Architects would rather be working on smaller projects

From yesterday’s entry on the Architecture + Morality blog:

Outside looking in, the general public naturally perceives architects as almost exclusively concerned with big projects. Firms that specialize in smaller projects, such as low- to mid-rise apartment blocks, office complexes, municipal buildings and schools, though profitable and even respected by other architects, seem completely invisible to the public. In news stories about a construction project underway, the architect is often never mentioned, unless when the project’s significance partly dependent on who was chosen to design it. Big buildings are a major investment in the community, and therefore the selection of the architects becomes worthy of import to the community as well. This leads to a common problem that communities face when planning their built environment: the public’s myopic view of what architects are supposed to do (that is, design big, important buildings) tends to neglect the smaller but often more critical pieces that improve one’s experience of a neighborhood or city district.

When I was an architecture student — and even now when I think about architecture — smaller projects jump to the forefront of my mind. I’ve always been more interested in more intimate built spaces than larger, more prominent projects. For some reason I had an understanding early on in my studies of the potentially nightmarish bureaucratic web waiting for designers working on skyscrapers and stadiums. Touring Skidmore Owings Merrill’s offices might have helped educate me in that respect.

But even before then, in high school I remember a local architect mention how he’d much rather be designing houses than schools.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

2 Responses to Architects would rather be working on smaller projects

  1. corbusier says:

    Thanks for your comments on my recent post. Just like you when I was an architecture student, it was the small projects that really got our attention and admiration. Never in any design studio were we directed to design a large building or structure- just little houses, galleries, interpretive centers and small multi-family housing projects. We never studied the problem of skyscrapers, stadiums, airports or convention halls. I think it partly has to do with our professors having more professional experience with the small (few of them come straight out of SOM to teach full time. Most of them come from a milieu where the workload is small enough for them to have the time to teach).

    And yet, when we get out of school, a number of us will work for offices that will only do big projects as sustainable business model. And the truth is, we will have to do this in order to survive professionally, in spite of being drawn to small projects.

  2. Pingback: Small silvery living spaces « The Aesthetic Elevator

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: