Here are some questions to ask yourself to find out if architecture is something you should pursue:
- Did you (or do you still) like playing with Lego building blocks? Seriously. Legos or other building block type toys are great for two reasons: they allow you to be creative and they allow you to build. These are two primary traits that every architect should posses. Ever since I was a child I’ve always loved any type of toy that allowed me to build. I remember playing with Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, Capsela, Legos, wooden blocks, Tinker Toys, and many others.
- Are you creative? Architecture is a very creative profession. It allows you to create something out of the clear blue sky. Imagine taking a pen, sketching on a napkin, fast forward a year and a half and that napkin sketch is on the corner of a major intersection…that is just plain cool. That’s what architects do. I remember the first time I was allowed to design anything (I designed a bathroom layout)…and then I saw it built in the field and was blown away. I just thought to myself, “this bathroom is like this because I drew it like that!” I gave myself a big pat on the back for that bathroom layout, but that was just a preview of what was to come. Designing the layout of a bathroom pales in comparison to the feeling of designing a complete building. Not everyone can do it…not everyone has that creative gene and even creative people don’t always want to get involved in something as rigorous and intense as designing a building. Which leads to the next question…
- Are you an intensely focused person? A lot of what I do demands complete “tunnel vision” type focus. Every line that I draw means something 3-dimensionally. What looks like a line might actually be a 24’ girder truss. What looks like a dash-dot line could actually be a 950’x 320’ property line. The point is that if a line is drawn incorrectly, it could have a major domino effect. I’ve seen projects where I get a survey from the surveyor, I design the building based on the survey, just to find out that the surveyor drew one of his lines 8” off. That doesn’t sound like a big deal right? Wrong. It was a very big deal. The owner actually had to beg his neighbor to purchase that 8” of land to allow his building to be built. The entire site had to be replatted legally. When all was said and done this mistake ended up costing thousands of dollars…all because a line was drawn wrong.
- Are you self-motivated? Architecture is one of those professions where you have to be your biggest critique. Nowhere is this idea more evident than in graduate school…lovingly referred to as “archiTORTURE”. The reason why school for architecture is so grueling is because you are in fact competing against yourself. When you get up in front of groups to present your work, you want to be proud of it. You want to feel like you have done everything you could possibly do to make your project the best that it could be. I remember many times in grad school working in the lab until 4:00am, taking a cat nap literally under my desk for an hour with my sweatshirt as a pillow, and then waking up to work another 24 hours straight. I used to go days without going back to my apartment because I was working so hard on my projects…but I loved every minute of it as stressful as it was.
- Do you like problem solving? This is a big one. Every project we get involved in is solving a problem. For example: a client comes in with a very tight parcel of land and wants to fit 4 offices, an assembly space, an elevator, parking for 30 cars, and oh yea, he also wants bathrooms (imagine that). Well it is the architect’s responsibility to solve that problem. How do you do it? Where do the rooms go? What are the adjacencies? What is the procession? How does the structure work? etc. etc.
Hopefully this article helps those of you thinking about pursuing a career in architecture. Ever since I was a child I knew I wanted to do this. For me it was a calling. From my heart I truly feel it is a wonderful, rewarding, respectable, and exciting way to spend a life. Remember, being an architect isn’t a 9-5 kinda job…it is a profession. Which means that even on the weekends I’m still an architect. When I’m done working for the day, I’m still thinking about ways to make my work better. Being an architect is more of a lifestyle than a career. It is even more than a lifestyle to me…it is a way of seeing the world.