Architecture Is Practice

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. By the end of the montage, not only had he filled his sketch pads with drawings of buildings, but had also completed a perspective drawing on the chalkboard wall of his downtown LA apartment. Admiring his own work in awe, you could basically hear him thinking “I’m an Architect now!”

I feel young and aspiring architects have this mindset that being an Architect is a glamorous profession. Spoiler alert: it is not. The movie ended with our hero waiting for an interview in what looked to be a 100+ person firm. I assume he had all his little building doodles with him as his “portfolio.” Since he did his underwhelming perspective drawing in chalk on a wall in his apartment, maybe he even included a picture of that. I’m also assuming, had the movie run another 15 minutes, the interviewers at this prestigious looking firm had a good laugh when our hero left the interview, downtrodden after being told his portfolio has nothing of substance, and architecture is much, much more than being able to sketch a building.

Architecture can be considered a career, but it’s not really a “job.” As most of us really know, it is a profession that demands you become better, in some aspect, every day. Every conversation, every line drawn, every submittal sent, every drawing reviewed, etc. is an opportunity to become a better Architect. I feel it takes years of experience for Architects to become really good at their craft; and even then, those years of experience are massively important. If you have 20 years of experience drafting and designing, you’re not really a polished Architect, you’re a drafter.

So, aspiring architects, I hate to burst your bubble, but you’ll never be like Ted Mosby, hanging out in a bar all day with your friends, agonizing on whether you should take that commission to build a New York sky scraper. People probably won’t (or as I think, shouldn’t) be all that impressed if you tell them you’re an architect, like George Castanza routinely does. Rarely will you decline a large project, so you don’t have to compromise your “artistic vision,” as Howard Roark does. And you certainly won’t be wowing any future employers with a couple weeks spent sketching buildings and reading architecture history books, as mentioned above. Architecture is much more than that. Architecture is practice.