Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

It’s been two and a half years since the financial crisis crippled the global economy. During the long slump that’s followed, the architecture, design, and construction sectors have threatened to hit bottom over and over, but a real recovery, which would signal a final flattening out, never seems to materialize. While some firms show signs of stabilization — but only after massive job shedding in 2008 and 2009, and largely thanks to projects in China and the Middle East — most practitioners are just eking by. [1]

In the spring of 2009, I interviewed AIA chief economist Kermit Baker for a piece in Architect magazine, on the likely prospects for young architects graduating into a recession. Based on figures from previous recessions, Baker painted a grim picture, and I wrote:

“Baker cites figures from the U.S. Department of Labor website: from the peak of employment in July 1990 to the lowest point in January 1993, 14.6 percent of positions at architecture firms were eliminated. The 30-month trough outlasted the overall national recession, which ended in late 1992. Baker notes that the downturn early in this decade is recorded as lasting from March through December 2001, but there was no upturn in design activity until 2004 and construction picked up only in late 2004 and 2005 — a chilling four years down to generate four subsequent years of growth.” [2]

The sluggish return we’re now experiencing seems discouragingly consistent with Baker’s models. If we follow his timeline, there’s still another couple of years left before we can expect any recovery within the design professions; and once we do, the profession will look like nothing we’ve ever seen before. So, what to do in the interim? Wringing hands over the misdirected funding and lost opportunities of the stimulus package is simply depressing. Read More …