The Architecture Career That Never Happened

DISCLAIMER: This thread shares boring old man rants which contain absolutely no useful information about SketchUp. Consume at your own risk.

Encountering SketchUp a few weeks ago has brought back some long lost memories which were on the edge of vanishing forever. For one thing, I am reminded of the best architecture lecture of all time…

So I’m 20 years old in 1971 and trying to decide on a college major. I’d taken some pre-architecture school classes which I liked, such as learning how to draw 3D views of buildings from floor plans using paper and pencil, the very old fashioned way.

I’m starting to get a bit serious about all this when I hear of a coming lecture by some famous professor about the architecture business. This sounds great as I assume the lecture will be all about how much money I will make and so on.

The day comes, I get to the lecture hall and the professor walks out and starts to speak. I can’t remember his name, so I’ll call him Professor Burnout, which gives you a clue where this is going.

Professor Burnout proceeds to give a 90 minute lecture which goes in to extensive gory detail about what totally sucks about being an architect. He goes on and on and on telling one horror story after another, with ever building levels of angry jaded sarcasm. This guy had the gift, he should have been on Broadway, what a show!

I left the lecture convinced that the field was not for me, and walked away.

Looking back I now see that Professor Burnout was a genius teacher, because if one lecture could talk me out of architecture, I didn’t belong there. Professor Burnout saved me years of wasted career, until I finally realized I was in the wrong place. I didn’t get all this at the time, but looking back 50 years later it’s all crystal clear.

Thank you Professor Burnout, whoever you are, where ever you are.


One of the first things the first architect I ever spoke to was “If you’re in it for the money, don’t go into the profession.” He went on to say that you’ll make a decent living but never a great living - something that has proven to be as valid today as when he told me that back in 1974.

Having now been a licensed Architect for over 31 years it’s one of the first things I tell anyone I’m mentoring.

Thanks for a great post!


So what did you go on to do as a career? Great story btw.

When I had studied architecture for some years, in the late 1970s, I heard a lecture from a representative of the building industry who declared that the country was “ready built”, nothing left to do. There was a slump in building activity at the time but thankfully it didn’t last. But a rather depressed feeling lingered for some days.

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I had the same experience at the initial candidate selection to architecture school. A lecture of what architecture isn’t and what it is. I remember the opening statement that was made: “If you’re here thinking you’ll make lots of money, I suggest you leave now as you won’t.” About 10% of the people there left straight away.

Hey, cool posts you guys, thanks for sharing your own stories. Sounds like my experience wasn’t so unusual.

What Professor Burnout did reminded me of my high school football career. Every fall about 100 guys would come out for the team, but they only had uniforms for 40 kids. The coaches had a solution. Every year would start off with us running laps, laps, laps, laps and more laps in the 3pm Florida August sun. Every day a few less guys would show up for practice and when it got down to only 40 guys left, the laps ended and we started learning plays and such. The coaches knew how to find out who was serious about playing football and who was not, just like Professor Burnout.

So what did you go on to do as a career?

Well, that’s a long winding wacky tale like a Disney cartoon on drugs, so for now I’ll just share the next chapter.

After rudely denying the architecture field my great creative talent :slight_smile: I examined about 400 other majors, and as it turned out I wasn’t serious enough for any of them either. I did eventually get a degree, but that’s a later chapter.

What happened next was I bombed out of college for a couple years and moved way out in to the North Florida countryside with some other wackos and we set up a little hippy commune, such was the fad at the time. And this was where I found my first um, architecture job? Well, sorta…

I built this two story pagoda thing as my hippy home in the woods. It had two floors, each about 12 x 12. The bottom floor was enclosed as living quarters. Back then I only owned 2 shirts and a pair of pants so there was plenty of room. There was an interior ladder which took you up to the second floor which was a big screen room. If it wasn’t raining or too cold I’d sleep up there in total natural darkness while being serenaded to sleep by 3 billion crickets.

It was a primitive structure compared to what I could build today, but at the time I was a prince in a palace. It was my first carpentry project, and still probably my favorite. And, as a big bonus, that’s where I learned to love the north Florida woods, a passion which has only grown stronger over time.

Eventually the commune fell apart because that’s what communes do and I came back in to town, got back in school, and got a degree that had nothing at all to do with architecture or carpentry.

But if you wanna hear that story you’re gonna have to insert another quarter, because this isn’t one of those free Internet software things. There’s no trial version or refund after 30 days or any of that. You either pay up in advance or this is the end of the story and you’ll never know how it ended! :slight_smile:

PS: Um, duh, aha! I should model my long lost pagoda in SketchUp! And it only took me a couple days to think of that. Doesn’t everyone want a pagoda in the woods? Of course they do. Coming right up.


Our crits gave similar “encouragement,” and they were right. About 2/5 of the students left the program each of the first four years.

Yea, architecture school is no cake walk. I lived with one of my friends while he was in architecture school and watched him get routinely totally buried in work to point of panic. But then any professional education is like that. I lived with another friend while he was in med school. Way worse! He’d go in to the hospital on Monday morning and I wouldn’t see him again until Thursday, and then went on for years and years. Say goodbye to your 20’s!

A best friend in high school became an architect. Same thing in college. My wife’s father is an architect. So is our niece. And now I’m surrounded by architects on this forum.

I may not be an architect, but I know how to hang out with classy people! :slight_smile:


I was advised to look elsewhere by a professor at the end of my first year, and then went ahead in construction. I was actually building the designs that my former classmates designed and we where sometimes contemplating:
“Hé, I wish I could be building like you are doing now”, “Yeah, I wish I could be more doing the things you get to do!” On the other hand, you don’t get to learn to be old, but you are never to old to learn. (Doing some courses again)
At that time, when I submitted my design for an office and it was picked by the professor of an example of how it should not be designed and “this is not how you draw a person, that’s an idiot!” (I drew a little scale figure next to a desk) I was to shy to mention it was actually him in front of the whole class.
That did not bruise me as much as when I got my school report at age 7 and stated “Jack can’t sing, he hums”

I never sang, again.

There are bad men and mad men
Anyway’s, here’s what Milton Glaser has to say about failure and career:

(also past away last month)


I never even made it to architecture school.

Technical drawing got me an A grade at O Level (UK national exams at 16 years old pre-1988) but I was the only one who wanted to go on to A Level and it was not offered to me.

Who knows what I might have done at degree level if I had continued to study technical drawing?

Instead I kidded myself that I would save the world by doing Earth Science.

After college I became an accidental builder and after 20 years finally ended up in the architecture field albeit at small scale domestic level.

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I hear ya, life is full of what might have beens, and we accumulate more of them as we age. The problem is that the realm of reality can never successfully compete with the realm of imagination.

2 year architectural degree here followed by a BS in Civil Engineering. Wanted to go on to get my Masters in Arch but got tired of going to school and in debt.

Did I say an architecture career that never happened? Oops, I misspoke. It happened this morning, thanks to SketchUp. As promised, here’s the hippy house I lived in once upon a time. Was a lot of fun re-creating it!

For the benefit of anyone who just arrived here in SketchUp land, I’ve been using SketchUp about 3 weeks, and this took me a morning. Well, ok, ok, two mornings as I had to dump yesterday’s attempt and start again today.

I plan to add cats, guitars, deer, squirrels, furniture, hippy gals, and a pound of weed etc, but this is enough for today.


Hey Nuke,
I can relate to “boring old man rants”, as I’ve been prone to that now and then … hope this doesn’t turn into one! It’s true that one should not pursue the Architectural profession “just for the money”, because that is likely to be disappointing.
At age 5 I started taking everything apart I could get my hands on and putting it back together, then I went on to drawing everything, and then drawing variations to make things better. Then I started building models of everything, and then customizing them, and on and on. After lots of Art in High School, I went on to mechanical/electronic component assembly and rough carpentry/framing as part time jobs in Jr. college. I was always drawing and building something …, and eventually I found Architecture.
As you said, Architecture School is no cake walk, but I loved it, and managed to get my B. Arch in 1980.
Based on my 30 years as a registered Architect working in several large and small firms in Oregon and the San Francisco Bay Area, I would estimate that one in a hundred Architects make the really big money. I think it has to do with some combination of raw design talent, an aggressive self promotion/marketing instinct, and (importantly) a well developed social network/contact list of the right kinds of clients.
I guess I must be missing at least one of those, so as MtnArch said, “you’ll make a decent living but never a great living”. Mine has been decent enough, all things considered.
SketchUp is a lot of fun, and very useful in my “retired old man” small residential addition and remodel projects … but, (warning, here comes the rant part) I sure wish Trimble would see the light and FIX LayOut, so I didn’t have to either suffer insistently trying to use it, or employ another 2D software to efficiently produce construction documents for my projects.
Looks like you Hippy-House was definitely Happening!
Keep pounding the Weed for all those critters …Happy Trails!


Oregon and San Fran?? You are the man! Ooh, I’m so jealous.

During the time I was living in the hippy house I hitch hiked from north Florida to see a college friend in Ashland Oregon who was just starting his career as an architect. Got to see Eugene, Portland, Seattle, the redwoods and the entire Oregon coast. It was amazing. You’re lucky to live in that part of the world.

an aggressive self promotion/marketing instinct, and (importantly) a well developed social network/contact list

In any field it seems those who make the big bucks are those laser focused on that goal, and who also have a good bit of luck going for them.

Keep pounding the Weed for all those critters …Happy Trails!

Thanks! Speaking of happy trails, it just dawned on me this morning that I don’t have to limit myself to buildings in SketchUp, I could create a forest too. I’m scheming up a project with this work flow.

  1. Create a loop trail through a forest in SketchUp

  2. Create hippy man in MakeHuman

  3. Animate hippy man to a walk and/or run cycle at Mixamo.

  4. Animate the camera down the trail in SketchUp.

  5. Layer the walking man on top of the trail in a video editor (Hitfilm)

  6. Animate hippy man’s face and make him talk in CrazyTalk.

I really like how easy it is to animate the camera in SketchUp, but I also want some animated characters in the scenes. So picture a video that starts with the scenes at the hippy house, like above, and then hippy man goes for a run in the woods. Maybe I’ll have him run all the way to Oregon where he starts a pot store and makes some HUGE bucks. :slight_smile:

Can’t wait to see that!

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Brilliant thread! Strangley enough, I got sucked into Architecture in the mid '80s when I was finding it hard to get a job in Graphics (for which I had studied for 4 years at college) when out of the blue I get asked to make a model of a housing estate here in the UK. That was 34 years ago, I’m now 55 and have got my own modelmaking company in Suffolk England - strange old world isn’t it?

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Thanks for sharing your story @misternige. Yup, it’s a strange old world indeed. I’m glad your accidental architectural career has worked out so well for you.

More on my strange old cartoon career in a bit, but for now I’ll just report that I got a walking MakeHuman character in to my hippy house SketchUp scene this morning, using the method described above. If SketchUp veterans should have any thoughts on bringing animated human characters in to SketchUp scenes, would love to hear your ideas.

Off topic, but I’m just beginning to tip my toe in to Unreal Engine, which is probably the right way to do what I’m aiming at. Gotta get the program to launch without crashing first though…


Whoops, Vimeo says I’m unauthorized to perform that action. Will try again if you so instruct me.

I don’t know Affinity Photo, but I do layer images, animated images, and videos on top of each other in Hitfilm (free video editor).

Hitfilm has a nifty image animation add-on called Puppet Tool ($25) which animates 2D images and turns them in to video. You can then place the animated image in a 3D scene if you wish. Here’s an example that I made about a month ago.

So far, the only way I know to get animation in to SketchUp scenes is to screen record animated scenes in SketchUp, and then take that video in to Hitfilm, and layer things on top of it. I do see there are some animation extensions for SketchUp but I haven’t really explored them yet, not sure how much they can do.

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