Architectural Work Cultures

Addressing the question of how workplace cultures and professional identity affect subjective wellbeing in architecture.

The interdisciplinary collaboration between scholars in Architecture and Management is significant because, as a profession, architects don’t always make great business-people.

It’s an unfortunate fact that many practices operate on the very edge of financial viability, and the discipline of architecture looks to the arts and humanities, as well as engineering and the STEM disciplines, much more than it does to business and economics.

We would argue that if architecture practices are run as sound and profitable businesses, they will also be better workplaces, support the wellbeing of their staff, and be better able to produce beautiful, quality buildings which contribute to the common good.

Professor Naomi Stead

This project will involve the full spectrum of Australian architectural education and practice. With the ambition to cover all stages of the career continuum from the first day of architecture school until the day of retirement, it will also attempt to capture the experiences of workers in small, medium as well as large practice.

It aims to determine exactly what effects – both positive and negative – result from work cultures and professional identity in architecture. More than this, it will go beyond knowledge to action in the profession, towards cultural change.

Architectural Work Cultures builds upon Stead’s earlier and longstanding work with Parlour, an award-winning advocacy group working towards greater gender equity and improved working conditions in architecture. It also builds upon an earlier literature review on ‘Architects and Mental Health,’ commissioned by the NSW Architects Registration Board under the leadership of then-Registrar Tim Horton in 2016, and upon international research, which argues that aspects of architectural work culture can have a negative effect on the wellbeing of students and practitioners. While there is a strong and widespread perception of similar problems in Australia, there has so far been insufficient applied research to definitively prove that is the case.

Ultimately, the project proposes a series of events, forums, discussions, actions and interventions to improve the work- and study-related wellbeing of architects and architecture students. It will produce two toolkits to assist the profession to support cultural change across educational, workplace and institutional settings. In this way it hopes to produce better outcomes for all members of this unusual and strongly-identified cohort, which stands at the intersection of the creative and construction industries, as both a cultural and technical practice.

Read more