Death of the middle class architect

The Architects’ Journal is lamenting the end of the middle class architect, following a report in the Financial Times which sees architects as among professional groups being displaced by the new ‘uber middle class’.

The Architects’ Journal is lamenting the end of the middle class architect, following a report in the Financial Times which sees architects as among professional groups being displaced by the new ‘uber middle class’. This could, it seems, spell the end of the comfortable professionals (although doctors and lawyers aren’t doing too badly – it is just the architects and teachers who are suffering it seems). 

But what does this mean? First, middle class is an incredibly elastic term these days. Surely architects aren’t now members of the working class – a shrinking group with the end of manual labour. It is interesting that when Americans talk about being middle class (all too often in connection with people who are surprised to need food banks) they are talking about Joe Average, someone with a job but nothing special. Being middle class in the US does not have the implications of the comfortable bourgeoisie that we have here.

And we are confounding class and money, which in this most status-ridden of countries is never wise. You only have to glance at a 19th Century novel to find plenty of struggling clergy – professional and respectable but certainly not wealthy. In fact of course that hasn’t changed today.

Are architects losing their professional kudos? Possibly yes. And while nobody goes or should go into architecture for the money, there is a very real concern that it costs a lot to train and many have very poor prospects financially. It has been said for decades that it helps to have a private income (or a rich first patron – the bank of mummy and daddy) if you want to start a practice. Which is scarcely good for social inclusion. 

There are some very real concerns about the status and position of architects, exacerbated by the fact that so many are now designing residential buildings in which they could never afford to live. But I don’t think they are falling out of the middle class just yet. Unless they decide not only to design but also to build all their projects. Which could be a great way to go, but would genuinely make them members of the (old fashioned term) labouring class.

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