Now could be the perfect time to look up, take stock, consider your options and head down those architectural rabbit holes, writes Tania Davidge.

Tania Davidge

Tania Davidge is an architect and co-founder of the architectural research practice, OoPLA.

Economic downturns & lessons learned

I graduated straight into a recession at the end of the 1990s. At the time, to be completely honest, I had no idea what that meant. Everyone I knew who was graduating from architecture was in the same boat. I simply didn’t think about the fact that there might be another boat – one that was way more fun, with better pay and an easier path into the workforce. Once I graduated, I just put my head down and did everything I could to get work. I took small opportunities and used them as stepping stones. In hindsight I learned that sometimes it’s OK to be a little bit clueless as long as you forge ahead anyway.

Opportunities for the profession

It is said that from crisis comes opportunity – although we all know that opportunity is not evenly distributed, and crisis hits some people much harder than others.

Our profession is founded on significant privilege and we currently have the opportunity to look at who and what our profession excludes, and to help balance the playing field. In addition, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of public space and our capacity to house our vulnerable communities. The architectural profession is uniquely positioned to advocate for built environment outcomes that foster a more equitable society, one that takes care of its most vulnerable and supports people in precarious circumstances.

Employment, the profession & the future

At the moment, regardless of where we are in our careers, we are all a little uncertain about the future. We have to begin by being forgiving to ourselves and by offering generosity where we can. That being said, taking some kind of action, even if it is only small steps, always makes me feel better. Everything may seem a little beyond our control at the moment, but we can control getting our portfolios in order or reaching out to people we think might be able to help.

In addition, I think we need to find the joy in what we do, moment to moment. When I was a recent grad searching for a job during the recession, I drove around different neighbourhoods looking at houses and other projects. I noted down the addresses of projects I liked and matched their addresses to local council permits to find the architects that designed them.

It was a great way to get out and explore the city I was living in. I saw lots of great architecture – projects I had always wanted to see and many projects I didn’t know existed. I established a group of architects I wanted to work for, and I could talk about their projects in my cover letter and in the interview. I actually got my first job in architecture this way!

Working in aligned fields & building skills

Architecture is such an intense profession. Often, we have our heads down, completely focused on what is in front of us. This moment is our opportunity to look up, take stock and reflect.

A training in architecture gives you an amazing set of skills – ones that can lead in many directions. If you are thinking of stepping onto a different career path, it is a great time to explore your options.

Get your head out of architecture and work out how to connect with the people and things that interest you. Be proactive. Keep busy (but don’t forget to make time for yourself). Perhaps you could keep busy making time for yourself… What have you always wanted to pursue but were too focused on architecture to make time for? What architectural rabbit holes have you always wanted to explore? If you are thinking of doing something different, it might be a great time to study something new. Or perhaps you could volunteer? You never know where meeting people outside architecture might lead you.