Passion in Architecture

The other night, instead of going straight home to work on the expanding list of side projects that I have going, I headed down the block to the Main Library for a series of presentations given by 10 “experienced” (read “the old guys”) local architects sponsored by AIA Jacksonville. Topics ranged widely, as you can imagine, but mostly focused on the architects’ body of work and their contribution to the local architectural community. The format of the presentations was to pair up a senior architect with a junior architect/intern. The goal being that the intern would help the senior architect to craft their presentation and in the process learn (hopefully) something from someone with a full career of experience. This of course got me interested immediately and I was paired with John Zona, a local architect of some renown who recently completed his personal residence which will eventually be a Net Zero masterpiece of modern sustainable architecture. I know this because I got a guided tour of his home and office – amazing!

Metropolis – 1927

Anyway, the title of his presentation is Passion in Architecture, during which he talked mostly about the more practical nuances of running a boutique architecture practice like “take what you can get when you can get it or someone else with less talent will”, or “always get a retainer – don’t fund your client’s projects”. But a larger topic that lay beneath the more practical words of wisdom in the presentation was this notion of passion for the profession. And anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with me in a bar knows I have a real passion for architecture. It’s annoying I know, but I make no apologies…just ask my wife. 😛

And I began to wonder, what does it take to maintain a passion for architecture? We’ve all been stuck in the ruts of everyday practice – the contractor’s phone calls, the consultants’ phone calls, the uncoordinated drawings, the incorrect submittals, the non-paying clients, etc. It can weigh you down if you’re not careful. So, how do you maintain that same passion that we all shared in college, in late night studio design sessions where the tracing paper, chip board and super glue were flying and the ideas and inspiration seemed endless? Once we’re “out of the studio” and into the real world business of architecture what keeps us going? I can only answer for myself personally, but I imagine my sentiments are mostly similar to those out there who truly love architecture:\

Metropolis – 1927

It’s in our DNA.

In short, we were built for nothing less than to practice architecture, to create, and to dream of a better world through building and construction, or even just theoretical design.

Metropolis – 1927

We’ve all been caught in the doldrums of the day to day. Or if you haven’t….well…just give it time. And in order to maintain your passion, hold on to those ideals, seek out opportunities to make each project great, even in the smallest way. Don’t give in to the “I just work for my client” attitude. Take ownership of your client’s projects. After all, it’s your name on the drawing. Might as well make the finished product something you can be proud of.

Keep your passion in architecture and pass that on to a new generation of architects.

4 thoughts on “Passion in Architecture

  1. Jeremiah – thanks for the reminder about passion. I’ve found that architecture is a profession that offers many avenues to explore a passion – some like the C.A. part, some like the design and pretty pictures, some like the client interactions, and *gasp* some like the accounting…I’ve discovered that ‘architect’ is such a broad word it is almost meaningless to describe what one does in a day to day routine.

    • Enoch, thanks for adding to the discussion. I agree with you, especially in smaller practices “Architect” takes on a multitude of meanings. And you’re right that there are some, like me, who love C.A. or the more tedious aspects of the profession, but at the end of the day we’re all designers, creators, artists, and it’s important that we remain passionate and engaged in our ability to create something from nothing.

  2. Passion is a bit like the pilot light on a water heater or furnace. It needs fuel constantly or it will go out. I try different things to keep it going. To be honest, that’s largely why I teach. But like you said, every project has an opportunity to embrace, even the dullest ones. I also think if we work together rather than pick at each other, we can encourage each other as a profession better.

    • Cooperation is going to be a paramount key to the renewed success of the profession, for sure. Why more small firms don’t partner in limited joint ventures or as mutual consultants I’ll never know. Seems a win/win.

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