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Architects are constantly faced with challenges, it’s part of what makes the profession exciting. If you wish to succeed as an architect, you’ll need to be determined to face challenges head on and have resolve in doing so. However, in doing so you will fail and make mistakes. Hopefully you’ll fail a lot.

Very little, if anything, is ever learnt from successes. You take the compliments, think what a great job you did and move on rarely giving it another thought. However, how was your success possible? I’d bet there were many mistakes and a lot of failed attempts prior to your successes. One shouldn’t seek success by constantly asking others for the ‘answer.’ Sure, it may work and be plausible, but you’ll learn nothing. Instead, ask others for advice/guidance and be open to fail/mistakes.

 

Mistakes shouldn’t be viewed negatively, they are valuable learning opportunities. You can’t be afraid to fail nor should you blame others; if you do you’re cheating yourself of valuable knowledge. In failure one should seek to explore the failure… Why didn’t it work? Did I ‘do’ something wrong? Was there a translation issue? What could I’ve done differently? Did I fully understand the problem? How can I avoid the failure in the future?

In seeking the why of a failure one is educating themselves and gaining knowledge. As an architect, you will fail. In fact, if you want to be a good architect, you will embrace failure. I like to fail. To fail is good; it means you are trying something out of your comfort zone. One should fail a lot until they become successes; you can then fail in other areas. So get at it and fail… fail…

First Attempt In Learning

 

 

Fail 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 ‘Learning from mistakes.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

 

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
some kind of mistake

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Learning from mistakes in architecture

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Archi-scar – That Will Leave a Mark!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“Learning from Mistakes…”

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Forgotten Mistakes

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Are Architects Experts?

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Learning from Mistakes

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Learning from mistakes

Steve Mouzon – The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
How Living Traditions Learn From Mistakes

As a public service to the AEC profession, we offer Project Management tips (PMt’s) based on our experiences. The basics of project management can be distilled into two ‘tasks’- scheduling and open communication. Master these and you’ll be well on your way to successfully managing projects and becoming a competent architect.

There’s an old phrase I’m sure most of you have heard. The basic format is “Do you want the good news first or the bad news first?” It gives one an option on how to receive conflicting information. Do you want the bad news first and then good news to cheer you up? Do you want the good news first to ‘cut the edge’ of the bad news? At parties it morphs into horrid jokes such as:

Doctor: “I have some good news and I have some bad news.”

Patient: “What’s the good news?”

Doctor: “The good news is the test show you have 24 hours to live.”

Patient: “That’s the good news? What’s the bad news?”

Doctor: “The bad news is that I forgot to tell you yesterday!”

When it comes to the AEC profession, this format doesn’t apply so well. Clients expect the architect to give them good news. Good news is, well it’s good. Usually no big hooray from the client when it’s delivered, that’s what they want, and expect, to hear from the architect. Bad news is… well… it’s bad and most are uncomfortable addressing. However, to be a successful architect, you need to be comfortable with bad news. Construction is a complicated process and stuff will happen that’s bad. To provide your clients with the best service possible, you better channel your inner MJ and tell them Who’s Bad!

To be an effective architect and run successful projects, you need to be the bearer of bad news. This falls under open communication and ranks up there as a difficult technique to become comfortable with. However, mastering this will have a lasting impact on your client relations. Clients don’t recall much of the good news of a project. However, they do recall every bit of bad news and how it was handled. Don’t wait for someone else to inform the client of bad news. Phone the client, or better yet meet face to face- no email, no singing telegrams, no text messages, no twitter update, no snap chat, and no sky writing– and inform them of the issue.

Explain the how/why it happened, what it may impact- budget, schedule, etc. Most importantly, explain how it will be addressed and resolved. Clients understand (for the most part) that sh** happens. It’s how the architect deals with the sh** that matters. If you bring the issue to the client’s attention and explain how it will be resolved, your client’s going to know that you are actively managing the project and truly have their best interests in mind- which you must! However, what will the client think of you if they hear bad news from someone else or worse, there’s an attempt to ‘hide’ it from them? If you don’t know the answer to that, none of my PMt’s can help you.

Continue to deliver the good news to the client, after all it’s good. Everyone loves hearing good news, but keep in mind that’s why they hired you, good news is expected. To endear yourself to your client, become adept with bad news and its’ delivery. Stay tuned, future posts will offer even more tried and tested PMt’s that you can implement on your projects… or ignore, your call. A revised good news/ bad news joke more apt of the AEC profession:

‘Seasoned’ Architect: “I have some good news and I have some bad news.”

Intern: “What’s the bad news?”

‘Seasoned’ Architect: “The slab pour is wrong and it’s going to set the schedule back 38 weeks!”

Intern: “Oh crap, that sucketh. What could possibly be the good news?”

‘Seasoned’ Architect: “You need to ‘learn’ how to deal with bad news… text the client and let ‘em know… see you tomorrow!”

 

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 ‘Communication.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

 

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Communication and the Question of Relevance

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
what does it communicate?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Types of communication in architecture

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Talk, Write, Draw — A Com Hat Trick

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“communication….”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #36: Project Amplify

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Communication – What, How, Why?

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Tips for Communicating with Your Architect, Interior Designer, or Landscape Architect

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Why Communication Skills are a Must for Aspiring Architects

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Communication in a Yada Yada World

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Communication

Jane Vorbrodt – Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Explain Yourself…

Design… the elusive design… the ‘magic’ of an architect. I find it difficult to describe the design process, specifically my design process, as all architects design differently. Sure, there are ‘rules’ and precedent architects can follow, local zoning and code implications, means + methods to ‘work’ out a design, etc. However, it’s still a bit elusive for me to describe how it all happens. So let’s start at the beginning.

I do a lot of single family residential work… and a good portion of it is renovation/ additions. However, the same applies for new homes. Typically my initial meeting with a client is in their home. We walk through the house. The clients talk about their project. I spend most of the time listening and nodding my head… after all it’s their project that they wish to share with me. I see the glitter in their eye as they discuss wishes and goals for the project. Really good clients have binders full of images they like. The best clients can describe why they like them. We flip through their image binders. They make more statements. Finally they’ve exhausted themselves.

Then it happens. They look at me and ask, “So what’s the answer? What will you design and what will it look like when it’s done?” They seem to be waiting for me to snap my fingers, toss my cape back (I should start wearing a cape) and exclaim “I’ve got it! What it’s going to look like is…” However, I don’t work like that; I don’t know the ‘answer’ immediately. Typically my response is “Yes. No. Something. I don’t know.” To which I’m greeted with a blank stare for two minutes… than a nervous laugh… then the client says “No, really, what’s it going to look like?” I explain that I need time to think, to absorb what they’ve said- I need time to process.

Initially, there is a vast amount of listening and observing conditions as they pertain to a project. The design starts with thinking about all I’ve gathered. Processing those thoughts into useful information that can be applied to the design. I think about a project a lot- both consciously and subconsciously- I mean a lot. It’s typically weeks of ruminating in my head before I ever put pen to paper or knife to chipboard. Good design is intently listening, as well as hearing, and investigating the root of the design issue(s) at hand. Only after doing such can an architect respond appropriately and start ‘Designing.’ I suspect a majority of architects would agree with my process of design, at least at the very beginning.

 

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 ‘Starting a Design.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Slow Down. Hold Still.

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
where do we start?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
How to Start a Design

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Starting a Design: #Architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
On Your Mark, Get Set — Start a Design!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
.”starting a design…”..

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #35: Starting a Design

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Where do we begin?

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Where do you start when designing a new home?

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
First Thing’s First

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
5 Tips for Starting an Architecture Project

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
How it all begins…

Steve Mouzon – The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
Starting Wrong – The Amazon Mistake

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)
choices

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

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Choices

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Choices — It’s Everything!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“Choices…”

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)
Moonlighting

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)
Influence

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

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Mentorship

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)
Mentorship

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

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
Mentorship

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.

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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)
http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com/dear-future-architects-you-need-to-hear-this/

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…