One of the most important lessons (see: goals) in the architecture field is developing yourself as a valuable asset. My very first boss taught me a great lesson in how to excel in the architecture field, which was to try and think three steps ahead of him on what he might ask me to do. If you need to have everything explained, the job is ultimately done, and your job would simply be to execute. Not quite what it means to become an architect.

Architecture is an interesting profession to be involved in. As we all know, remaining current in the field requires constant learning, updating, knowledge, and different ways of thinking. Becoming a good or great architect requires much more. Over my somewhat short (relatively speaking) career in the architecture world, there are many things I think can, and should, help you develop from “just” an architect, to something that might evolve into much more.


I’m just going to go ahead and say it: I think the tiny house movement is ridiculous. I think it’s a fun idea people have about living sort of “unconnected” to space, when in actuality, the majority of us need a certain level of connection (figuratively and literally) to our surroundings. I say literally, because a house on wheels is quite literally unconnected to its environment. I think the architecture world has somewhat failed the residential sector in order for this atrocity of an idea to develop.

Well, do you? Do you have grand dreams of designing a notable project that graces the front of Architectural Record? Are you ready to spend 60 hours a week checking drawings done by someone else, visiting sites for construction administration, dealing with difficult clients, paying yearly fees, spending time on continuing education requirement, etc.? If not, maybe you should reassess becoming an architect…

In case you may have been living under a rock, this past month a controversy was sparked about a little boy who fell into a gorilla pit at a zoo. The controversy covered everything from a lack of parental overlook, to animal cruelty, to proper buildings/structures to house and observe animals. Again, as you probably already know, the gorilla was tragically shot and killed as a means to save the young boy’s life. This is one of those social situations that, no matter what happened, was not going to have a good outcome. Could architecture have played a role in avoiding such a tragedy?

Ah, the age old saying. To me that phase recalls memories of childhood; doing some sort of chore, my father watching me as I struggle to complete it. He would let me struggle for a good bit until showing me some trick or technique that would help get the job done quicker and/or with less effort. “Work smarter, not harder” he’d say, as I wondered why he didn’t show me before, or just do it himself.

The following are handwritten notes by Charles Eames; January 1949, Part II: Speeches and Writings series, Charles and Ray Eames Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Make a list of books
Develop a curiosity
Look at things as though for the first time
Think of things in relation to each other
Always think of the next larger thing
Avoid the “pat” answer—the formula
Avoid the preconceived idea
Study well objects made past recent and ancient but never without the technological and social conditions responsible

I recently watched a movie, 500 Days of Summer (a romantic comedy, get over it), that had an aspiring architect as the main protagonist. Our hero struggled with the idea of working a job he didn’t enjoy, and always wished he had pursued architecture. Around the third act, a video montage accompanied by uplifting music had our hero quitting the job he did not like, breaking out his sketch pad, and architecting all over the place.

Do you ever feel kind of embarrassed when you tell someone your job profession? Intern Architect. Intern. The word evokes thoughts of being the go-fer person in an office, running errands and getting coffee for the important project managers and architects, hopefully someday being able to do some actual design work. A few years ago I started calling myself an associate architect. Years before that I would tell people I’m an “aspiring architect,” and I guess it finally caught on!

One of the most famous quotes in the architectural world is Mies van der Rohe’s exclamation, “Less is more.” This quote, along with his style of a minimal framework to express a “skin and bones” style of architecture, has helped a generation of architects try to justify design moves and explain architectural ideas. It can, and will, be forever uttered by a boss, a studio professor, a juror, and probably by each of us at some point in our architectural career to help sell an idea.