January 17, 2020

Road Map to Become an Architect

“I wanted to become an architect but…

…(insert reason) so I decided not to pursue architecture.”

As an architect I can’t tell you how many people have had that conversation with me. I hear it almost weekly.

The more people I talk to about being an architect, the more I realize most people have no clue what an architect really does. Sometimes I think the public really thinks that architects walk around wearing a hat that says either “commercial” or “residential” and then decides if today they are going to design in a gothic, classical or modern style, while consulting a silly cookbook of architectural ornamentation details.

It’s not really like that.

The typical day of a practicing architect is more about: slaving away on construction drawings, going to meetings, checking their staff’s work, invoicing clients, reviewing the work of contractors so they can get paid, and handling their clients and employees and managing all types of problems related to their projects and business. Sure there’s designing and drawing pretty pictures, but that’s really just a very small piece of the project.

I recently completed a project that was designed by 3 people sitting around conference table for 2 hours. The design was good, simple and effective. After we solved the design problem,  the next 11 months were spent: fine tuning that design, creating construction drawings, specifications, details, getting cost estimates, solving code issues, obtaining building permits, supporting the contractor with information during construction, responding to unforseeable conditions, working with and coordinating furniture, IT, and moving consultants. A 2 hour design meeting translated into 11 months of execution and the design didnt really change much in the process. Designing is often a small moment in time, executing the designis really the bulk of the work.

Sometimes Architecture Sucks.

It’s not an easy profession. Architecture is a lot of work.

The people who have successful careers as architects have all made incredible sacrifices and worked extremely hard to get there. Historically it does not pay very well, the education is long and there is an incredible amount of legal responsibility involved with becoming an architect. There is certainly is no shortage of articles on the web listing the many great reasons NOT to become an architect.

Architecture is AMAZING. 

If you get past the long hours, lousy pay and complicated licensing and educational requirements. Architecture, is in my (biased) opinion one of the greatest educations person could get and industry to work.

Architecture school teaches you solve problems like no other education. By intensely focusing on  design, construction and history, thenlooking at the world through that lens, it also forces everyone to reconsider how we think, live and interact with our environments. Architecture school is often about examining information what we already know and using that information to creatively solve new problems. Architecture school rewires your brain and most students graduate being a very different person from when they started.

The Profession (architects like to call the business side of architecture “the profession”)  is drastically different, almost the opposite of the architecture school experience. Every working architect is challenged with solving the problem with an achitectural solution that fits within the framework of budgets, schedules, building codes and Client expectations. Unlike school, time and money sometimes dictate the design of the project. However talented architects spend their entire careers understanding how to balance time and money with architectural design.

The Industry is huge

The architecture industry is constantly growing. The computer and access to information has significantly changed the way architecture has been practiced for the past 100 years. 15 years ago there was no such thing as an architecture blog!? Now theres hundreds of architecture blogs.

The word architecture is as general as the word music. We call it music, but there are sub categories within music. Types of music could be classical, country or even something specific like east coast straight edge hardcore from the 80’s.

Just like music here are a million little niches or subcultures within architecture. Those could be sustainability, hospital design, CAD/Rendering, architects who specialize in some kind of engineering speciality, interiors, tiny houses, waterproofing, building envelope fanatics, masonry experts and the list can go on forever.

What I love most about the architecture industry is that it is soo vast, there is plenty of work for everyone to thrive using whatever skills, talents and interests they may have, as long as they are willing to work hard.

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