Advice to Future Architects

Architecture as a career is not an easy choice. One might even say that architecture chooses you. Like medical practice or journalism, acting or teaching, you can only excel at your craft by becoming involved with the clients and invested in the outcome.

I could quote the dreadful statistics on failed marriages and failed businesses for architects, but statistics can't be applied to all situations or all participants. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don't. When you choose a career, though, you do place a foundation under who you are. You may not be that person in that career forever, but it will forever form who you become. If you love architecture and you nurture it, it can change you - make you think beyond what exists now and project into what might be. Even the most cynical architect is an optimist at heart, for we hold the inherent belief that the world can be made better - perhaps even that people can be made better - by creating an environment they aspire to live up to.

I knew I wanted to be an architect at the ripe old age of 8. Or an astronaut. I grew up in a small town with gaslights running down the main street. The town square still features its fountain of "Winkin Blinkin and Nod" along with the scattered memorials of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters who, for a short time, were soldiers - protecting this haven that I grew up in so that I could be free to be either an architect or an astronaut.

Growing up in a small town, I hadn't seen a building taller than our downtown hotel. I hadn't seen any paintings by Picasso, nor had I seen any great engineering marvels like the Hoover Dam. But something about my town - my town square, the public library, the old hotel - whispered "architecture".   Beyond creating a great monument to memorialize a particular designer or fashion of the time, architecture is about anchoring people to a place and giving them a sense that they belong somewhere - that they can make not just a place in the world, but a home.

Architecture is a brave choice that will require sacrifices. The future ahead will be insecure. The people closest to you may never understand what you do or why. You will come to hard choices - between your design principles and your client's desires - sometimes between your moral principles and your security. As architects, you may be faced with these personal tests more often than others and you must choose wisely and honorably. We become better people - better designers - when circumstances force us to find the high road over the mountain.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You know what you say here is entirely true. It is not an easy undertaking to follow your dreams and become what you have always wanted.
It is so hard to explain to people how you see how to make the world a better place with everything you do.
I, like you, always knew architecture would be my profession. I have laid my foundation in it my entire life. Since childhood I poured the foundation. I did everything I could to add another 2x4 to the pile. Then college to build the framing....
You say architecture requires sacrifice, hard choices, and insecurity. I dont know if you understand, though, how difficult it is to become an architect today. Needless to say, these days where the world requires at least three years of experience to secure a job where you will be lucky if you can stay at that job for any period of time, is tough.
Coming out of college, the student feels almost entitled to the position that they worked so hard for, not understanding that a job is not a given. Then, if that student is determined to get to your place, become an architect, and achieve that dream, he will make sacrifices and work harder than he ever has before in life. Not figuratively, but quite literally put his everything into completing the work, learning everything imaginable (and even to this day I know I have not even begun to scratch the surface of "architecture"), and becoming an architect. Lets not even bring up the current requirements, exams, and bureaucracy involved in becoming that dream.
Some people have it easy, and just become their dream. God bless them. Then there are the others, who have to fight for it. Who have to overcome all the odds against them. Who have to defeat their demons and forage a trail so they can return to the path.
And then some get the place they have always dreamed of being, take it for granted, and make fatal professional mistakes.
I am still not an architect. After 4 years of fighting, finally I have returned to profession. And still the economy can only afford a part time contract basis.
You know who I am.
I would love to have a personal conversation with you.
Your website looks much better these days. And clearly you are in a great position. I am so glad to see North Carolina still working out - and the Gym in Summerfield getting what it deserves. Congratulations on McCall Project of the Year award.
God bless.