I am not that Architect

There is a certain level of commitment that goes into being an architect.  I would imagine for just about any career involving a professional license, continuing education, and numerous other requirements placed upon it.  You end up learning so many different things that inevitably some of those items end up just rolling off the tongue like they were second nature.  That would be true for pretty much any of us, then there are those architects that seem to have an answer for anything in any situation.

I’ve sat in on meetings with a client or contractor before where a question gets brought up that absolutely no one is prepared for.  It completely blind sides everyone in the room, and yet somehow there is that one person that miraculously has the perfect solution… every time.  I’ve been in design charettes where there somebody sketches something, in 5 minutes no less, that looks like a masterpiece done over a lifetime.  I’ve sat in on architectural reviews where there is inevitably that one person who not only knows the absolute perfect direction to go in, but has an incredible story that goes along with it and why we should be doing exactly what they say.  Those qualities are amazing to watch in real time and even more unbelievable to see over and over again.  I am not that architect.

Which I guess begs the question…  Then what kind of an architect am I?

You mean I have to come up with something better than… I’m still figuring that out?  Almost 20 years in, and I’m still saying that, actually for some reason I don’t think I’ll ever stop.

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Ok, well lets start with some of the easy ones.  I’m that guy that has to go back to the code book over and over again to make sure I’ve read it correctly.  Sure, there are a few things I’ve memorized, A Occupancy, B occupancy; yada yada, yada; but I think it actually helps me to go back, look the stuff up, and actually make sure that it’s the right way to do it.  All of the formulas, schedules, chapters, sections, sub sec….zzzzzzzz.   I’ll save the brain space thank you.  Speaking of code books, yes, I still would rather pull out the code book and thumb through the various chapters to find whatever it is I am looking for.  Holding your thumb on one page while looking for another page one to compare one thing to another, yeah I do that.  For some reason it beats hitting the forward and back arrow over and over again looking through a website or .pdf file.  I’m allowed to hold to some analog stuff in this digital world, right???

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I’m that guy that wakes up in the middle of the night worrying that I have forgotten that one thing that was talked about for 5 seconds 2 months ago into the project set.  Did I remember it?  Do we even have that going on in the project any more?  Why am I thinking about this at 2 in the morning when I didn’t go to bed till almost midnight?  Did I fill out every section of the door schedule, and what type of push/pull are we using on door 125A anyway?  Did I write “TYP.” for the j-mold when it butts up against the existing wall, shouldn’t the contractor know to do that anyway?  Oh, and what about coordinating all of the security requirements with the owner?  Did I make sure to get all the conduit into the walls and ceilings for all the cameras, motion sensors, and beeping flashing thing-a-ma-jigs.  Why can’t I turn my brain off?  It’s now 3 in the morning and I have to get up in 3 hours to get ready to go back to the office, and I don’t have Revit on this laptop to check, just to satisfy my worrying curiosity.  I got told that it was a good thing that I was worrying about a project, it meant I cared about it.  Wait, now I have to worry that if I am not worried there might be something to worry about it…. Arggghhh

I’m that guy that still thinks some of the old school ways of working should still be the way.  Don’t worry, I’m not saying we should go back to drafting tables and sticky backs (look it up).  I’m talking about things like professionalism to your self and your career; and that those are the aspects that should be recognized and rewarded.  I’m a big proponent of getting your license.  Whether you get it quick or it takes a few extra years, keep working on achieving that milestone.  You didn’t go to school for that long and put up with that much just to half-ass it in the real world.  Now before someone goes and says a license is no guarantee of a person’s talent or knowledge, I agree, it’s not.  What it is, is a sign of respect for the profession that you chose to embark in.  Everyone that gets past graduation knows what you have to do to officially call yourself an architect.  Go do it.  Don’t be the prodigy that can create the worlds most amazing music but can’t understand a single note in the sheet music.

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I’m that guy that walks into the office first thing in the morning and instead of turning on the lights, grabs a cup of coffee (or maybe a Dr. Pepper) and starts figuring out what has to be worked on that day.  Let the second person turn on the lights, the morning sun streaming onto my desk is plenty of light for me.  I’m not sure if my mental list of things that have to be worked on are all going to get finished, but at least I have an idea of what I am going to push forward.  All those worries that kept waking me up, well I can only remember about a third of them at this point.  Good thing I took notes at the client meeting yesterday or else I would only remember about a fourth of them.  Now, which one do I start on first?  Oh who am I kidding, it doesn’t matter which one comes first, I’ll have to shift gears once I get that first phone call anyways.  Between the phone calls and e-mails throughout the day, I think I switch gears about every hour.  By the end of the day sometimes I think… What did I get done today?  It’s about that time when everyone starts heading home, so now might be the best time to walk over to that small project site.  It’s only two blocks away, I can get a quick look and see what type of progress they have made since the last time I was over there.

I’m that guy that tries and tries and tries to make sure I get all the information I can think of into the project documents, but inevitably there are one or two things I always forget.  How did I miss that scupper detail?  I’ve had so many conversations about that very thing with the MEP engineer on this other project.  What was I thinking, or more accurately, not thinking?  What kind of problems is this going to cause?  Do we have time to fix it before they finish building everything in that area?  Is this going to cause some sort of delay in the project?  I know there has never been and never will be such a thing as a perfect set of construction documents, but that doesn’t make me feel any better the moment I realize am informed that I made a mistake and we need to do something to fix it.  The main thing I can do is try to learn from each of these opportunities, to not let it happen again.  I said try, right?


I am that guy that despite going in early, despite staying late, and despite absolutely enjoying the career I have; I realize this is not what matters most.  I was given a gift a while back that was a simple t-shirt, it is black if you were wondering.  It’s one of those ‘Architect’ shirts, but this one fits me pretty good.  “Some people call me an Architect, the most important call me Dad”, actually daddy, but close enough.  Pulls you right at the heart strings didn’t it?  I mean what is the point of working all those extra hours and hopefully getting all that extra pay, if you can’t come home and enjoy it with someone.  I have my someones, one of them wants to follow in Daddy’s footsteps.  Still waiting to see what the other one’s choice will be.  And no, I will definitely not be the architect that discourages a dream like that so early on.  Saying goodbye in the morning as they head off to school, kissing their heads in the evening as help put them to bed, those moments are far more important than making sure I’ve finished redlining a set of documents that are going out soon.  I’ll probably get to those redlines after they fall asleep, but they don’t need to know that.

So I guess if you looking for that amazing person with all the answers, I’m not your guy.  If you are looking for someone that is more like all those other things, well….  I am that architect!

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