“Architecture is a gray-haired profession” – Roderick L. Knox, Architect
When I was in grade school, my sketchbook was an 8 1/2″ x 11″ spiral bound notebook. In this notebook I would draw diagrammatic floorplans – one after another until the notebook was filled with a diversity of planned spaces. By drawing these elementary plans, I was imagining what it would be like to move through space. To move my body up a set of stairs, down a set of stairs, move through a wide doorway and a narrow one. I loved closing my eyes and visualizing the spaces in their entirety.
In highschool, I took mechanical drafting from Mr. Brannon in a building not attached to the school, but attached to the gym. If I remember correctly, it was set up in a garage-type space with ‘store front like’ windows. Each student had a drafting desk (that was angled) and a stool. We would draw machine parts: the fronts of them, their sides and imagine cutting them down the center. I remember being fascinated by how you could “cut” something and see it’s “insides”.
When I told my parents about my interests, they suggested I talk with my highschool guidance counselor. After I talked to my counselor about my interests and goals, I knew my interests pointed me towards architecture (no one at this time mentioned interior design). My counselor suggested I talk to an architect in town to be sure this was what I wanted to do. I did talk to our local architect and I was sure this was what I wanted to do. I have since earned a Bachelor of Interior Design, a Master of Architecture, worked in the profession for a while (with more to learn) and am in the middle of the A.R.E. testing process (Architect Registration Examination) because, still, I love to visualize space.
I was aware of the fact that I wouldn’t be at a desk all day designing great spaces and buildings with a plume of creative smoke over my head. I was aware that once you started practicing that design was 10% (or less!) of the whole equation of what an architect does. I was aware that the money wasn’t great and you really had to have a passion and love for the profession in order to do it. With understanding all of this at an early age (before undergraduate school) I still wanted to be a part of this profession that shaped space and the environment.
When I was in graduate school, people would ask me what I was studying. When I would tell them, their eyes would grow large and they would show genuine excitement and a quiet respect for my undertaking. When I started working and would meet people outside of the profession (as rare as that was), they would ask what I did for a living and I would tell them – the same thing would happen…the quiet smile and nod, the interested “ohhhh’s” and sometimes I’d get a “Wow! Good for you!”. To this day, when I met someone new at a networking event, the response is the same.
In my professional life, projects have gone on hold and sometimes even died, but many have gone on to be built. I have worked with enjoyable clients and clients I wished I’d never taken. I have worked too many long hours I care to count – but I still love this profession. It forever encourages me when I talk with a firm principal who is genuinely content with their job. It is inspirational when I attend a lecture given by a firm who is doing good work and is proud of what they have done (mind you, these are not all superstar architects).
I decided to write this post because since I’ve started this blog, I have received comments from architects who have understandably been affected by the current economy, are not happy with their current work or client interactions. I, too, have experienced some or all of this. I would ask, where’s the love? I ask those who have been practicing design and architecture for a while, do you still have a love for the profession? What excites you about the architectural profession and/or what has frustrated you?