Why I Left Architecture

The Psychology of Leaving Architecture

Dreaming of becoming an architect and designing beautiful buildings, I loved every second of my architecture classes in university. I was passionate, motivated and totally in love with the world of architecture. Little did I know, however, that my vision of architecture did not reflect the reality of the industry.
With my fascination for structure, I assumed the profession would be heavily influenced by math and physics, but what I discovered was quite different. While the relations between math, physics and architecture are evident, the architecture field is not focused on these two sciences as I had expected. Instead, it is informed by the psychology of design, which is an integral part of the profession.
The impact of psychology in architecture is manifested in decision-making processes and design choices. Architects need to consider the emotions evoked by the structures they design, along with their physical and functional elements. Indeed, architecture is not only concerned with the visuals of a structure, it is also concerned with how it feels like to inhabit the space.
This approach, however altruistic it may sound, can be problematic. On the one hand, the psychological aspects of architecture give the profession a certain degree of subtlety, allowing for nuanced design choices. On the other hand, this makes the process complicated and slow, as well as reliant on more subjective criteria than sheer technical efficiency.
Moreover, it implies compromising the architecture integrity of a structure in order to cater to the audience’s emotional needs. As such, this puts architects in a difficult position, as they must consider a vast number of factors when designing a structure.
Firstly, architects must take into account cultural factors, such as historical value, aesthetics and symbolism. Secondly, they must also consider their client’s opinion, as the structure must be suitable for the location and inhabitants. Lastly, the architect has to ensure the structure is safe and efficient in terms of practical elements.
These processes were too difficult for me to deal with. I also recognized there was a disconnect between my expectations and the reality. In a sense, I found myself in a creative deadlock; trying to navigate these different directions, yet going nowhere.
Ultimately, this prompted me to make the bold decision of leaving architecture and pursuing a career in another field. To be fair, I do feel a certain degree of despair. After all, this was my dream and I had invested three years of studies in it.

Design Thinking in Practice

Despite leaving the field with a sense of loss, I still find myself dipping my toes in it. When facing creative blocks, I explore the avenues of design thinking, a philosophy which lies on the cornerstone of the psychological aspects of architecture.
Design thinking is based on the empathy of the user, through which the designer explores how their concept is going to be received and experienced. Through such an approach, a structure adapts to the user and his psychological needs, all while taking material, financial and practical constraints into consideration as well.
Able to provide an innovative and different perspective for problem solving, design thinking has been a great inspiration for my current projects. Its human-centric approach combined with its innovative perspective has been transferable to my current line of work and of utmost importance in helping me dish out successful campaigns.
Still, I fear design thinking is a double-edged sword. I understand that its focus on the user is imperative, but this perspective may limit creativity and reign in innovation; as the user’s needs are the limiting factor.
When it comes to design Thinking, it is easy to have a short-term view, as it focuses on providing immediate solutions that satisfy the user. This, however, is justified by the pressure of the subject matter, which needs to be addressed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Nevertheless, I feel it is possible to achieve more with design thinking. By coupling it with other approaches, such as long-term research studies and incorporating non-traditional perspectives, the spectrum of design thinking can be expanded even further.

User Experience + Data Management

The nature of architecture has changed substantially over the years and the field has evolved alongside technology. In this sense, user experience (UX) has (become) increasingly important, as technology has enabled architects to create structures that are more user-centric.
By combining UX principles with data-driven design, architects can better understand the user’s needs and reactions to different structures, thus allowing them to cater to them more effectively. Through such a process, architects can tackle decisions from a data-centric perspective and thus creating structures that are more tailored to their clients.
Furthermore,sophisticated data-driven design also enables them to predict the user’s behaviour using machine learning and big data. The data-driven approach can also help architects anticipate and identify changes in the environment and thus allow for the creation of more robust structures than previously possible.
The combination of UX principles and data-driven design make for a powerful toolkit for the modern architect, as it allows them to cater to the needs of their clients, while also creating structures with more robustness.

The Future of Architecture

The future of architecture lies in the hands of its pioneers. The same pioneers who have been pushing the boundaries of the field and introducing novel concepts that have revolutionized architecture as we know it.
The phrase ‘Think Different’ perfectly summarizes the essences of the modern architect. As we are living in a world where technology has never been more accessible and connectivity has become an essential tool, it is up to the modern architect to start designing smarter, in order to tackle global issues.
In this respect, architects must consider the multiple factors that affect us on a daily basis. From climate change to natural disasters and economic instability, the modern architect must be prepared to tackle complex issues from a variety of angles.
Design thinking, user experience, data-driven design and empathy should be the pillars of the profession, as they are the key to developing innovative and efficient solutions..

Design and Human Rights

Furthermore, architects must also consider the impact of their designs on human rights, regardless of the objectives or purposes of the structure. Complacency cannot be an option in this regard, as architects must take into account the social, political and environmental implications that arise from their choices.
Thus, architects have a responsibility to protect the environment and promote sustainable practices. This includes, among other responsibilities, the use of eco-friendly materials, the consideration of conservation and the incorporation of renewable energy sources throughout the whole process.
The impact of architects is beyond the buildings they design, as they are responsible of creating sustainable and humanitarian designs that are ethically and ecologically accepted. Through their intervention, they can effectively lead to social improvement, enhance welfare and promote the preservation of human rights.

Economy and Social Engagement

Architecture is about more than just creating buildings and structures. Its purpose is to create sustainable, smart and modern cities across the world. Now more than ever, architects are placing social engagement at the core of their designs, by transforming buildings into interactive and participatory hubs.
At the same time, architects are exploring the possibilities of creating a more profitable profession. Thus, smart buildings, energy conservation and the use of energy efficient materials are becoming the norm. Moreover, the focus is shifting towards designing structures that are flexible and can evolve with the changing times.
Architects are also trying to incorporate different types of knowledge and insights into their practice. This approach is particularly useful, as it allows architects to break down traditional structures and explore more creative and efficient ways of designing structures.

Data and Automation in Architecture

Likewise, data and automation are also reshaping the field at a rapid pace. Through the use of robotics, architects can increase productivity and reduce the time needed to create certain structures. Moreover, these robotic tools can enable the realization of more complex designs, as they are capable of more precise measurements than humans.
Such an approach has major implications for the profession, as robots are capable of creating complex and highly-detailed elements with great accuracy. Furthermore, automation can drastically reduce the costs of architecture, as robots do not require salaries or need to pay for materials.
However, this does not entirely impede human creativity, as automation does not take the place of architects but quite the opposite; it enables its explorations in unexplored territories. In this sense, automation can help architects access the resources needed to explore their creativity beyond the boundaries of traditional architecture, creating structures that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly.


In conclusion, the world of architecture has undergone major changes in the last few decades and it will continue to evolve to respond to the needs of today’s population. New technologies are allowing architects to create structures with more accuracy and efficiency than ever before. Furthermore, these technologies are enabling architects to push the boundaries of creativity further, creating structures that are both sophisticated and functional.

Anita Johnson is an award-winning author and editor with over 15 years of experience in the fields of architecture, design, and urbanism. She has contributed articles and reviews to a variety of print and online publications on topics related to culture, art, architecture, and design from the late 19th century to the present day. Johnson's deep interest in these topics has informed both her writing and curatorial practice as she seeks to connect readers to the built environment around them.

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