This is a topic that I’ve talked about before, and actually one that I wanted to stay away from for a bit. But I want to take a minute and revisit this issue. My buddy Lee Calisti had a recent blog post that got me thinking about the value of architectural services. And I want to summarize what I see as the 4 essential components of a well-rounded architectural professional and how this adds value to every project, big and small, in the residential market. Those components are education, internship, experience, and licensure.
The architectural education, as it exists today, in some ways is inadequate for our modern architectural practices, but it’s what we’ve got, so lets look at those essential points that we must take away in order to begin this journey towards architect-dom.
First, a historical perspective. You can not move forward into the future without first knowing and understanding where we’ve been and where we’ve come from. This includes both a design and construction technologies. And, yes, hand drafting is part of a historical perspective. Learn it and love it.
Design is the second essential element of an education. After being grounded in a historical perspective we can let our imaginations soar in design. We’re able to experiment with materials, colors, proportions, use, scale, and structure. Design isn’t about what can be built, it’s about what can be possible.
Confidence is the last element that we take with us from our education. Some of you have raised eyebrows thinking “what the hell?”. It’s ok, I thought the same thing when I typed out the words. But follow me and we’ll get there together. Our education teaches us above all to sell our designs. After all, if we don’t believe in our work, no one else will either. So, a design confidence, a steadiness in our ability to problem solve and critically think things through to an acceptable solution are vital in practice.
Ah, the illustrious internship. That coveted position at the bottom of the totem pole we all fight for even before the ink is dry on our diplomas. This is where you learn, right about day one, that the only class you took in college that has any application to your current position is that one Construction Tech class you took sophomore year where you did wood frame and masonry wall sections for a whole quarter. I try to forget my first year of internship, but unfortunately it’s burned into my memory just how inadequate I was to the task. Luckily I was surrounded by others who were incredibly knowledgeable and were willing to pour that knowledge in to me. I learned more in 2 years of interning than 5 years in college.
And this brings us to experience. Experience and Internship go hand in hand, but they really are two separate things. Anyone can learn a thing. But experience teaches them how to apply a thing, to use it creatively in critical thinking and problem solving. Experience, unlike the internship and education, is the one thing that can’t be taught. It has to be learned.
Licensure is the last step in what can be a frustrating and arduous process for architectural professionals. It is the point at which all of the above culminate in a battery of tests to ensure your qualifications as a legal Architect. Now, this is not a place to debate the validity or even the necessity of licensure (I’ve been castigated enough for my opinions on that score). Suffice it to say, currently there are laws in place that govern the necessity of licensed professionals in the building and construction industry.
At the end of the day, when you decide to begin any building project – whether that be a interior renovation or addition to a existing home, a new single family property or even just a cosmetic facelift to your home, the benefits of hiring someone trained in the art and science of architecture is, in my opinion, paramount to the success or failure of your project.
So the next time you are thinking about building a home, or adding to an existing home, or just modernizing your existing home, at least consult with a architect/designer and ask them “how can you help me”. I guarantee it will not be a wasted meeting.