2018 Gingerbread Display Open Houses

Dec. 12, 19 & 26 / 5 pm-7pm

The 2018 RLPS Gingerbread Display made its debut to the public on Wednesday, December 12th from 5 pm – 7 pm for the first of three public open house nights. You are also welcome to view the display on the following two Wednesday evenings: December 19th and 26th from 5 pm – 7 pm. No admission will be charged, but you will have the opportunity to donate non-perishable food items for the Water Street Mission during each open house. The food drive is optional for those who wish to participate. Thank you to past attendees who suggested the idea.

There are likely to be long lines each night, so please plan accordingly. Please no pets. Doors open at 5 p.m.

RLPS Gingerbread 2018 Winners, based on votes by our clients and business associates.

Urban’s Griest Building Boosted Lancaster PA into the Skyscraper Age

C. Emlen Urban Series – Part 20

On January 19, 1914, Milton S. Hershey wrote an unsolicited letter of reference to U.S. House of Representative William Walton Griest espousing the merits and talents of Lancaster’s young architect C. Emlen Urban.  Hershey concluded the endorsement by stating, “We have a great deal of confidence in his ability as an architect and can safely recommend him as being very capable and very honorable in his line of work.”   Ten years later, Lancaster City would see its first skyscraper rise 14 stories above Penn Square. It would retain its distinction as the tallest building in Lancaster for 80 years.

Supporting the claim that relationships build buildings, Hershey, Griest and Urban were mutual friends and business acquaintances for decades, sharing common ground through social clubs, education and politics. Griest was president of three Lancaster public utility companies:  Conestoga Traction Company, Edison Electric Company and the Lancaster Gas Light and Fuel Company.   The boards of directors commissioned Urban to design a signature structure to honor Griest and house their expanding businesses.

Urban chose two of the most popular styles of the time, French Beaux Arts and Italian Renaissance Revival, to define this landmark skyscraper.  The structural steel frame permitted fast construction and had an immediate impact on the city skyline.  At street level, pedestrians enjoy Urban’s gift for humanizing large buildings through his use of graceful arches, decorative stone panels with shields, festoons, urns, pilasters and even stone rope.  The 12th, 13th and 14th floors comprising the building’s crown included a 300-seat auditorium and ballroom with a green and gold frescoed ceiling.  The exterior of the crown is a well-proportioned and beautifully detailed example of Italian Renaissance architecture with glazed terra cotta arched pediments, dentils, curved brackets, balustrades and even a lion’s head cornice.

The Griest Building’s acceptance was so profound and so fast that it quickly stole the thunder from the ever popular Woolworth Building, leading to its eventual demise.  On September 21, 1925, The New Era reported that “Time may bring other skyscrapers to Lancaster, but the Griest Building will never forfeit its claim to priority.”

The full article C. Emlen Urban’s Griest Building Boosted Lancaster in the Skyscraper Age is available on LNP News.

LeadingAge 2018 Conference

Thank you to our many clients and business associates, as well as new connections, from this year’s event in Philadelphia!  We attended a number of great sessions sharing new ideas, current challenges and emerging trends.

RLPSers were also be part of the speaker’s panel for the following educational sessions at this year’s conference. Click on the session title to download handouts:

131-B. Design Strategies for Big Living in Small Spaces – Monday, October 29, 2018 / 8:00 – 9:30 a.m.

Ric Myers, Director of Sales, Willow Valley Communities and Gregg Scott

32-G. Extending Housing and Services to the Middle Market – Wednesday, October 31, 2018 / 8:00 – 9:30 a.m.

Beverly Asper, director, Baker Tilly; Lynn Daly, Senior Vice President, BB&T Capital Markets; and Craig Kimmel

165-H. Fostering an Employee-Centered Workplace – Wednesday, October 31, 2018 / 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Steve Jeffrey, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Garden Spot Village Retirement Community; Lisa McCracken, Director Senior Living Research and Development, Ziegler; and Jessie Santini

More information is available on the LeadingAge Conference website.

Architecture You Could Bank ON

C. Emlen Urban Series – Part 19

Interestingly, C. Emlen Urban used the description “solid and enduring” to describe his design intent for the Stevens High School during the dedication ceremonies on December 22, 1905.  However, there is no more suitable description than solid and enduring to describe the four freestanding banks that he authored between 1910 and 1923.  The century old buildings remain today—virtually untouched

In 1910, Urban was commissioned by the Union National Mt. Joy Bank to design a structure that would speak to strength and security and remind customers that their accounts were in safekeeping.  He chose a massive masonry limestone symmetrical structure in the Beaux Arts style to reflect that message.  The classic Greek design elements, including paired two-story tall ionic columns, flanking pilasters and an oversized entablature with parapet, reinforce strength and security.

In 1912, Milton S. Hershey commissioned Urban to design a building that would impress the public and encourage people to start saving for the future.  The two-story marble, brick and granite Renaissance style structure includes a well-proportioned Greek pediment and entablature resting on paired columns.  The interior is as impressive as the exterior with marble flooring, mahogany millwork, and an imposing vault door, topped by a 30 day wall clock flanked by lions representing time and strength.  Located at the intersection of Cocoa and Chocolate Avenues, the Hershey Trust Company still retains its impressive public stature.

Urban’s third design, Lititz Springs National Bank, was designed in 1922 and holds the distinction of being his only bank with a corner entrance. The two story masonry structure, at the corner of Main and Broad Streets, softens the intersection with the curved façade and thoughtful detailing.  Although another imposing and impressive design, this bank features generous amounts of windows and natural light.        

Ephrata National Bank retained Urban to design its new building in 1923.  His fourth and final freestanding bank embodies all his knowledge of bank designs to date, and presents another fine example of thoughtful and creative design innovation.  The combination of Vermont marble columns and English bond brick on the façade emulate the Hershey Trust Building, and the eagle perched above the main entry resembles Lititz Springs National Bank. The sky-lit interior, utilizing American walnut millwork, is organized around a 26-ton vault door and frame.  More than 10,000 visitors toured the aptly described “landmark of admiration” on dedication day, July 11, 1925!     

The full article, C. Emlen Urban’s architecture was something Lancaster could bank on, can be found on LNP/Lancaster On-line.

Learning from Mistakes

Learning from Mistakes

Much of what we do as building professionals has to do with this month’s ArchiTalk subject.  As a code/regulations and quality control person in the office, most of my personal experience as it relates to reviewing construction documents has to do with how I or someone I know may have been burned in the past.  But as an office, we have a collective experience that can surely help us make good projects even better in the future.
The Project Autopsy
Case in point, I had a meeting on my calendar today listed as “Lessons Learned on XYZ Project”.  Again, this was a job that went pretty well.  But when was the last time you said, ” the construction of that last job could not have gone ANY better”?  Of course you haven’t.  Things can always be better.  This was a fairly small job, though complex.  It dealt with a lot of high profile areas at the main entry, and had to be completed during the summer – about two months.  So the schedule was aggressive. 
The meeting consisted of the quality control personnel, the construction administrator, the design team (project architect, interior designer and Revit drafter), interiors partner and the specifications writer.  A total of eight people in a room discussed what could have been done differently to have been more successful than the project already had been.  That is a fair investment of staff hours on a pretty small job that for the most part went pretty well.
Some of the topics discussed included:
  • Long Lead Items on Short Schedules
  • Specific Details on One of a Kind Details
  • Demolition Notes
  • Existing Conditions
  • Door Hardware on Aluminum Storefront
  • Utilizing Technical Representatives from Manufacturers
  • Specifying Finishes in Publicly Bid Work
Some of these topics are so specific, that they may never be applicable to any other job we do.  However, a few of the items will go on the Quality Control Checklist that we maintain.  There are a few items that are already on the checklist that will be repeated for the benefit of the staff’s memory.
Regardless of the size of one’s practice, having a procedure to do a postmortem on even successful jobs is a great way to strive for improvement for your next challenge.  While most projects are unique, there are often opportunists to apply what you’ve learned to other situations.

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series where a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is “Learning from Mistakes” and was led by Steve Ramos.  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:

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?

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
A, B, C, D, E…

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

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

Architect Still Thinking Outside the Department Store Box

C. Emlen Urban Series:  Part 18

We may never know what drove C. Emlen Urban in his relentless quest for excellence, but his passion for architectural innovation and experimentation was unparalleled.  By 1921, the 58-year-old Urban was celebrating his 35th year of practice and had completed well over 130 commissions in Lancaster and Dauphin Counties alone.  Department stores and commercial structures were a large part of his portfolio.  In true Urban fashion, he chose a new and unusual architectural style for German immigrant Miles F. Goodman’s landmark furniture store:  Perpendicular Gothic Revival.

Perpendicular Gothic Revival, named for its emphasis on verticality, ornamentation, pointed arches and stained glass, was growing in popularity in the first quarter of the 20th century.  Urban presumably selected this style, typically reserved for churches and collegiate buildings, as a differentiator in the commercial district of downtown Lancaster.   The six-story structure, utilizing structural steel to create large expanses of glass, exudes success with its use of granite, limestone, glazed terra cotta tile, bronze and leaded glass

There are three notable details on the King Street façade: first, the large sweeping segmental arch with curved decorative leaded glass detailing; second, a rare transverse barrel vaulted storefront entry and lobby; and third, the highly crenelated skyline parapet complete with shields, ribbons, rosettes, quatrefoils and fleur-de-lis.   Close examination of the façade reveals four carved stone lion heads left and right of the arch. The store lauded its 2,000 square feet of floor space, a fireproof steel elevator and padded booths to test grafonolas (phonographs) in quiet privacy. The new furniture store was the talk of the town in 1922 with over 15,000 Lancastrians attending the grand opening on a cold winter day in January

Addition information and photo are available from the full LNP article  Thirty-Five Years Into His Career, Architect Still Designing Outside the Department Store Box.

Designing for Others

Designing for Others

In a sense, architecture is always about designing for others, is it not?  Even if I designed a home or structure for “myself”: as a married person with children, wouldn’t I ultimately take the needs of my family into consideration?  Unless I was designing a domicile for which I intended to occupy in solitude so that I could devote my time to a great work of literature (clearly I am not talking about this blog), would I not consider visitors?  Even Thoreau’s Walden: Life in the Woods devotes a chapter to the comings and goings of visitors (he always had three chairs ready for visitors).  We are never truly alone.

As it turns out, nearly all that I do revolves around design for others.  In my position as one of the “Checker of Drawings”, I essentially become a method actor playing several roles as I read “the script”.  The script, or the collective of the construction documents, as it were, is strictly a draft when I read it.  Depending on which act I am reading, I immerse myself into the character suitable for the role.

First, I become the Code Official.  I am likely seeing this set of documents for the first time.  Even if I know a lot about the project, I pretend I do not.  The Code Official must be able to review the first several pages of a set and get a general understanding of the existing conditions (if there are any), the type(s) of building(s) proposed, the occupancy, the construction type, the amount of area and height, etc.  A lot to do, and it is a challenge to do this clearly and succinctly.  Are there fire walls, and if so, where?  How much renovation is there (Level 2 or Level 3)?  Where are the different uses separated?  We have to come up with a way to convey this information even if it means adding little drawing vignettes to clarify.

Much of what I look for is not glamorous, however stairway enclosure protection is important, especially if missed and not considered during design prior to bidding.

Next, I try to take the point of view of the people building this structure.  How clear are all the transitional details – are there enough blow-ups?  Are the required dimensions there?  Even if the dimensions are there, are they in the right place, where they make sense to the builder?  How have the details considered the person physically putting the drywall on the wall?  We also try to incorporate all of the systems and engineering knowledge to coordinate consultant drawings; so that our drawings don’t say one thing, and the electrical drawings say another.There are so many things to consider that, unless you do the same building over and over again, no one would ever catch them all.  But we try none-the-less and strive to be better all the time.

Sometimes, the things I look for are mundane, like how does this tiny shaft get drywalled up three stories?
Sometimes, when I see the same issue over and over, I need to keep myself sane…

Obviously, the point of view of the Owner, or in our case the end user, is of the upmost importance.  I have to look for details that do not comply with Codes, of course.  However, I find myself becoming the advocate for those with limited abilities of all sorts, where, even if the design complies with the Codes, I typically ask if certain moves might be made to improve accessibility.  In senior housing independent living apartments, typically (per ANSI A117.1) a sink in the laundry is exempt from side approach requirements (the ability for one to approach the sink sideways in a wheelchair and have enough room to center your torso on the sink).  The first instinct of a designer is to throw the sink to the corner as far as you can so that there is as much open counter to fold.  This may work fine for the able bodied resident, but what about one in a wheelchair or scooter?  Even if one is temporarily confined for the time it takes to mend a broken bone or some other kind of ailment, it would still be nice to be able to use your laundry room.

A reception desk in a senior’s environment needs to consider, in all aspects, the perspective from a wheelchair.

In closing, I look at this set from my own perspective.  For this set of documents, even though another architect was the lead on the project, I ask myself what personal experiences can I impart on the design?  I have been designing for seniors for over 20 years, but the office as an entity has been doing so for three times that.  We have a lot of collective experience.  You can also call it collective memory.  You can call it tales from the trenches.  You could even call some of them war stories.  Whatever these deign issues are called, we want to review each project from the perspective of this checklist of items, lest we overlook them.  As one of my favorite sayings goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  When the office produces a set of documents, I want us all to be proud of the end result.  For successful building projects, repeating advantageous design moves and avoiding detrimental ones can only help the cause.

Always remember, staff break rooms cannot be considered “employee work areas”!

Note:  If you were wondering…my marks are green and not red because I am not the only one to redline jobs.  My green marks distinguish themselves from someone else’s red marks, while still visible against the black lines of the construction documents themselves.

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series where a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is “Designing for Others” and was led by Jeff Pelletier.  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:
Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How To Design for Others

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
designing for others – how hard could it be?

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“designing for others”

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Just say no

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Designing for others

Steve Mouzon – The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
Planting Seeds of Better Design

Anne Lebo – The Treehouse (@anneaganlebo)
Designing for people

Lancaster Boys’ High School, a ‘beacon’ for its students

C. Emlen Urban Series:  Part 17

On June 25, 1880, 17-year-old C. Emlen Urban stood before classmates, faculty, school directors and guests of honor as the senior class valedictorian for the Lancaster High School, and delivered a poignant speech of promise and praise.  In 1880, the three story, red brick building was a fine example of 1874 Queen Anne architecture that faithfully served the Lancaster community for more than 44 years.  In 1916, however, the school directors commissioned Lancaster High School alumnus and architect Urban to replace his alma mater with a new and more appropriate structure that would reflect the latest design principles for a modern education.  What an honor this must have been for him, while equally bittersweet.

It had only been 12 years since the school superintendents had retained Urban to design the new Girl’s High School at the corner of West Chestnut and North Charlotte Streets.  However, shortly after its dedication in 1906, the structure was forced to accept boys due to the rapid growth of the city’s population.  The new Boy’s High School would correct the issue and return things to normal, for at least 20 years. Urban seized the opportunity to again showcase his talent and skills by designing a new three-story structure in the popular Beaux Arts style.  The resulting building, that still stands today as Fulton Elementary School, is organized around an impressive and innovative 960-seat semi-circular auditorium with 20 large, leaded glass, ceiling diffusers.  The auditorium is suspended above the gymnasium and indoor running track on massive steel girders

The exterior reflects an equal level of detailing and careful consideration with gold-colored tapestry brick, cast stone balustrades, cut stone bases and capitals, sculptured stone panels, Greek urns, garlands and a most impressive eagle with torches above the main entrance. An enthusiastic School Board President, P. E. Slaymaker, proclaimed the new school to be a “beacon of light …guiding and leading the students in the higher paths of rectitude and right.”

The full LNP article, Building Boys’ High School, and additional photos are available through Lancaster Online.





Career Path(s)

Career Path(s)

I always say I’ve known I wanted to be an architect since the seventh grade, but that doesn’t mean I knew what it meant to be an architect at that time.  That didn’t come until much, much later.  Even architecture school doesn’t truly prepare one for the path of professional “architect”.  It tends to makes sense that, even upon completion of a degree in architecture, many graduates find themselves working outside the field of of architecture eventually (or even immediately).

In my own graduating class of about 25, I estimate that at least one third of said graduates are endeavoring in professions outside of architecture.  And of the eight or more “outsiders” I count, gender really has nothing to do with it.  And by that I mean: no, it isn’t all the females from our class that dropped out of professional life to raise children.  Quite the contrary, actually; as more women from my class are still in architecture and a higher percentage of men have left it.

So where do these people go and why did they leave?  Do they do something related to architecture or completely unrelated?

I looked to my classmates, friends and former co-workers for answers.  I generated a sort of questionnaire.  Of the people I surveyed, two are in the film industry (one in visual effects and one in set design – no adult film stars that I know of, sorry).  One worked as a product designer for a major ceiling product manufacturer. Two work for the federal government.  One works for a large retirement community and helps new residents layout their new retirement homes and sell their existing ones.  One is a jewelry designer and sculptor who sells her merchandise in museum gift shops and craft shows all over the country.  One person now engineers and builds millwork and cabinetry.  One classmate owns and operates a needlework business.  Last but not least, one colleague now runs a catering business and gourmet shop.  Notice there is not a single stay at home mom or dad listed.  While some may have also done this job IN ADDITION to their other job, it isn’t as if these people have picked up their ball and gone home.  They are contributing to the work place in other ways, some related to architecture, some not so much.
The equal rate of attrition between men and women on the road to achieving their licensure after receiving their degree is in line with a recent NCARB study.  See the link here.
I thought about this and asked each person I know in this position to answer a fourteen question survey.  As to be expected, some surveys took a very long time to get back (architects are notorious procrastinators – no surprise).  Some I am still waiting on.  I hold no ill will, but they are off the Christmas Card list for sure.  Actually our family is so bad at getting Christmas Cards out, we have changed them to New Year’s Cards.  Full disclosure:  I do none of the work on the holiday card front for my own family.  I am the worst.
I tried to get an idea of why each person in the focus group went into the study of architecture, when he/she felt like they might want to change professions, how architecture school may have prepared him/her for other endeavors and if he/she would do it differently or what suggestions might be useful to those pondering the profession.
In terms of when the decision was made to enter architecture school, most of the respondents indicated fairly late in high school.  One person indicated a very young age (before 10 years old), and two actually made that decision after college orientation or after a full year of college.  Our class had a high percentage of students that were older, from 20 to 30 years old, rather than 17 or 18 like the rest of us.  I am not sure of the reason for this but it didn’t really matter other than when it came time to buy beer.  I would guess that the dropout rate for the traditional freshmen was about the same as those entering architecture school with a few years already under their belt.
When asked if there was any point that they felt entering architecture school was the wrong one, answers were all over the board.  Some had doubts in school (of course we all did in some way due to the pressures of studio).  One person actually left a message for their adviser in order to start the process of switching majors.  The adviser never called back and he ended up sticking it out (see above for ‘procrastination’).  One woman kept a pink ‘Change of Major’ slip pinned in their work space all five years.  Another indicates that every semester was plagued with doubts.  Several respondents settled into the program with less tumult that the rest of us.  And lastly, one man didn’t have doubts until he received his first paycheck and saw the amount of overtime he was working.

When asked if they intended to seek employment outside of the profession immediately following college, most responded that they first sought traditional work for architectural graduates.  Only one intended to pursue work in a related field (architectural preservation).  Many found traditional work.  Only one person I polled fell into another profession while looking for traditional work; the video gaming industry.  In fact when he started in the gaming job, five of the six people on his team were either architecture school graduates or licensed architects.

Only one of the respondents is currently a licensed architect.  Having worked for a division of the federal government for several years as their architect, he decided to actually join them as a project manager.  As a result, he left the private sector to work for this government agency, running their construction projects as an Owner’s representative.

Another former coworker also got a job with a government agency in a field directly related to architecture.  But when it became clear that a transfer from his current city was eminent, he found work in another department in graphics and web design in order to stay put.

My classmate Jake has a very unique resume.  After graduating with us in architecture, he ended up traveling around a bit, trying to decide where to work.  In doing so, he passed through San Francisco and thought how cool it would be to work somewhere like Pixar.  When traditional jobs did not immediately pan out, he found himself working in the video gaming industry, contributing on several games in the Star Wars series for Lucas Arts and Marvel Nemesis for Nihilistic.  Eventually he made his way to the other side of the planet, working for Weta Digital, currently as Layout Head of Department, and has worked on films like Avengers: Infinity War, Avatar, X-Men: First Class, and the Hobbit trilogy.  Oh, just look at his IMDb page.  Jake attributes his current skills like spatial layout, 3-D problem solving, art history and managing stressful deadlines to his architectural training.
In perhaps one of the most unexpected results of my survey, one respondent actually came back to work at an architectural office:  the one I work for.  Jim had worked for us more than ten years ago and eventually found employment with a major manufacturer of ceiling products, where his wife also worked at the time.  He worked in several positions over about a decade from research and development of ceiling products, to working with architects and designers to produce specific solutions for their design needs.  While his positions were maybe more traditionally filled by industrial engineers, the problem solving aspects of working in buildings perhaps benefited him during his time there.  When I contacted Jim to answer my survey and catch up for lunch; I gave him a tour of our new office space.  A few weeks later and Jim rejoined us.  Yes our office is that cool.  Jim has since wondered off into new adventures since.  He went on to join a German building product manufacturer, a commercial case goods manufacturer and now works for a residential home building company as a sales manager, where yet another of our classmates now works as a studio manager.

My friend Melissa runs a business creating handmade jewelry and other objects made from industrial and recycled materials, see:  StubbornStiles.  She worked in architectural offices for about ten years before making that move.  And if there was anyone I would have expected to do something outside of architecture, it was Mel.  Not to say she wasn’t talented and couldn’t have excelled in an office, but I expected her, more than anyone else I knew from college, to create her own professional path.  I visited her once in San Francisco many years ago where she was working in a firm, and it was very strange for me to see her step out of the office, dressed the part in every way.  What she does now totally fits her.  (She was the one with change of major slip at her desk in college).  She now works with her super cool and talented family in Portland, Oregon.

My wife worked for a very small architectural firm doing mostly residential work for a short time, but left to work for a nationally known home building company.  She liked the residential aspect of the work and she needed to pay off student loans, and this job paid better.  She went on to move to where I was living in Lancaster, PA (and we still live there today) and worked for two different regional home builders.  She went part time after our first child and eventually quite all together after our second.  She never fully intended to leave the work force, and continued to freelance drafting work.  Eventually, an opportunity came to her through one of her freelance clients to become what is termed the Transition Specialist for a very large retirement community.  She meets with clients who will be moving into the retirement community, measures their furnishings that will be going with them, and lays out the furniture plan for them in their new apartment plan.  She also provides tips for selling the home they are leaving.

I know or know of others that have gone into designing and building furniture, culinary and catering endeavors, and even a needlework shop and business.  It is clear that all of these changes in profession have one thing in common:  there is still an aspect of design and/or art relating to them all.  When asked how their architectural education benefited them in their non-traditional professional field, the answer returned was unanimous from the focus group:  the ability to problem solve.  It is a different kind of problem solving than the engineer or mathematician.  The problems presented to architects and even to students in school are open-ended and never only have one answer.  We are taught to think in terms of options.  The solution that is best for Client A is almost certainly not the best solution for Client B.

The architect must work between what the client thinks they need, what the codes require and what the engineers need to do.  I have always thought that being an architect requires, almost above all else, the ability to compromise.  The best solutions can answer questions that weren’t even asked.  Architecture school teaches creative thinking to spatial problems as well as time management skills.   It also teaches how to take criticism.  Does it ever…

Most of the people in my limited survey also know others in their fields who studied architecture or were architects.  The last couple of decades have seen a few deep recessions.  Architecture was one of those majors everyone was warned against very recently, see:  Degrees to Avoid.  Getting a job in architecture has been difficult at several times over the course of the last 20 years, which can influence some to abandon the traditional route and go into something else.  There are also several famous folks who at least started an architectural education before going off to become famous for other things.  See:  Career Paths. Some actually got their degrees and practiced before going into acting, singing, even royalty…good work if you can find it.

Several respondents suggested they didn’t know what they were getting into.  There are a lot of programs today targeting high school students that didn’t exist when I considered a college major.  I actually have volunteered for the program at Penn State.  See:  Career Advice.  This would have been extremely helpful to me as a college freshman and would have provided for a good transition from high school to studio.  It turns out there are dozens of these programs over the summer from one week to six weeks.  See:  Summer Programs.  I would tend to think that incoming students at least have the opportunity to know what they are getting into.

Most of the people I polled believe that the education of an architect can provide one with a set of skills that is transferable to other undertakings.  Of course to be licensed, there is the Architectural Registration Exam to contend with, along with the NCARB internship requirements.  But that is a discussion for another time.  Architecture school is not for everyone, considering my class barely graduated 25% of the original first year sudents.  Even my colleagues who are in fields that have college programs tailored specifically to them (like animation and stage set design) discover aspects of the architectural program that inform their work.  Needless to say, a Bachelor of Architecture or Masters of Architecture is the most direct path to becoming a practicing architect.  But an architectural course of study is able to translate to a wide variety of career pursuits.

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series where a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is “Career Path” and was led by Mike LaValley.  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:

–>Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Well, How Did I Get Here (Again)

–>Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
a paved but winding career path

–>Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Career – The News Knows

–>Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#architalks 41 “Career Path”

–>Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A Winding Path

–>Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Career Path

–>Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Career Path of an Architect (And Beyond)

–>Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Career Path

–>Steve Mouzon – The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
A Strange Career Path



How we use words is important.  They are one of our inexhaustible resources. But if we don’t use them mindfully, there is no limit to the mischief they can cause.

Many may think that the Drawing we produce for projects would govern all intent.  That is not always the case.  The accompanying document to the drawings is the Project Manual and it contains within it, among other things, the Specifications.  There will be a set of chapters for each type of construction or products designated in the Drawings.  Hopefully the Drawings and Specifications are properly coordinated and match up in all instances.  That doesn’t always happen.  We would like, as design professionals, for anyone else interpreting our Construction Documents to ask us our intent if there is any confusion, but that doesn’t always happen either.  While it is more complicated than can be described with this single sentence, a general rule in the profession is: in the case of difference between Drawings and Specifications, the Specification shall govern.

There is another choice word in that last sentence.  See that word “shall”?  Could it not have said “will”?  Of course.  But in legal jargon, “shall” connotes a strict requirement.  The word “will” could simply mean something that will take place in the future.  Look at the founding documents of our Country.  Those guys used the term “shall” liberally.  They knew something about lasting documents!
Speaking of “shall”, writers of building codes also LOVE the word “shall”.  In case you were wondering (I know you were), the 2009 IBC, 12th Edition mentions the word “shall” 9,109 times.  There’s only 716 pages by the way.

Word choice is key.  I am a big believer in using as few words as possible to convey a message, whether it be a note on a drawing, an email to a Client, or a response to a Contractor.  I wrote another post on that topic here:  Yada Yada World, so I won’t get into it here.

But you have to use the right words.  I love my daughter dearly, and I am not making light of her auditory processing disorder, but she said the funniest thing at the dinner table recently.  She is very musical and volunteered to play at this year’s high school graduation.  When she told us the tune they were to play, I nearly spit out my peas.  She told us she was practicing “Pomp and Circumcision” instead of “Pomp and Circumstance”.

So yeah, words are important.

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series where a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s theme is “Words” and was led by Jeremiah Russell.  A lot of other talented writers who also are architects are listed below and are worth checking out:

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Does anyone hear your words?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Visual Words

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Words are Simple — Too Simple

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks 40: Words

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A pictures worth

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Mindset for Endless Motivation and Discipline #Architalks

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Use Your Words (Even When You Can’t)

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Leah Alissa Bayer – The Stoytelling LAB (@leahalissa)
Architects Are Storytellers