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Architecture vs computer science

Lacplesis

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Hi there,

I am looking for an advice. I live in a small eastern European country, and a few years ago I decided to study architecture. I already have a bachelors degree, but I have come to realize now that partly because university is a sort of degree factory here, there is very little demand for architects. I reckon that it is somewhere about 1 out of 5 university graduates, that actually find a work in the field at a reasonable time scale. This is also why I am struggling to find employment.

To become a certified architect, I am looking towards 2 more years of study in the same university.

What I am starting to think, is that I could run away to computer science/programming, there is university for that in my country, and I can study for free, plus receive a small bursary, though I don't know, how good the program is. I am also thinking, that it matters less, with all the computer science/programming stuff easily found on the net. Demand is also high, higher than supply.

I only just started to learn python, just out of curiosity. So far I can say that I even enjoy it.

So what do you think? I m in the early twenties, so it is not too late to change career? I know for a fact that I would regret being an architect, for I would then have to deal with illogical rules and business people that want to cut costs on everything. Also, long periods of unemployment is a threat. I do not know, however, maybe I would regret being a computer scientist/programmer also, if there is no employment or if there are horrible people.

I also now for a fact, that a bird in a hand is more valuable than two in the bush, therefore I am doubtful.

Any advice appreciated. :confused:
 

Kuu

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I am an architect. Construction is relatively scarce in Europe; the work is not there, but in developing countries, though the profession is severely undervalued in most places. Only stay if you're really passionate about it, or you'll fall into despair easily...


Others might provide insight into programming...
 

Lacplesis

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I am an architect. Construction is relatively scarce in Europe; the work is not there, but in developing countries, though the profession is severely undervalued in most places. Only stay if you're really passionate about it, or you'll fall into despair easily...


Others might provide insight into programming...
Thank you for your input. No, I am not passionate about Architecture, but there are nuances that I find interesting.
 

Architect

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Architecture: If you're lucky you get an occasional opportunity to draw up plans which are limited to budgets, physics, building codes, taste and function. You don't get paid a lot of money for this.

Programming: People are calling you up to throw lots of money at you to draw up plans which are limited to your imagination, how much you know, how clever you are and how much you're willing to work. The plans are always used because the computer will always do that for you.

Is there a choice here?
 

Kuu

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Ok, now that I'm awake and (mostly) sober I have more things in mind to say. Like many people torn in this forum asking between black and white, between X and programming I'm gonna say that it's not necessarily a dichotomy. There's a vast world of grey...

Large construction and design companies also often have their own in-house programming team, making plugins and scripts or developing large applications to fulfil their particular needs, and such a niche of architect-with-programming-knowledge is quite sought out for. There's also companies that develop software for architecture and construction, and it's not really a secret that most of that software is hated by architects because it was done by a bunch of programmers and committees that are more pulled by convention and other industries do, than what architects actually use and need, and people with skills in both areas are fundamental.

In fact I have an idea for a design tool that I've been thinking about for a couple of years but I have neither the time, skills, nor resources to pursue it... In fact, now that I recall, it happens to be inspired by the theories and concepts from another Architect-Computer-Scientist

Far more interesting than that, though, is learning programming while remaining involved in architecture (which is becoming more and more common). There's computational / algorithmic design, which has been growing consistently the last decade, and in ten, fifteen years might become mainstream in the industry. Robotics and 3d printing are going to take the construction world by storm in the coming decades and it'll deeply impact the way things are designed and built.

There's domotics and "the internet of things" of the very near future. Right there is a huge universe of possibilities in making dynamic buildings, responsive to users and environments, full of data and novel ways to gather, interpret and use it. It's inevitable.

This used to be in my sig, before it got too long, and it's pretty good advice:
Isaac Asimov said:
“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be...

This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our everyman must take on a science fictional way of thinking.”
Think 20, 40 years ahead, not tomorrow. Programming will be everywhere, even building design and construction. So what niche are you going to take?



Programming: People are calling you up to throw lots of money at you to draw up plans which are limited to your imagination, how much you know, how clever you are and how much you're willing to work. The plans are always used because the computer will always do that for you.
So there are no budgets, hardware limitations, bosses, clients, upper management and functions and deadlines? That's a hugely misleading tale you're spinnin' there...

Demand for programming is not necessarily demand for projects that are super-interesting and imagination-driven. Most of my highschool classmates from IB went into programming. From the ones that got jobs around here (a place that could be compared to some eastern european countries) some are in web development (limited to tiny budgets, web standards, hideous taste and function) and treated like little bitches by their clients. Others do extra-banal database maintenance work for small corporate and education, which pays ok but forces them into the most mind-numbing corporate life. Another went into videogame startup, he's biting the dust hard. Only a tiny handful decided to fuck it and migrate to the US and got jobs at Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon... which pays them very well, but I'm not sure of their enjoyment of life.
 

Lacplesis

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Ok, so basically what I can tell from this is that one can pursue programming and architecture simultaneously. That is in itself an ok idea, but I am doubtful about employment. Here it is either one or another. Maybe it is different somewhere in USA or somewhere. About computational/algorithmic design: I get a kind of thought that it is a trendy theme for an academic thesis in university, but not in real business, well, not unless you are not Zaha Haidid (but my knowledge is limited, I now somewhat well what's going on in my area, not so well around the globe, well not in the industry, at least).

Robotics in building industry will be huge, but one would be much better off designing robots then, instead of buildings.

Ok, 20 years from now I presume my country will economically be where Poland is now (hopefully, though we are much smaller). I am not sure about the niche, at least not yet, for any kind of predictions are hugely unreliable + I have not thought about that, maybe I will indeed change my address quite radically.

When thinking about programming, I guess Architect meant something different than that what you understood. He must have meant that different cognitive abilities (imagination, knowledge, cleverness, persistence) are really tools and thus they set the restrictions for what programmer can achieve, when working alone. Still better to have restrictions in your head than in budgets and building codes, let alone in somebody's taste.
 

Architect

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So there are no budgets, hardware limitations, bosses, clients, upper management and functions and deadlines?
Nope, not really. The only limitation is computational capacity (FLOPS and storage mostly). I'll take them in turn ...

So there are no budget
Where does budget come in other than for your compensation and the space you take up? Software is essentially free with the only cost being time. My day job is a hardware/software platform and the budget is almost entirely hardware. Each new rev is a major allocation of millions of dollars. Software guys are covered under staffing.

hardware limitations
As I said above (meant to put that in my original post but neglected to). At any rate present day software isn't really able to fully utilize present day hardware capabilities. That was the reverse about 10 years ago.

bosses, upper management
What's the limitation? Managers are investors, they want you to maximize the value of your time, don't you want that too? Of course bad bosses are a limitation, but why would you work for one of those?

Clients don't control us, we control them with the power of software. There's the point, we don't call them clients, they're customers or users. None of them control what we do, but in aggregate they do. We can (and do) piss off individual customers, who then leave. They want this, or that ... well we're not going to satisfy one at the expense of the many, we go after the many, which means we do what we think they want, and the proof is in the money.

At work we want to get into an established market and just yesterday my boss told me to not give them what they want, but give them what what they don't know that they want, which is another way of saying do what I want.

functions
Don't know what you mean by that

deadlines
That's not a limitation. There are three legs to the project stool; resources (people), features and deadline. Most of the time you can pick two, usually it's deadline and people. Therefore features is scoped to fit those two thereby removing it from the picture.

Your comment about not every software job is a joy is certainly true, but my core point is that it's all up to you. There are millions of good jobs available, or you can invent your own, the only limitation being yourself.
 

Kuu

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Ok, so basically what I can tell from this is that one can pursue programming and architecture simultaneously. That is in itself an ok idea, but I am doubtful about employment. Here it is either one or another. Maybe it is different somewhere in USA or somewhere.
If you get free education in programming, and think it'll get you a job, then it seems like a good idea. What I'm trying to say is don't limit yourself thinking it's an either-or situation. Interdisciplinarity is on the rise, even if the market for it doesn't exist in your country... yet. In a world of intense competition, a rare combination of skills is what separates you from the crowd and makes you valuable. If you have two passions, why not do them both? Why not create the market?

About computational/algorithmic design: I get a kind of thought that it is a trendy theme for an academic thesis in university, but not in real business, well, not unless you are not Zaha Haidid (but my knowledge is limited, I now somewhat well what's going on in my area, not so well around the globe, well not in the industry, at least).
These things in the present are just beginning to be explored, largely, yes, as academic BS and marketing gimmicks like Zaha (IMO shit). But that's not what I'm talking about. They're making utopian stuff, capricious stuff, that just happened to be made in computers. They've barely begun to scratch the surface. The fundamental thing is that it's not about how it looks, but how it was made. It's about the process and the system of architecture, not the objects themselves.

Modern Architecture revelled in the discovery of new materials and the cheapness brought about by the first industrial revolution. The computation/information revolution has yet to have its most significant impact: currently you use computers to represent, to make what you would on paper and models, on a screen. But the designs are still conceived in the same way as before computers. The computer is not yet a real design tool, merely a glorified pencil. It computes perspectives so you don't have to draw them by hand, it computes vector graphics, and model super complicated curvy stuff. But it does not really help to shift the paradigm of the design process: to compute and coordinate the numerous and complex parameters that give buildings performative shape; to make explicit, and scientifically investigated and documented, the recurrent patterns that make good, efficient design that are currently a matter of pseudoscience and personal intuitions developed by decades of practice codified into half-baked concepts in unintelligible books, if codified at all.

The real business, and thus real inevitability of the revolution that computation will bring forth is that the robotization and the actual leveraging of simulation tools and scientific understanding of buildings and how people use them can and will lead to significant cost reductions to construction and operation ("sustainable" they call it) even on seemingly very complex projects; more efficient structures, more pleasant, buildings entirely simulated for their resource performance, easier and faster to design as well as construct, and perhaps de-construct. And the data generated by intelligent buildings can be used for so many things, one could build simple smartphone apps, or giant city-level systems (like IBM is trying to do). And the people with the money love to get more with less.

What I'm trying to say is not that you must do any of these things, in particular, but that you have to be very aware that the fields of Architecture and Programming are barely just beginning to collide, and there will be a vast array of opportunities in both in the not too distant future, so you should not limit your vision to the present state of things.

Also, I'm planning on making an essay/presentation on the future of Architecture, so I'm using this opportunity to rant/draft some arguments, so I'm sorry if this is a bit tl;dr :smoker:

@Architect

I agree on the majority of what you say, I am aware of such things. My comment was largely rhetorical: you were painting a very rosy, very narrow view of a very broad field. It seemed grossly unbalanced.

I concede the point on budget, partly. I was taking a perspective not from being an employee focused only on software development on some big company, but more of a startup mentality, involving hardware and other business stuff...

Hardware (perhaps this is not the proper term of what I had in mind) limitations still exist though, if you're working on squeezing everything out of small devices of, well... limited capacities. Granted that miniaturisation, Moore's law, etc has significantly reduced the problem, but it does remain in certain contexts.

What's the limitation? Managers are investors, they want you to maximize the value of your time, don't you want that too? Of course bad bosses are a limitation, but why would you work for one of those?
Indeed. But not everyone has the luxury of choice.

Clients don't control us, we control them with the power of software. There's the point, we don't call them clients, they're customers or users.
You're again taking a very narrow view from your own situation, which might be an ideal one, but not necessarily the most common one.

Curiously, in Spanish there is no distinction between "client" and "customer", there is just the word "client" (as far as I know). I'm not exactly sure what's the difference here, the subtle nuance. Is a client someone who seeks a service (and thus has a set of demands) vs a customer who seeks a product (that is accepted mostly as you offer it)? Am I making any sense?

That's not a limitation. There are three legs to the project stool; resources (people), features and deadline. Most of the time you can pick two, usually it's deadline and people. Therefore features is scoped to fit those two thereby removing it from the picture.
Precisely... time variable exists as a constraint, considering the whole project on a higher level.

Bah, semantics. :mad: Is it ok if I replace "limitations" with "factors", "variables", "constraints", "considerations"?

An efficient business will of course try to tailor their human and other resources, their time, and the required features to have it all operating smoothly. That is again an ideal scenario. What happens if the development process of X feature gets stuck, and can't advance no matter the human resources you throw at it, and how much you planned for such things?

I don't believe in gods, but I'm pretty sure deadlines are a universal reality, and if there's a law that unifies our understanding of it, it's quite likely to be Murphy's and Hofstadter's...

my core point is that it's all up to you. There are millions of good jobs available, or you can invent your own, the only limitation being yourself.
I can agree on this point absolutely. Wether that is what your first post communicated is a different matter altogether, though I'm not interested in discussing that further
 

QuickTwist

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I don't know what you are thinking about but I would listen to whatever these two experts are telling you. Believe me, they wouldn't be giving you this advice if they didn't know what they were talking about. I know it can be hard to take advice sometimes, especially when you feel you have a good grasp of the subject, but you did ask for advice and from what I can tell they are giving you some really good stuff. Do yourself a favor and take the advice.
 

scorpiomover

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Computer programming is essentially a virtual construction industry. Basically, any device can be linked to any other device, to accomplish almost any task that the combination of the components could do together. In the old days, you had to link the devices together manually via wires and circuits. These days, you can just wire them into a CPU, and get a programmer to write out the instructions that will get the CPU to make them communicate in the way you want, called embedded programming. This made it relatively easy to combine components. The result is everything from mobile phones to sat navs to bar code scanners. You can even link several of these devices to a computer, and then program them to work together. The programs themselves also can function as devices in themselves, and so each new program adds to the list of devices you can combine, such as an email client, or a database. The only limitations are the limitations of the components, and what your imagination could do with them. Because of this, businesspeople are coming up with more and more ways to make their business more and more successful, all the time, simply by thinking up more and more business ideas that could be accomplished by some combination of the individual components. There seems to be an almost never-ending supply of things that businesspeople are asking for.

Much of what they ask for are new reports. So it can be a bit monotonous. But a lot can be very interesting. I usually find that every day is different, and most days I have a new mental challenge to conquer. Half the battle is being asked to make the device do what is supposed to be beyond its current capabilities, which I personally find very rewarding.

The biggest earners seem to be those who own the businesses, as programmers are just the virtual architects. But programmers' salaries here in London start at above the average salary for London, and typically rise to 2-3 times that.

Companies usually want experience for you to get the job. So it can be difficult to break in to the field.

In addition, the constant change means that software platforms and technologies upgrade every few years. So you have to keep learning new technologies. Often, most of it is just a different way of doing what the old version did. But there's usually some new stuff, that can let you easily do things that were very difficult to do before, and that's pretty cool.

If you just want to make money, and you have a head for business, then business is a better bet.

But if you like to be beset with different mental challenges every day, and want to keep learning new things, and want a job where you'll probably be in demand to at least the end of your life, computer programming is a good bet at the moment.

You still have to deal with people, though. I got into computing partially to escape dealing with people. Turned out, the programming was the easy part of the job. I'd say 90% of it is how to talk to people, because someone has to listen to the client explain what he wants, figure out how to do it, and explain to him why what he thinks is simple, will take 3 months to code properly. Screens and reports have to be designed so that the people who will use them, can use them easily, intuitively, and correctly, and the users can be warehouse-people who dropped out of high school.

Be warned, though. There is no shortage of people looking to take advantage of a good programmer. So pick your clients carefully. You want to garner a good reputation as someone who knows what he is doing and will not be pushed around.

You also have to develop a strong sense of confidence in your abilities, because if you're good, you'll be asked to give answers on questions where millions of dollars can hang in the balance. But then, you're the expert, which is why they are asking you. That kind of confidence in your expertise is a fundamental part of the job.

But if you're working for another programmer, such as in a software company, you won't have to deal with clients, or make such hefty decisions. So you have time to build those skills up.

But, if you are planning to develop your people-skills anyway, or you have people-skills, the sky's the limit.

Also, as Architect had explained to me before, you have to manage your career, and ideally, find a good mentor.
 

Lacplesis

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Thank you all guys for your great advice! Will try to answer to some of it:
If you get free education in programming, and think it'll get you a job, then it seems like a good idea. What I'm trying to say is don't limit yourself thinking it's an either-or situation. Interdisciplinarity is on the rise, even if the market for it doesn't exist in your country... yet. In a world of intense competition, a rare combination of skills is what separates you from the crowd and makes you valuable. If you have two passions, why not do them both? Why not create the market?
Yes, certainly. Free education in programming is guaranteed here, and it is likely to help finding a job simply because of the relatively high demand for IT specialists. Interdisciplinarity is hard to conceive - I do not yet see how these things would come together. And if they would, I would have to find demand internationally, because here architects are really stuck in the past of 2D AutoCad drawings. Some use Building Information Modelling, almost everyone use SketchUp, which was not originally intended for this kind of market (I think so). What I am telling is that innovation is not likely to gain attention here. Have to go internationally, but at first have to figure something out: a good product.
The computation/information revolution has yet to have its most significant impact: currently you use computers to represent, to make what you would on paper and models, on a screen. But the designs are still conceived in the same way as before computers. The computer is not yet a real design tool, merely a glorified pencil
Well, exactly, but we do not yet have intelligent systems to do that work for us: to think for us. And even if we had, architecture is likely to be one of the last industries this technology would get applied to, history has shown it: there is a kind of hierarchy of innovation among industries.
The real business, and thus real inevitability of the revolution that computation will bring forth is that the robotization and the actual leveraging of simulation tools and scientific understanding of buildings and how people use them can and will lead to significant cost reductions to construction and operation ("sustainable" they call it) even on seemingly very complex projects; more efficient structures, more pleasant, buildings entirely simulated for their resource performance, easier and faster to design as well as construct, and perhaps de-construct. And the data generated by intelligent buildings can be used for so many things, one could build simple smartphone apps, or giant city-level systems
Sounds very visionary. I am less convinced: computers have been around in architectural business for about 25 years and the only real step forward is that pencil and paper has been replaced in favor of CAD. This is old news in other industries
What I'm trying to say is not that you must do any of these things, in particular, but that you have to be very aware that the fields of Architecture and Programming are barely just beginning to collide, and there will be a vast array of opportunities in both in the not too distant future, so you should not limit your vision to the present state of things.
Agreed, things change. I once had a crazy Idea that I could write down the thinking process that is done by the architect, couple it with a library of building codes and other stuff thus writing a program where one would only need to input a few variables like the site plan, and design specs. The code would then run a first few logical steps and produce like 10 variables for evaluation. The user would choose the most promising one for further development back in the program. This process would then be repeated until the code has nothing more to contribute, kind of like the natural selection. With this approach simple to medium complexity projects would get created in a matter of hours, with a power to eventually put many architectural firms out of business.
I don't know what you are thinking about but I would listen to whatever these two experts are telling you. Believe me, they wouldn't be giving you this advice if they didn't know what they were talking about. I know it can be hard to take advice sometimes, especially when you feel you have a good grasp of the subject, but you did ask for advice and from what I can tell they are giving you some really good stuff. Do yourself a favor and take the advice.
I do, I am grateful to have found this little corner of internet where I can talk with others like me, but some that are more successful and experienced.
Companies usually want experience for you to get the job. So it can be difficult to break in to the field.
Quite naturally, but then again most of the fields will demand some experience, including architecture, so there is not that much of a difference for me anyway.
In addition, the constant change means that software platforms and technologies upgrade every few years. So you have to keep learning new technologies. Often, most of it is just a different way of doing what the old version did. But there's usually some new stuff, that can let you easily do things that were very difficult to do before, and that's pretty cool.
Better to have rapid innovation than stagnation. I am up for it.
But if you like to be beset with different mental challenges every day, and want to keep learning new things, and want a job where you'll probably be in demand to at least the end of your life, computer programming is a good bet at the moment.

You still have to deal with people, though. I got into computing partially to escape dealing with people. Turned out, the programming was the easy part of the job. I'd say 90% of it is how to talk to people, because someone has to listen to the client explain what he wants, figure out how to do it, and explain to him why what he thinks is simple, will take 3 months to code properly. Screens and reports have to be designed so that the people who will use them, can use them easily, intuitively, and correctly, and the users can be warehouse-people who dropped out of high school.
Will see how it goes. Demand is what I am looking for, the higher, the better, if that means learning new things, so be it. The people is a different story, social skills and all that. Very important, I know. Will have to work on that. This is somewhat a weak spot at the moment.
But, if you are planning to develop your people-skills anyway, or you have people-skills, the sky's the limit.

Also, as Architect had explained to me before, you have to manage your career, and ideally, find a good mentor.
Regardless of chosen career path, I will have to develop social skills and build some confidence. This has all been excellent advice, thank you all. ;)
 

Architect

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[MENTION]Kuu[/MENTION]Kuu and others, I also don't want to give the impression that I'm putting architecture down. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the profession when younger (before I knew I was an INTP) because it seemed like a good fit. I wanted to design things, big system kinds of things, and what better than architecture? I eventually decided against it because I realized that my opportunities for doing the work I wanted wasn't going to happen often. A lucky architect probably gets one or two projects in their lifetime of this nature.

A like minded INTP has a few obvious choices in my view, programmer, architect, administrator and in the arts, writer and composer. The last two (I seriously tried both) aren't ideal because they are more subject to taste (Fe) then logic. Of the first three, the first provides the greatest opportunity for advancement, enjoyment, opportunity, ingenuity and continual learning. The second has been discussed, and the last is actually a great choice (consider the architect of the Marshall plan) but temperamentally isn't suited so well to an INTP. However if you see the avenue open to you do take it. Consider Paul Wolfowitz, who was the architect of the Bush administration, and extremely likely to be an INTP.
 
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