Through most of my college career, I did an all-nighter at least once a week for studio. It's important to note that when architect's talk about all-nighters they literally mean all night (and the day before and a good chunk of the day after).
Now, as a practicing architect, I still get to take part in this wonderful past time (though thankfully not as regularly). The simple question is: why? Well, why not? Architects do all-nighters for various reasons; I will be honest and say that occasionally I probably mismanage my time and when a deadline approaches there is really nothing to do but crank to get the work done; but most of the time, I find that it is that strange obsession with Architecture that drives me to spend such ridiculous hours at it.
As architects, we are providing a service to a client just like many other professionals in many other industries. I may be biased (rather, I am biased), but I think that that is really where the comparison stops. We are providing a service, but we are providing that service in service of something larger. Most architects that I know are just like me; they have no idea why or where it comes from, but they know that deep down in their gut is an urge, an obsession regarding the making of buildings and the practice of Architecture. What I find so interesting about the practice is that, of course, we need the clients, but not just for the simple fact that they pay the bills. Generally speaking, getting to know a client makes the job of an architect easier. In Architecture, there really are close to limitless possibilities to solve similar problems. Where the client comes in is by helping the architect to understand what the problems are and what solutions may be appropriate. To me, this seems like a very unique client-service provider relationship. It is not just so simple as, "I need my house painted, I will pay you to paint my house." or "I need a triple-bypass surgery, I will pay you to perform a triple-bypass surgery." and so on (I am in no way diminishing the performance of these or any services. I do not contain the capacity to do either). This particular relationship seems to be more like "I have a very unique space on planet Earth (as of 2013) and I have loosely developed a program based off of other programs before it which may or may not represent my particular needs at this place, I will pay you to design a building on the aforementioned site that suites the needs of my specific program, developed from other programs before it which may or may not represent my particular needs at this place." From that initial engagement comes the fun part where we get to build a relationship with the specific groups of people that will be owning/using the space and begin to test out different solutions to the very unique challenges that the particular site and the particular needs of the client present.
So what does all that have to do with all-nighters? I guess there is just something about the profession that drives it. I am not an insomniac. I never have any problems going to sleep at night, but I also never have any problems staying up all night attempting to solve the particular problems of the project that I am working on. There is just something invigorating about the process and the way that it speaks to that odd urge to practice Architecture within most of us.