I just attended a lecture by Dr. Ed Leamer, the Director of the UCLA Forecast and Chief Economist for the Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index, and boy am I sad... Dr. Leamer was actually upbeat and optimistic about much of the economy next year with the exception of building and construction. With the inability to obtain loans, projects are few and far between, and jobs are scarce. I know of many respected architects, older and more established than myself that have downsized and are still looking for ways to survive; some even shutting their doors.
But as Dr. Leamer spoke, I couldn't help but think about the kids graduating architecture school. This is not the first time that graduates have had a hard time finding employment; in the early 90's there was a similar, but less severe downturn in construction and architecture. A generation of talent turned to opportunities beyond that of the traditional architect. As young designers with skills for the new computer graphics technology, they turned to the dot com industries and entertainment giants like Pixar and Industrial Light and Magic for their opportunity to create. In 2010, even those opportunities are hard to find. A few of my contemporaries did not pursue architecture and instead ventured into the arts, business and social work, but these were personal choices.
Architecture school is as much an education in how to see the world, and how to create within that world as it is to design a building. I have often wondered what happened to that lost generation of talent that graduated 15-20 years ago and had no choice but to look elsewhere. What are they doing and what have they been able to create? Beyond that, did the field of architecture miss a generation of the best minds? And now I also wonder what will become of the talent in this generation and the visionaries of the future... where will the quest for meaningful work lead them?