Professional identity and anxiety in architect-client interactions

Sumati Ahuja, Natalia Nikolova, Stewart Clegg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Large-scale construction projects increasingly have powerful and knowledgeable clients as project owners with whom professionals, such as architects, must interact. In such contexts, clients may have a significant impact on the constitution of a coherent and stable professional identity. Based on qualitative interviews with 50 architects across four large multidisciplinary professional service firms (PSFs) located in Sydney, Australia, supplemented by ethnographic observations, this article explores how architects constitute their identity in interactions with clients. The findings led us to conceptualise professional–client interactions in terms of two overarching discursive strategies deployed by architects in attempts to manage clients that are powerful and knowledgeable: best for client and best for project. We illustrate the anxieties that architects experience and suggest that attempts to secure professional identity may result in (re)producing an enduring sense of anxiety with unintended consequences for project outcomes and organisational performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-602
JournalConstruction Management and Economics
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2020


  • anxiety
  • Architects
  • clients
  • discourse
  • identity work
  • professional identity


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