "They started with making cuts that were, in some cases, necessary," says Lamson, "and it's built to a point where they're cutting their most valued employees." Those who still have jobs work long hours, Lamson says. "One of the biggest ironies now is that the people who are still employed are overworked. They're working 60, 70 hour weeks at percentage cuts."

But Lamson says there are signs that new projects are on the horizon. He says banks are now starting to lend money and executives of architectural firms are beginning to get excited about future projects, but it could be another year or two before the unemployment rate is significantly reduced. And the more time that passes, Lamson believes those with the most experience may enter other fields of work.”

Okay, now back to the comments architects have recently made in one of the discussion forums on the internet site I first mentioned in this post (

Posted on May 11, 2010 by “UrbanDC”
I don't know of any firms that are hiring in DC openly. A few have started to bring back employees that they have laid off in the past year, mostly on contract basis. Other firms (such as Smithgroup) are still conducting layoffs as projects reach an end. With commercial real estate in the dumps, state and county coffers drying up (and thus money for education and other public works projects) and difficult lending conditions for even project types in demand (such as multi-family housing), the architecture market is still very bleak. And I write this knowing that DC is one of the least-bad markets in the country at the moment.

Posted on May 28, 2010 by “Zen Maker”
"HNTB lays off 150, including 35 in Kansas City area"
Holly crap! its like a freaking massacre!

Posted on May 28, 2010 by “roobqt”
It just keeps going... and the "official" statistic is 25% architects unemployed....

Posted on May 28, 2010 by “DisplacedArchitect”
just curious where are you guys getting your numbers? is that 25% including unlicensed and licensed

Posted on May 28, 2010 by “PJN26”
I thought it was 40-44% total workforce. Arch Record mentioned it a few months back I think. It will be larger each year as more kids graduate and don't land jobs. I guess we now know what it feels like to be a commercial pilot right now. They have been dealing with a similar crisis for the last decade.

Posted on May 29, 2010 by “roobqt”
The 25% comes from the US Labor department, and includes everyone in the architectural industry. I suspect that the number is a lot more like what PJN26 says, around 40-44% - I read that also in Record. I'm sure that in certain cities, like NY, it's higher.

Posted on May 29, 2010 by “JoeyD”
"Architecture has gone from the mother of arts to the Rodney Dangerfield of professions"

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