Life… choices… vanilla or chocolate… choices… education… choices… white or yellow trace… choices… coffee or tea… choices… architecture… choices… cake or pie… choices… everything is about choices. Choices you make, choices you didn’t make, choices made for you, etc. The route of an architect and design is littered with rusty signs along the way. Each of these signs requires a choice… choose wisely:


















Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Choices.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Limit Their Stress By Limiting Their Choices

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Choices — Your turn

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A million choices

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How Do You Deal with Choices During the Design Process?

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Life is a Gamble that depends upon your choices

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Choose Your Battles

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
ArchiTalks Choices

In contemplating how to determine the purity of gold, Archimedes, the Greek inventor and mathematician, made the sudden realization that the buoyancy of an object placed in water is equal in magnitude to the weight of the water the object displaces. While no source for the validity of this account exists, the popular version is that Archimedes made his discovery while bathing at a public bathhouse. Upon his discovery, he jumped out of the tub and ran home through the streets naked yelling “Heureka!!” (“I’ve found it!). I can only hope that my fellow architect don’t react in the same manner.

Architects are constantly in search of eureka – also known as the a-ha moment – the experience when one is granted with clarity and sudden comprehension of a previously indecipherable concept or problem. It’s nearly impossible to know when and where the ‘eureka effect’ will occur. Two things must occur to achieve a eureka moment. First, there must be a ‘problem’ that appears to be unsolvable after one believes to have attempted all possible solutions. Second, after a break in solving the problem, or a reevaluation of the problem, a solution is found. The answer comes quickly and unexpectedly. The unknown becomes known and clear. These ‘answers’ are typically what is referred to as ‘thinking outside of the box.’ For example, the images below are from Architectvral Graphic Standards, Third Edition, published 1946. However, looking at them in a differing manner allows them to take on an entirely new meaning:


“Trust me; the trunk needs to be this high to stuff the remainder of the torso in.”


Proper clearances required to wave your arms up in the air like you just don’t care.


Vertical dimension required for a bar crawl. Also applies to groveling to the AIA.


One permit please… seriously Mr. Plan Reviewer? You have no idea what the intent of the code is, do you?” This diagram is a good example of how if you piss off the plan reviewer he/she will stand up…and then walk away.


Sadly, the Macarena has been around much longer than anyone cares to admit.


Diagram indicating the rigidity of an engineer.


Diagram indicating the initial client-architect meeting. White outline portrays clients retraction after architect discusses that he/she wants to actually be compensated. (client on L architect on R).


Diagram of the Architect-AIA relationship.


Eureka moments are believed to happen with a lapse in mental fixation on the problem. The solutions then become obvious. Constantly searching for atypical solutions ‘trains’ ones’ brain to be open to many unobvious solutions. While I’ve no scientific research to back this up, I believe creative individuals can foster the eureka effect by training themselves to look at all things in a differing light. Constantly striving to think outside the box trains your subconscious to solve with unobvious results… fostering such allows for more frequent and relevant eureka moments.


Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Eureka.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Eureka!? Finding myself amid the “busy.”

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Gee, golly, gosh EUREKA: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Eureka! — Things That Suck

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@BuildingsRCool)
Searching for that Eureka Moment

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Finding That “Eureka!” Moment in the Design Process

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Eureka moments and what do if clients don’t appreciate them

Larry Lucas – Lucas Sustainable, PLLC (@LarryLucasArch)
Eureka for George in Seinfeld Episode 181

The Architectural Registration Exam (ARE)… the ARE is the professional licensure examination adopted by the 50 states of the United States, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories. The ARE attempts to assess a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities required for providing competent services in the practice of architecture. A lofty goal.

During my early employment in architecture firms, the seasoned architects often spoke of their ARE ‘war’ stories. Prior to 1997, those taking the ARE were required to take nine divisions over a four-day period and the exam was only offered once a year in major cities across the United States. The exam was via ‘paper and pencil’ in a studio like setting. To me that sounded much like architecture school and a lot of fun! It also seemed to be an accurate representation of what an architect does, or will be doing. Working under pressure, having to produce, produce accurately, and within deadlines.

However, I didn’t take the exam until the early 2000’s, and by then the exam was in the midst of various revisions and became computer based. While the ARE was becoming more streamlined, it was also becoming more of a task to be completed rather than a test of ones’ competency. I mistakenly assumed I required a lot of ‘real world’ experience such that I could be tested on my abilities of being an architect. As such, I learned as many aspects as I could about the profession. I studied real world examples of the AREs’ ‘testing’ divisions. I spent far too long thinking I needed more time to ‘learn’ to be an architect before I could take the ARE. I was wrong, very wrong. The ARE was merely a task to complete along the way to becoming an architect. It seemed to have lost the aspect of a ‘test’ of ones’ abilities to practice architecture. It was a task that one had to master to pass. It wasn’t a true test of any sort of skill or competency; it was a task of memorization.

When I was studying for the ARE, materials were readily available that had much of the ‘test’ and questions verbatim for one to memorize. I’m guessing this remains true. It was a ‘test’ about being able to know how to ‘test.’ No matter test or task, there is information within the ARE that needs to be known. One needs to demonstrate the ability to know such. However, while the ARE is an important step to becoming an architect, it’s not nearly as important as you think it is prior to passing.

Being years removed from the ARE, I’m not sure the current state of the ARE. I’m going to assume it’s become even more of a task. If I’m wrong and the ARE has reverted back to being more of a test, then I’m happy to be mistaken. Either way, my advice is the same… complete the task as soon as you can such that your relevant and real testing in the profession can begin. Do not let the ARE intimidate you. Study for the task, complete it and move on. Don’t overthink it. Once you’re an architect, you’ll be tested continually with real consequences. You’ll be far more proud of yourself and these tests then the task of the ARE.


Design Task On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘The Architectural Registration Exam.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:


Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
What is the Big Deal about the ARE?

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
what A.R.E. you willing to do

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Take the architect registration exam, already

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
ARE – The Turnstile

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
the architect registration exam

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
I forget

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
The Architecture Registration Exam

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
What is the Benefit of Becoming a Licensed Architect?

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Every Architect’s Agony

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
To do or not to do ?

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Passing the Test

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Part 3!

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
How to Become a Licensed Architect in Italy

Jane Vorbrodt – Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Seven Years of Highlighters and Post-it Notes

Within ‘employment,’ moonlighting means working a second job. In particular one after normal business hours in the evening or night. Since the work is typically performed at night, when the moon is out, it’s known as moonlighting. I didn’t do any research, but I’d guess you could tie a strand of the terms history back to moonshiners… working on something prohibited under the light of the moon. The thought of an architect moonlighting to garner clients and recognition in hopes of striking out on their own will forever be within an architects’ psyche. Moonlighting in architecture connotes a romanticized notion- the ‘gifted’ architect being able to do as they please for a client without the constraints of their employer. The reality is far from that.

I’m not an advocate for an ‘architect’ moonlighting as an ‘architect’. If you do it a few times throughout your career, no big deal. However, if it’s something you regularly do, then it’s not okay. Architecture is a tough profession, it shouldn’t be taken lightly or attempted in a few nighttime hours after your day job. It demands focus. You change when you moonlight- your attention span is reduced, your energy levels go down, the quality of your work suffers, your relationships with others aren’t all they could be, your stress levels rise, etc. You’ll also create convoluted liability issues. You can try to convince yourself otherwise, but the truth is the truth. The reality is moonlighting is not fair to you, your employer, or the people you’re moonlighting for.

Regardless of my personal thoughts, the lure of moonlighting for an architect is typically too much to resist. Architects will continually be tempted and many will moonlight. If you choose to moonlight as an architect and you’re currently working for/as an architect, I offer these suggestions:

1. Confirm your employers policy on moonlighting, most are very strict on such practices- meaning they don’t allow it.

2. Be sure you’re moonlighting client is aware that you alone are responsible for the project and they indemnify your current employer for any and all- have it part of your contract.

3. While you’re on your employers ‘clock,’ do not work on your moonlighting project at any time, not even during a lunch break- no sketches, doodles, phone calls (even on your personal phone), no site visits, no nothing.

4. Do not use anything of your employers for your work- no pens, paper, plotter, computer, no nothing.

If you’re regularly busy with your own moonlighting clients, take the plunge and strike out on your own- you’ll have much more freedom than the moonlight hours grant- and all your previous changes will revert back to your normal self.


Design On,
(hopefully during daylight hours)

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Moonlighting.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The Ironic Blasphemy of Moonlighting and what Architects are Missing Out On

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
moonlighting more than an 80s sitcom

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Moon(lighting) changes with the seasons

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
hustle and grind: #architalks

Michael Riscica AIA – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Moonlighting for Young Architects

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@BuildingsRCool)
Architects do it All Night Long

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Starlight, moonlight – tick tock

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Is Moonlighting Worth It? Probably Not, But We All Try.

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Dancing in the Moonlight

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Moonlighting: or Why I Kept My Dayjob.

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
An Alternative to Moonlighting as a Young Architect

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Architalks 28 Moonlighting

Gabriela Baierle-Atwood – Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
On Moonlighting

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
There is no moolighting. It’s a jungle!

Jane Vorbrodt – Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Crafted Moonlighting


“I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court.” – Charles Barkley

Those that know me personally would probably revise Barkleys’ quote to:

I’m not paid to be an architectural mentor. I’m paid to solve the clients’ design problems, provide clear and concise construction documents, and be profitable while not compromising the client/project goals.” – Keith

Truth is, as an architect I provide mentorship whether or not I consciously choose to or not. If someone seeks me for mentorship, I will assist wholeheartedly. I’m blatant that my ‘style’ of active mentorship is along the lines of ‘tough love;’ I don’t baby sit nor hand hold. That’s a waste of my time and does nothing to truly educate the mentoree. For those that don’t actively want to be mentored, it happens anyway via redlining their work and participation in meetings, site visits, etc. So what is mentorship, mentorship is:

1. Figuring out the best way to achieve a given a task/end goal. It’s not being given a task/end goal and every step/process along the way to achieve such.

2. Looking for, and experimenting with, steps/processes to follow to achieve a particular goal; asking a lot of questions. It’s not being told the steps/processes to follow nor is it looking to ask one specific question in hopes that answer catapults you to the end goal.

3. Presenting various solutions/information for review and discussion. It’s not presenting a single solution and asking “Is this what you wanted?”

4. Reviewing/red-lining your own work prior to having someone else review- if you can find your own mistakes, chances are you won’t make them again. It’s not simply handing your work over for others to find your mistakes/omissions.

5. Learning and learning how to learn. It’s not about being definitively told what to do and most importantly, not being told specifically how to do it.

Keep in mind; this occurs while I (or your mentor) keep a loose ‘tab’ on you. It sounds a bit harsh and even vague, perhaps it is. You’ll be allowed to err, but not in an abysmal manner to the project/client. The end goal of a successful ‘mentorship’ is an individual who can think for themselves and not rely on others to decidedly inform them of all they need to do.

Learning and growth are stagnated when one is sheltered in their comfort zone and need to be instructed on every task and how to achieve. If that’s your belief of being mentored, congratulations you’re on your path to being a draftsperson. If that’s what you want, fine, they will always be needed in the AEC profession. However, if you want to be an architect, you’ll need to be able to think for yourself and not rely on others to explicitly inform you of your tasks/means/methods; the quickest way to achieve such is through mentorship.


Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a topic and a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s topic is ‘Mentorship’– to read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
This is NOT Mentorship

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: Mentorship

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Mentors, Millennials and the Boomer Cliff

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
ArchiTalks: Mentorship

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
teach them the way they should go: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Bad Mentor, Good Mentor

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
The Top 3 Benefits for Architects to Mentor and to be Mentored

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
I’ve got a lot to learn

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Gurus, Swamis, and Other Architectural Guides

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
The Lonely Mentor

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Advice From My Mentor

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Mentoring with Anecdotes vs. Creating a Culture of Trust

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Why every Aspiring Architect needs SCARs

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Mentorship : mend or end ?

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
My Mentor

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
5 Mentors that are in my life

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Gabriela Baierle-Atwood – Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
On Mentorship

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)

I never had any great desire to become a sole-practitioner architect; it came out of survival instincts. The economy was bad and my daughter likes to eat and have clothes. So a few fees here and a couple of forms there and I had my legal entity to officially practice architecture. I was off and running to secure my own work. ** cue wavy dreamy sequence*** Ah, that was 2009… seems like yesterday… but I digest. I know, I know sounds awesome… well for the most part, it is! So what are my top +10 for being a sole practitioner, here you go:

+1. I get to resolve all the ‘bad’ issues that arise- it’s the best learning experience.

+2. No random principal comes to me at the 11th hour saying “I’m not sure I agree; let’s give this scheme a try.”

+3. I can refuse projects that aren’t a good fit.

+4. I rise and fall… I get credit for both!

+5. I get full authority on creativity… as well as veto power!

+6. I can go mountain biking or mow the lawn whenever I have to clear my head.

+7. When I take pens and trace from the office, no one knows but me… shh.

+8. All my days-off for vacation requests are approved.

+9. I’m in control of where my practice goes… such as my design value menu concept.

And the final, and best reason I enjoy being ‘da man’…

+10. It allows me to be more actively present in my daughter’s life, attend martial arts classes, field trips, volunteer at school, etc.

With all the positives, much like everything in life, there are also negatives to being a sole practitioner. However, the majority of negatives can be resolved relatively easily. Here are my 10 for being a sole practitioner:

1. When I have a lunch and learn I have to buy lunch and be the teacher.

2. No big firm resources- books, software, supplies, etc.

3. No one to bounce ideas off of or offer constructive criticism (Facebook and Instagram comments don’t count).

4. I’m the architect, receptionist,  business development guy, PR department, admin department, good cop, contract writer, AR/P department, educator, bad cop, night cleaning crew, IT guy, intern, model maker, lackey, CAD/BIM manager, CA guy, marketing department, general whipping boy, spec writer, etc.

5. I have to buy trace, scales, and sharpies.

6. No intern to pass grunt work off to mentor.

7. No Friday morning **insert favorite breakfast here** paid for by others.

8. Nobody to foot the bill for the annual holiday party.

9. Firm retreats are extremely lonely.

And the final, and reason I don’t like being a sole practitioner…

10. No room for advancement within the firm unless I take a pay cut and demote myself first.

Much like a battery, in order for things to run well you need both a positive and a negative. As long as the +/- tend to weigh slightly more to the +, it’s most likely worth doing. It’s tough working on your own and it’s not for everyone. There are days I question it. However, if you do go this route it will be extremely rewarding!


Design On,

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Would you trust Art Vandelay as an architect? Maybe. After all, he did do the Guggenheim and it didn’t take him that long. However, I doubt you would trust him as an architect. Why? Credibility.


If you aspire to be a respected architect and deliver successful projects, your credibility is crucial- especially knowledge about construction. Early in my career I was well respected by clients, and most importantly, contractors on the job site. Did I have this from being the greatest designer? No. Was it that I sported a goatee? No. Were my Construction Documents really awesome and legible? No, I mean yes, but No. Was it that I was an expert code guy? No. Was it that I dressed well? No. It wasn’t any of these. What it was can be attributed to three experiences:

1. As a child, I learned a lot from my dad- he was a master carpenter and cabinetmaker.

2. In high school, I worked at a real lumber yard, not a big-box home improvement store.

3. In college, I was a laborer for a residential construction company.

How did these foster my credibility?

1. My dad taught me the basics of construction and materials. Sounds simple, it is, but you need to know the basics. From an early age I knew what a 2×4 was vs. a 2×6, a screw from a nail, etc. It meant I could talk to contractors intelligently.

2. Working at a real lumber yard broadened my knowledge of materials and how/where they were used. In addition, it gave me a basic understanding of material costs.

3. This construction experience underscored the fact that what is on paper gets built, but not necessarily built as it is drawn. I learned how things actually go together and the construction scheduling process.

You’ll be surprised at how much of your past will impact your future as an architect. These three experiences afforded me knowledge which instilled in clients and contractors a sense of trust that I knew what I was talking about. It’s hard to get projects built. However, it’s extremely difficult to get projects built the way you want them built. If you’re taken for your word, and are knowledgeable and correct, your project has a better chance of being successful. Having credibility as an architect is a crucial ‘tool’ for the success of a project.

However, construction knowledge isn’t the ‘end all’ of credibility, although you must at least have a basic understanding. An architect can offer credibility in other areas- codes, sustainability, project management, detailing, construction management, etc. On the flip-side, having no credibility whatsoever can ruin the best of all projects. On a lighter side, your credibility may be suspect if you…

a. Think a 2×4 is 2″ by 4″

b. Think lines on your drawings are just that, lines

c. You felt ignorant when asked if a beam was upset or not, you had no idea beams had feelings

d. Think those changes won’t cost that much

e. Can’t draw a legible revised detail on site on the back of a 1/2 torn Subway sandwich wrapper using a carpenter’s pencil

f. Don’t want to walk the site because it’s muddy

g. Forgo a pre-construction meeting because there’s nothing to talk about because nothing is built yet

h. Are asked why there is no cricket indicated on the roof plan, your response “Cricket? (covering phone and turning towards colleague), “I think the contractor has been drinking, cricket, that’s an English baseball sort of game… He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, we should have selected the cheaper guy!”

Are you a credible architect? If so, why do you think you are and how did you get to be such? What tips do you have for future architects on establishing their own credibility?


Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a topic and a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s topic is ‘Dear future architects…’ I chose to discuss the credibility of an architect– to read how other architects interpreted the topic for ArchiTalks #19, please click the links below:

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Dear Future Architects: A Confession

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Dear Future Architects: 4 Perspectives

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
dear future architects

Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel)
Dear Future Architects

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Dear Future Architects: 3 letters

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
future architects: #architalks

Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect)
Dear Future Architect, Listen Here

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Dear Future Architect — Remember Then

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“Dear Future Architects,”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Dear Future Architects..

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Dear Future Young Architects… Please Quit Screwing Around!?!!

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Dear Future Architects: Don’t makes these 4 Mistakes

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Dear Boy in the Plastic Bubble,

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Dear Future Architects

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Dear Future Architects, Be Authentic

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Dear Future Architects…

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@anth_rich)
Dear Future Anthony

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Dear Future Architects, Do Your Thing

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Dear Future Architect,

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Dear Future Architects, Don’t Forget to Treat Your Clients with Respect

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Dear Future Architects…

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Dear Future Architects…

Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
Dear future architects, never lose your optimism

Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
Dear Future Architect, a Letter to My Younger Self

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Dear Future Architects…

Ken Saginario – Twelfth Street Studio ()
Dear Future Architects…

Please Note: the part of the architect will be played by me, Keith. For protection, the partygoer’s real names will not be used.


I would say at least 99.99% of my readers have delivered, received, or overheard the following conversation at a party:

Partygoer1: “Hey Partygoer2, you should talk with Keith, he’s an architect… you guys have a lot in common.”

Partygoer2: “That would be great. I did take some art classes in college, although I wasn’t very good at math.”

Partygoer1: “Keith… Keith… psst KEITH!”

Keith: (with a blank stare looks up from the nacho platter) “Oh, hey… Partygoer1, how are you doing?”

Partygoer1: “You know, I can’t complain… well I could but nobody would listen” (roars with laughter and makes pistol gestures with both hands)

Keith: (attempts to laugh but can only muster a look of insanity)

Partygoer1: “Keith, I’d like you to meet Partygoer2. You guys have a lot in common.”

Partygoer2: (extends arm for handshake)

Keith: (confused, air-gestures a hand shake while retaining a beer and nachos in hands…looks even more crazed) “Hi Partygoer2. Partygoer1 says we have a lot in common. Are you in architect or related to the profession in another capacity? (Thinks to himself, or better yet, “Do you have oodles of disposable income and would like to hire me?”)

Partygoer2: “Well sort of… I took a few art classes in college. I always thought it would be the most awesome thing ever to be an architect and draw all day!”

Keith: (disparity overcomes his demeanor) “Well, actually…”

Partygoer2: (cuts Keith off mid-sentence) “Seriously, how cool is it to draw all day!


The rest of the conversation is a blur to me. I’m sure I said some really compelling things. However, all I recall hearing was “Draw blah blah blah… draw… art… blah blah blah… failed math… blah blah blah.” I can hear you saying, “Keith, this is just another opportunity to explain what it is an architect does.” You’re right, and I did the best I could. Further, I did turn it into something productive- I came up with a list of what I do on a typical day. The next time a conversation like this arises, and it will, I will have laminated (nachos can be messy) copies of the list to distribute. What a typical day for me as an architect entails, a list of ‘stuff’ I do:

1. Read through 37 or so emails…hmmm BIM/CAD software for $19.99… what could be the issue?

2. Wrote 2 contracts… revised 2 contracts.

3. Selected colors, Bright White for the wall and Brilliant White for the ceiling.

4. Prepared a PCCE.

5. Spoke with a contractor about the bid forms he received.

6. Phoned the printer to find out why the drawings that were supposed to be here yesterday aren’t here today.

7. Spoke with plan reviewer, he won’t approve a pedestal building design because he doesn’t think it meets code.

8. Read section 508.2 of the International Building Code- as it pertains to a pedestal building.

9. Re-read section 508.2.

10. A publisher phoned and inquired if I would pay to be in their book…um, no!

11. Re-read section 508.2, I’m positive. I’m correct.

12. Phoned the International Code Council (ICC) to discuss section 508.2 of the IBC and persuade them to make the correct interpretation.

13. Established architectural fees for a renovation project.

14. Re-explained to GC his responsibility for reframing any/all soffits if he doesn’t submit a mechanical system layout drawing for review prior to install.

15. Laid out the framing plans for a new house (sort of counts as drawing, + ½ point for drawing).

16. Sketched bathroom option (+1 point for drawing).

17. Ordered office supplies.

18. Reviewed contractors request for pre-fab fireplace substitution.

19. Prepared/sent invoices.

20. Spoke with the ICC rep, he stated he agrees with me and will issue an interpretation.

21. Sketched/forwarded a detail clarification per contractor’s request (+1 point for drawing).

22. Review/red-line set of CD drawings (sort of counts as drawing, + ½ point for drawing).

23. Researched Cumaru wood decking.

24. Unjammed printer. Jammed. Unjammed.

25. Worked on SD floor plan sketches (+1 point for drawing).

26. Prepared an RFP for structural services.

27. Phoned a client to explain to them, delicately, why their idea won’t ‘work.’

28. Confirmed zoning and setbacks for a property.

29. Responded to plan reviewer comments.

30. Met with utility company rep to discuss possible water service line upgrade.



Tallying the points, we have drawing at 4 points and all other stuff an architect does on a typical day at 26 points, or 87% non-drawing. Even if you’re not good at math, the winner is clear.

As an architect I draw, but I don’t draw all day every day. There is an abundant amount of ‘other stuff’ that we as architects do that has nothing to do with drawing- it’s what separates us from being a ‘designer’ or drafter. It’s worth noting, that much like an Oreo, the ‘other stuff’ can also be ‘double stuffed.’ As an architect, I strive to make my clients experience enjoyable and buffer them from the vast amount of decisions a project requires- such that they can focus on what is drawn– that’s what an architect does all day every day.


Design On,

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Later that night I did draw a bath, but there is no way I’m counting that as drawing! Originally posted September 13 2012, edited/revised per date above.

It’s that time of year again and there’s a new crop of architectural graduates who are about to begin searching for their first job as an architect. This time of year brings with it resolutions, goals, renewed passions, reflections, and resumes… lots of resumes inquiring about employment. I try to respond to every inquiry I can- sorry to those I haven’t. This year has been no different. However, lately the resumes I’ve been receiving have a reoccurring ‘theme,’ one which is quite disturbing. Inquiries such as this:

“I’ll be graduating soon and I’m just looking to gain experience, no need to pay me.”


“I’ve been out of work for a while and I’m just looking to gain experience, I’m willing to work for no compensation”


“My employment proposal would consist of me actually working in your office without being paid. I know that sounds crazy, but I think your firm and I could benefit greatly.”

Yes, it’s crazy and No, neither I nor you will benefit. Unless you’re independently wealthy or all your bills are allowed to be paid via Monopoly money… wait… no. Under no circumstances should you work for no payment (pro bono work is a different post). The message you’re sending is that you don’t value your skills/experience and that they’re of no value to someone else. If you have no value, you’re of no benefit to me. If you’re just looking to gain experience by not being paid, you’re on the path to a bad experience. You may as well state “I want you to teach me for free so some other firm can benefit.” You’ll leave as soon as a firm offers to pay you. Benefit to me, I don’t think so.


There is no benefit to me. If I’m not paying you what obligations do you have to me for valuing your work? What incentive do I have to teach you anything, I’m not investing in you or your skill set. You have no obligations to me. If you’re not compensated for work you do, what does that say about how you value yourself? Why would you ever work for free? What’s in it for you? An employer who allows you to work for no compensation is not invested in you, they’re using you. I don’t see any benefit for you. I don’t care how much experience you think you’ll gain, don’t do it. Do you really want experience from an employer who doesn’t value you? The answer is no. You want a firm that is willing to invest in you. When you invest a return is expected, a return with interest- interest in you.


Yes the AEC profession is a tough one to be in- if you can’t find employment use your time to enhance your marketability. Learn new software, brush up on current building codes, enhance your knowledge of software you already know, etc. Follow firms you like via social media- join in the conversations, express interest in their work, and ask questions. If you’ve been out of work or are a soon to be graduate, what have you been doing and figure out how to take those experiences and market them as a valuable asset. Have you started a blog, learned a new skill, have a new hobby, etc. Market your skills and experiences as valuable, and to their fullest extent. Because honestly, the inquiry’s I receive about working for free don’t get considered by me. You don’t value yourself so what value should I have for you, harsh, but it’s true. Get out there and sell yourself, and by sell I mean you expect to be paid to play in the AEC profession.


Design On,

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* Originally posted February 05 2014, edited/revised per date above- No, I’m not hiring… but hope to be soon