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Architecture and the recession, Boulder

As a follow up to my post late last fall on the impact of the recession on architects, especially the newly graduated, there is a good article over at The Blue Line on the plunge in construction activity in Boulder over the last year.  From 2007 to the end of 2009 there was a drop of 75% in construction activity (includes demos and new construction).  As most architecture offices run pretty thin, my guess is that reflects the devastating decline in number of hours worked by architects.  That makes probably 50% unemployment and 50% underemployed.  Those are just guesses, but they parallel the trials of my self, my friends and colleagues over the last two years.  Can it get any worse?

There are plenty of folks in Boulder who are probably glad to see architects out of work.  They view architects, like developers, as the evil harbingers of McMansions, density and the wholesale destruction of Boulder's way of life.  They think architects and their ilk are overpaid and in general, a pain in the ass.  Read any editorials or unsolicited comments about development or building issues in Boulder and the invective is unmistakable.

They are wrong, but unlikely to change their opinions.  The reason that Boulder has more architects per capita than almost any other city in America is that architects understand and appreciate what "quality of life" really is.  It is our job to know this.  It is our everyday task to bring this ephemeral, slippery thing called quality of life to our clients and the public.  There are no better champions of quality of life issues in Boulder than its architects.  It was architects that pushed forward the proposal to purchase Open Space 50 years ago.  It was architects that envisioned and implemented the pedestrian mall of Pearl Street.  It was architects that preserved the charm and scale of neighborhoods like Mapleton Hill and Chautauqua.

With the dire economic times, architects are leaving Boulder.  And with them go some of the finest admirers, valiant defenders and most ardent supporters of all that most Boulderites hold dear.