What does my journey as an Architect look like?

My career has gone astray

I followed the proper path. Summer internships, an architecture job right out of school, hopping between firms to climb the ranks, getting exposure with different project types, taking on leadership challenges where possible, moonlighting anytime the opportunity arose. Then a funny thing happened on the way to becoming the Project Architect/Design Architect I assumed I wanted to be. I met ArchiCAD. We fell in love. I later learned that it was process development and awareness of how we work that really interests me. I still enjoy exploring and using ArchiCAD, but it’s just a piece of a bigger puzzle I’m trying to untangle.

In yesterday’s post What kind of Architect are you?, I discussed what I see as the three primary and three secondary archetypes we find in our profession (spoiler alert: I think these archetypes apply to any profession). Today I want to make those archetypes more personal. So let’s look at ourselves in this context. Where do we fit? As is probably a bit obvious by now, I float somewhere down in the lower right hand corner of this chart. I didn’t plan on being there, it just kind of happened. If I look back at my career thus far, and catalog where I have been and where I’m going, I get a graph that looks something like this:

I might be a little off, but I don’t care. I’m not worried about precision, because (for me at least), this is about understanding the themes of my personal journey. For illustrative purposes, I’ll do a quick synopsis of why my graph looks the way it does. The circle represents my senior year of High School. This was the start of my architectural journey. Before that I was pure kid. Between my love of doing art and music (exemplified by what I was doing in AP Art and with my high school Funk band during the first half of 1999), I feel that point approximates where I began. While getting my BArch at Rice University I definitely swung all over the place (so this curve is idealized and smoothed), but the general trend was towards Pragmatist. I carried this on into my career, becoming the production savior, workhorse, shoegnome, and/or BIM Manager at whatever firm I was working for. I might have occasionally pulled towards Philosopher, but the realities of getting the job done and (what I viewed as) being a good steward of the client would always keep me heading towards the Builder-Philosopher midpoint of Pragmatist. Starting Shoegnome and blogging is when the big turn in my career occurred. Since then it’s been a hard drive towards the Philosopher end of the spectrum. The questions “Why will it be built?” and “Why are we doing this?” are ever present. If I did a finer grain path, if I looked at where I was while working at different jobs, on each studio project in school, during each month of full time Shoegnome, my personal graph would probably look more like this:

But this second chart provides too much information. To understand me, to better communicate with me, the first graph is more than sufficient. Over beers, or in future posts, I can tell you about those huge swings to Artisan and Philosopher during school. Or how my happiness levels varied with each shift.

To aid in communication and awareness, know that we are all vectors on this graph. The aggregate over time is a graphic representation of our evolution (path) throughout our career. At any given point in time, you can look at yourself or your coworkers as a simple vector with an origin, direction, and magnitude (length).

Origin: The start of the vector. Where you are on the graph at this point in time. This is your baseline and context for the world around you. It is represented by the circle in the image below.

Direction: The direction of the arrow on the graph. Where you are heading. Where your interests lie right now. This might be in the opposite direction of the point you are closest to. You might be very high up near Builder, but find yourself drawn towards Poet.

Magnitude: The length of the arrow on the graph. How strong is the pull towards your direction. How fast are you going there. Is your evolution and growth moving fast or slow.

In shorthand, that means one could describe themselves as  Builder-Architect heading towards Poet, an Artisan-Architect growing towards Artist, or in my case a Philosopher-Architect heading further towards Philosopher. Which might not make me the best person to work with at the moment on a real project. But that’s a reflection for another time.

The self-identification is a critical part of this concept as it is foremost about self-awareness. And then it’s about understanding those you work with to better communicate and collaborate with them. But we need to understand ourselves first, to know why we have certain preferences. Doing so helps us acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses. It helps mitigate self-doubt. You’re not the Artist so therefore can’t just sit down and make a design from your own internal artistic compass. That’s okay. Stop stressing about it. Stop promising your clients that you can do that. Approach design from the way that you believe. Do you want to be that other kind? Well now you know what you need to work on. Where you need to head. What you need to seek out. You need to develop your lesser traits and strengths. Or you need to find a compliment. If you’re an Artist-Architect find a Pragmatist to work with. And appreciate each others’ skill set. Are you a Philosopher? You need an Artisan to balance you out. Builders need Poets. And Poets need Builders. Opposites create a balanced whole. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

That should be more than enough to digest for now. In the next post I’ll talk about how these archetypes effect the health and strength of firms.


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  1. Bilal Succar March 15, 2013
    • Jared Banks March 15, 2013
      • Bilal Succar March 15, 2013
      • Jared Banks March 16, 2013
  2. Bilal Succar March 16, 2013

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