Dear Future Architects,
I've always said Architecture is a "Love-Hate Relationship." It is so in two aspects: being in it or being outside of it.
We all know of someone who started in architecture school thinking they'd like it but instead hated it enough to completely switch majors. I know after my first semester at NYIT, the studio slimmed considerable. Their hate over came their supposed love for it. Therefore they remain outside of architecture.. Probably with a new found respect for it though.
Conversely we also know or are personally in a love-hate relationship with architecture ourselves as we speak. There are moments of frustration such as learning a new tool or task, a feeling of discontent over a design problem or maybe reliance on a team that just isn't working well together. Even as a registered architect, this can and still does occur. (While practicing architecture, you're likely to also experience challenging clients and contractors.) But all in all, you remain in love and the passion you hold keeps you progressing.
Architecture, as comparable to other highly technical or expertise driven professions, requires real world experiences to really master. This is not to confuse anyone into thinking it can be totally mastered. We tend to believe that the prime age of an experienced architect is generally in midlife. This is not to say once you reach this age range, a switch magically turns on. Conversely, there are still many great architects under this age also. It's just an average.
I was fortunate to study architecture in New York City. Yes, the epicenter of the world! Yes I said it. It was an amazing place to study this spacial art. My architecture studio overlooked Broadway, a block from Columbus Circle & 59th street. Into my second year I noticed a vacant lot across the street which had workers preparing for construction. Little did I know but 15 Central Park West was being slated for the site by renown architect Robert A.M. Stern 15 CPW. I was set on chronicling the process as I'd be in that studio for the next three years for extended periods of time. (Sleep deprivation and all.) I was excited to witness the rising of a NYC building.
Okay, I fell short. Very short. My plan didn't come together as I suspected. After a few months, I stopped. I ended up watching the process day in and day out. Snapping a few photos periodically. No where near as detailed as I had originally thought. Nevertheless, this was the premise to the connection between an architect and construction. Having no construction experience entering school, I knew I'd like to spend time experiencing the trenches to the rooftops on construction sites like this one.
Every year around this time, there's a large amount of talk related to resolutions and what a person would like to change in the coming year. Why does it take the end of a year to foster change? If it is something that needs to be changed in your life why wait for the new year? Just do it. We are creatures of procrastination and against change. As stated in this article, New Year's Resolutions Don't Work, there are four reason why they just don't work! Resolutions can also be considered "false hope syndrome," as identified by Professor Herman in this article Why People Can't Keep Their New Year's Resolutions. Lets face it procrastination sets in and resolution just don't happen. It's a counterintuitive process. We should drop the misconception that if you don't have a resolution you're content at staying where you are . It's been a tumultuous year with various mishaps throughout the U.S. and world. Let's be honest with ourselves and set goals that are attainable. And as always, we should be grateful.
2015 has come to an end. At this time it is customary for society to expect a time of reflection over the year that has passed and insight into the year to come. It's usually accompanied with a "New Years Resolution." I don't do resolutions. Never have and never will. You'll hear more on this in the upcoming ArchiChats.
As a father, I am currently on the cusp of the creative and verbal expressiveness age, as I put it. You may know it as the terrible twos and rebellious threes. My two cherubs are now learning language, its usage and realizing their own abilities: physical and the emotionally connection. What type of problems could I possibly have?
Let's look at a cartoon which I watch quite often with my children: Peppa Pig. Peppa Pig is a British cartoon show about a pig family composed of mommy pig, daddy pig, Peppa (eldest girl pig) and George (younger brother pig ). This airs in the US on channel such as Nickelodeon Junior. Many times throughout the episodes, the father pig is portrayed as an engineer by his actions (See HERE). However on one episode, he's clearly portrayed as an architect. Please watch this short episode and tell me what you pick up.
See the following link if the above is not active: HERE
At 1:20 minute mark, he seems very arrogant. As if he's above the contractor/builders. In a recent twitter post by Bob Borson, he stated, "As an Architect, I appear only as skilled as my contractor is capable." This is all too true. It's a give take relationship with a common goal: a satisfied client with an interior or exterior space (or product) they will enjoy for years to come. The mentality and expectations of dealing with an Architect need to match reality.
My wife has had many odd encounters when telling friends and family what I do. Generally they immediately think I am a brainy intellect with no personality that bores her to sleep daily. I would hope this isn't how she feels! Though I have my intense moments of euphoric technical babble, I'm generally a down to earth type of guy who knows when to turn this off. I am personable with people at, let's say, a casual back-yard gathering. This bear another point, how approachable
"...but at that moment I set it in stone that I'd finish all seven exams before I announce anything to anyone!"
These words ran through my mind the moment I received my first and thankfully my only exam failure letter. The Architectural Registration Exam (ARE) already has a mental exhaustion characteristic associated with it. There's no sense adding to your misery. My advice is think a minute on who you announce your ARE journey to. The below is a synopsis of my pledge of secrecy during my testing period.
In June of 2010 I embarked on a major step in my professional career: The ARE. I was uneasy about how the experience would be. From the Prometric facility, the difficult multiple choice questions or the lack of user-friendly CAD program, I knew this was going to be a tough battle. After two months of studying, I scheduled and took my first exam. At the time, there were no digital exam results so my uneasiness only continued further following the exam with a 4 week minimum wait period.
After weeks of pacing the door awaiting the snail mail, it came. With shaky fingers I opened it. Reading the words "FAIL" almost brought me to tears. I didn't know what my next step would be but at that moment I set it in stone that I'd finish all seven exams before I announce anything to anyone!
Hello and I welcome you to my second blog post on my new website. My first post was linked to a much needed discussion on Equality in Architecture. You can read it here: Architecture: Open to ALL. Moving on- I felt this post I wrote for NCARB was ideal to refresh with some new information for new test takers. I am an architect and also a husband and father. This post touches on important factors of my life and advice to encourage others. Please enjoy.
Whether you’re called an architectural intern, architect in training, designer, or just intern, tackling the ARE requires sacrifice. Even more so when you have a family of your own. According to National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, pass rates for 2014 were between 62% and 77%. Here are a few tips to help you master the ARE while still maintaining your sanity—and allowing time to enjoy the nuances of marriage and parenthood.
Make It Count
NCARB's five-year Rolling Clock can approach very quickly. When you have a family, it may not be feasible to test every month or even two months. So make your study time count. Only schedule and attempt exams when you feel fully prepared. The new 60-day retake policy is far better than the previous six-month rule, but can still be detrimental to your plan if procrastination sets in. Set a schedule and try to stick to it. But don't kill yourself if you have to reschedule an exam.
Don't Let Work Get You Down
Generally speaking, architectural staff members work long hours, leaving little time for family before the nightly bedtime routines commence. Sometimes reviewing enough material to keep the topics and concepts fresh in your mind will suffice. Going long periods of time without studying can sometimes mean starting over. Remember, a little at a time can add up.
Be a Weekend Warrior
Weekends are usually spent out as a family, and you probably won’t get to sleep in. This means the weekends can end up being just as busy as the work week. Setting aside large blocks of time to study can be difficult. Similar to weekdays, dedicate an evening or morning to studying. A quiet hour or two can make a difference.
Embrace “Free Time”
Free time and children, young children especially, seem to be an oxymoron. When that precious time does pop up, use it wisely. Though you'd rather catch up on sleep, watch television, or take on a hobby, you may be better off reviewing study materials. As written by Amy Spencer at RealSimple.com, you have to outsmart procrastination. You will never get done if you do! Remember, these scarifies won’t last forever—the length of time it takes you to complete the exams is ultimately up to you.
By Jared W. Smith, AIA, NOMA
The below is part an overall series to discuss bias and privilege within the profession of Architecture. To get a better context in which I wrote this, please see the Kick-Off page here on the Equity by Design: EQxD Get Real Series. You can also see this post on EQxD here: Architecture: Open to ALL by Jared W. Smith
I was on a trip to China, studying abroad with my college classmates. Being a 6'-4" African American in China, I expected to stand out. One day while in Shanghai, I ventured out on my own close to the university dorms. There was an indoor market with vendors selling various small items. I walked the floor glancing at the goods. At one vendor's station, I found something of interest. They seemed very hesitant as I approached. Having been in the country for a couple weeks I was aware that I'd attract some attention but this was like no other. As I continued to peruse, I could feel their discomfort growing. It escalated to a point where they did not want me to remain at their table to purchase anything. I was shocked to be "shooed" away. A bit of calm rather than anger came over me. It was best that I hadn't made a scene in a foreign country. Later on it hit me what had occurred.
Yes, I stand out.
Jared W. Smith
My life as an architect, photographer and family man trying to stay positive in a negative world.
BLOGS I FOLLOW:
1. Life of an Architect
3. Young Architect
5. Little Miss Architect
7. Coffee with an Architect
8. Architecture Career Guide
9. Equity by Design
10. Defragging Architecture
11. Emily Grandstaff-Rice
12. L2 Design
Click the image below to see the archive from my old blog.