That’s what Architects are supposed to do, right? There’s a big series of posts coming about this topic, but I wanted to foreshadow a bit and ask a question.
If you were to give a two word description of the following architect, what would it be:
The architect who loves the act of designing through the media of our trade—whether pencil on trace, scale models, or digitally. After being asked by a client to design a building, this type of architect can sit down in front of a blank piece of paper (or empty model space or stack of chipboard) and just start sketching a design. Because they have a central concept of what Architecture should be, because they have a stylistic preference, because they know the project-type so well, or because of some other ineffable quality they can just create. I don’t know what it is. There are lots of architects like this. They are usually design architects. One of my old bosses in particular fits this model perfectly. A client would say “I want a cabin, here’s some basic info” and he would—with a pen on a napkin, with a pencil on trace or with a stick in the dirt—create forms out of thin air.
What would you call that type of architect?
A (fill in the blank with one word)-Architect.
There are design architects that don’t work this way. So the answer isn’t Design-Architect. There are students in Architecture School who can do this from day one. So the answer isn’t Experienced-Architect. There are architects who do this but produce garbage. So the answer isn’t Good-Architect. Artist-Architect doesn’t work because I know too much about art to understand how wrong that title is. To say that the answer is just Architect is, well, ignorant. What are these architects?
I don’t know. And one of the reasons I can’t codify this group is that I don’t work like this. I never have and I’m not sure I ever will. I’m something different (I know what I am, but that’s for a future post).
Why are you asking this Jared?
Unsurprisingly, the deeper answer is within that rhetorical question. But the more immediate answer is that today is February 28th, 2013. One year ago on February 29th, 2012 I quit my day job. One year ago, I mustered up the courage and said “Fuck it.” Time to blaze my own path. And so I have for a full year now. And I LOVE IT. This year has had some ups and downs, but it’s been a wonderful year filled with great opportunities, new friends and acquaintances, surprising challenges, and a wonderful amount of successes. Plus a ton of self discovery. When you run your own business, when all your work time is under your control (from an idealized perspective), it’s very telling when you look at what you do or don’t do; at what types of work you seek out or avoid.
When I was in school and early on in my career, I always assumed I wanted to be an architect so that I could design buildings. I always expected that was the goal. I train as an architect. I do my time as a grunt. Then I make it. Then I get to one day point at built stuff and say “I created that.” At some point over the last decade my career started to shift, to head down a different path. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t fully understand it now. But year after year, job after job, opportunity after opportunity, I found that the goal of being the guy who gets a design challenge, sits down in front of a blank canvas and just creates wasn’t getting any closer. For whatever reason other opportunities within firms were easier, more enjoyable, and more attainable. Frustration grew. I didn’t understand why others could move down that path but I couldn’t. It wasn’t because their designs were better. It wasn’t because my secret life goal was to be a technical production guy or a BIM Manager (which are both worthy aspirations). There was something else going on. Many of my contemporaries could sit at their desks and design things. That was maddeningly impossible for me.
I’ve been doing Shoegnome full time for a year and I understand myself better now. I love design and creation. I love exploration. But this is THE BIG THING I’ve discovered. Do I want to design buildings and one day stand in them? Of course. That sounds wonderful. Do I really care? Will I lie on my deathbed and regret never getting a project built? Absolutely not. Do I even feel I need to be involved in the direct creation of buildings (whether as the Project Architect, Production Architect, or some other role)? Nope. Does that mean I’m not really an architect, other than according to NCARB and the State of Minnesota? That’s not even a question I seriously ask myself.
So I’ll ask my question for all of you again:
What’s the two-word descriptor for the architect I describe above who can conjure designs on cue?
Once I find a good answer to that question, I’ll explain the bigger picture.
PS – Thank you all for your support this year; I’ll do my best to spend the next year giving even more back. Year Two of full time dedication to Shoegnome is going to be even better than Year One!
Update 03/19/13 — I found my answer.