Thursday, July 11, 2013


My all time favorite poem, since I was 13 when I first came across it in my high school library, that I want tattooed in flowy cursive across my ribs, that I recited at my undergrad entry interview, that I think of and draw strength from when times are hard and the struggle doesn’t seem worth the effort, is a Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (This poem deserves its own post and since this one is going to be a long one, I’m leaving that for another day.)
Today this verse is resonating through my mind in particular;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

As the deadline for the competition draws closer and my nerves get wound tighter and tighter and the 24 hours a day don’t seem nearly enough… I fantasize about giving up. What’s the worst that can happen I ask myself? So my resume won’t have that stellar item of being a finalist in a nationwide competition. Lots of other people won’t have it too…
I know though that I would never ever forgive myself if I didn’t even try. I would keep tormenting myself with what if thoughts…convinced that if only I had stuck it out I would have won! And we all know that is a fake way to live.
So I drew upon my ever-comforting wise poem and went looking for some footprints in the sands of time to take heart from and that’s how I landed on Life of an Architect blog. Below in its entirety is an article that I couldn’t have read at a better time because it’s exactly what the doctor (poet?) ordered. I highlighted my favorite bits. Thoughts in brackets are mine.


Within the last few months, the number of emails I have received from people asking whether or not they should get out of architecture has been staggering. Equally surprising are the emails I receive that ask for direction on whether or not they should go into the field of architecture. The answer to both questions is easy:
For some people, the first question I ask them – the ender question, is always the same:
“Why do you want to be an architect?”

(My answer to this has never changed. I think I was about 10 to 12 years old, watching DWTV in those off-peaks hours when the local stations streamed it in lieu of scheduled programming and would gaze spellbound at the screen as one exotic building after another was showcased. Sometimes they would interview the geniuses behind the structures, these architects, these demi-gods. I wanted that. I wanted to create. And I knew I would be good at it. I was great at art – sketching, painting, crafting, calligraphy, mosaics…name it, and I could do it. I loved technology. My father is a flight engineer and a gadget junkie and I was daddy’s girl, I knew way more about the latest advancements in the field than the average teenager in the 3rd world. So the fact that there was a profession that could combine my two loves and strengths, and throw in a way to achieve my quest for pseudo-immortality to boot, I was sold! *side bar – my other plan to achieve pseudo immortality is to write.*)
If the answer is I have always wanted to be an architect, I move on to the next few questions. A person’s motivation for becoming an architect is singularly important. I went to college to become an architect while my friends simply went to college. My resolve and dedication towards becoming an architect was tempered by many all-nighters, 207 credit hours (187 required for my degree), and no fraternity for me – nobody who graduated from the University of Texas School of Architecture the same time as I did was in a fraternity (or sorority) – you just didn’t have the time.
It was hard to get to where I am at right now and the people who were doing it because they thought it would be cool, for the money, or some other reason other than ‘I have always wanted to be an architect” didn’t make it. If there is something else out there calling to you, architecture probably isn’t for you. I haven’t regretted my decision ever.
(Lucky guy. What I wouldn’t give for this conviction. Although regret isn’t exactly how I describe my sentiments towards my profession…it is more of disillusionment…a “this is it?” moment. Note the “?” instead of the “!”. I have such grand Technicolor dreams! And reality is more of a sepia tone…all I want is that tornado to take me from this Kansas of Ugandan Architecture to the land of Oz!)
Sure, there have been loads of times when I wished I didn’t work as much as I do, made more money; I even get tired of the ladies who are “architect groupies ” following me around. It’s tough but I have always wanted to be an architect.
This is a portion from an email I recently received which actually got me thinking about this post. The person who sent this loves to design and thinks about it all the time … it’s how she spends her free time, she travels to locations, she studies buildings, she even tracks down the designers in these locations and goes and meets them. In her words:
I really love this stuff, but know that I might have problems working for clients. I can see my temperament not quite matching up with that process. I’m a bit stubborn. And also impatient.
It’s hard, I always wanted to be an artist, and now I can’t figure out how to be a designer.
The traits that she describes won’t keep her from becoming an architect or designer – in fact, I would also suggest that these are important traits that any successful designer should have. Also, if her stubbornness and impatience are so uncontrollable as to be a real problem, she’ll have issues in any profession other than ‘Hermit’. In my response email to her, I included a list of quality architecture programs near her and should she decide to pursue a Master’s degree in architecture, I think she’ll do really well.
As to the emails that are asking if they should get out out of architecture – that one is more difficult to address. Architects aren’t the only professionals that are suffering right now. In my mind, it’s similar to changing jobs because you don’t like someone where you are working – not a real good reason if it’s the only one because you probably won’t like someone at the next job either.
I still like to try and find out why a person who has gone through the process to become an architect is thinking about leaving. Have your motivations for being an architect changed? Is it circumstantial? Maybe it’s simply that you want to make more money or you simply hate the job that you currently have. I can appreciate why someone would like to make more money but are you worth more money doing what you currently do? For example, in my circumstance I am well paid for a 10 person residential firm considering my name isn’t on the front door. If I wanted to be paid more, my first couple of possible moves would involve looking at larger firms or more commercially focused production firms, not becoming a lawyer. For me, it would be about trying to find a balance and still continue practicing architecture, not changing professions.
(Those two paragraphs right there hit the right dosage for my ailment. Architecture is my dream! These other issues are just that, issues. There’s no guarantee whichever profession I will wind up in won’t have the same issues. So. Back in the saddle it is!)
I’ve always been pretty good at shooting the bull and have been told I would have been awesome at sales. The very idea of selling anything just to be selling anything would literally make me shrivel up and die. To my way of thinking, I would be better served by investing ALL of my time and resources into winning the lottery before selling paper or plastic o-rings. While both would probably ruin me and force me into living in a cardboard refrigerator box in some alley, going into sales would probably add “crazy” and “pavement licker” to my resume.
When trying to select an appropriate image for this post, my mind started wandering a bit and it landed on John Picacio. John and I went to architecture achool together and we both spent time in Europe traveling together in 1990. John and I were never all that close but even 20 years later I can still remember John’s sketches; they were ridiculously good. I still see one sketch in particular in my mind’s eye. John and I were in Siena, Italy, and John was drawing the Piazza del Campo. He was using the white of the paper as much as his sketch pen to bring the buildings to life and it was simply amazing to see. We lost touch after awhile but I always thought he was so good at drawing, why would he be an architect? Apparently John came to the same conclusion and is now an internationally recognized and award winning illustrator.
And I say good for him.
John could always draw better than the people who taught our drawing classes and he figured out that this was something he would rather do than pursue a career in architecture. I’d say it’s worked out pretty well for him. So if you’re interested in becoming an architect because it’s all you’ve ever wanted to do than I would heartily urge you to continue on towards your goal. If you want to become an architect for the groupies, money and fast cars, you might want to reevaluate your options. I’m not suggesting that it can only be one or the other but if you’re already unsure … you’ve got some difficult roads to travel in front of you.
What would you say to someone contemplating a change? Things will get better but will it be worth sticking around? Doctor’s are starting to run into problems but we’ll always need them. Lawyer’s have their issues too, but unlike architects who are working themselves towards irrelevancy, (He lost me at this point. How are we working ourselves towards irrelevancy?) at least Lawyer’s make it so we can’t get rid of them. Architecture defines me and I wouldn’t like to envision myself doing something else – but what about the people who don’t know? What would you tell them?

The comments though, while all polite and everything, were less encouraging. Other than stararchitects, the rest of us seem to be battling serious inner demons and social/monetary shortcomings at every turn! To read the comments, go over to the original article here.


  1. I understand why you needed that boost, I guess every one in this profession has gotten to a point where they need one. I have no real reason, other than 'Fate'. It was never my dream, come to think of it I had no dream. For me architecture was a God sent light that allowed me to make sense of my 'Live in your moment' lifestyle (and I guess life in general).

    p.s. I enjoyed reading this post, reminded me to think about and appreciate why am here.

    1. An architect by fate! Has a nice ring to it. And I guess in such cases you can easily walk away from this profession to whichever one fate throws your way. Unlike us who dreamt of this throughout our formative years! Only the thought of grandma Moses' late life success calms my unsettled heart.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


Theme created by Feeric Studios. Powered by Blogger