It is time for another installment of #architalks. Architalks is a blog series where a group of architect bloggers do a coordinated post on a specific topic. Architalks is the brainchild of Bob Borson, if you haven't already, you should read his page at, it is amazing. This is the 22nd post in the series, so by now you would think that we should all be getting the hang of this. Check out all of the links at the bottom of the page to see if that is true. If nothing else you will get a really good cross section of thoughts on a particular topic.

This time around we are all giving a little perspective on what we thought practicing architecture would be like when we got done with college vs. the reality of practice. I am not a psychic, but I am pretty sure that there will be a lot of people who are going to say that the art of actual practice is tremendously different than they thought it was going to be at the end of architecture school. I know that is what I am going to be talking about.

First of all, I have got to say “I loved architecture school.” And I was decent at it. The hope that is inherent in the first steps of turning an abstract thought into a design really filled my bucket, so to speak. I loved, and still love, talking about design concepts and if a specific choice is reinforcing the overall concept. Another of the things that I really loved was seeing the vastly different approaches that could come from the same set of problems. All that said, when I was finishing college I really stood at a fork in the road. I had high interest in creating renderings and living mostly in the digital world, but I also wanted to be able to see my ideas get built. In the end I decided that I could go the route to becoming a licensed architect and if I didn’t like it switching to visualization could happen easily. But if I went the rendering route it would be really hard to transition back to the architect path.


I chose to go the architect path, and almost nine years later I am glad that I did. When leaving school I knew that there was a lot more to architecture than just the pretty pictures and big ideas of college, but what I didn’t realize is that (at least in the ways I have practiced) those things are a very small part of my work. For a lot of my career I was a small cog in a big machine that was focused on designing schools. The schools were well built, award winning projects, but for the most part we were focused on budget and program, having an overall unifying theme that was imbued within the building was not discussed.

Even on the projects where “design” (like I thought about design in college) was a high priority, it still is only 5-10 percent of the work that goes into making a coordinated set of drawing from which a building can be constructed. In the modern world the actual role of “master builder” doesn’t exist (if it ever did), but I get more satisfaction out of my work when I am immersed in the complexities of a project. Knowing how the ducts are going to go from one area to the next, while staying hidden, it just as important as the color of the brick, maybe more.

So, how is practice different than I thought it would be when I finished college? To be honest it is about exactly the opposite of what I thought it was going to be. I used to think it was going to be 95% design-work 5% work-work. After a few years of reviewing submittals, answering RFIs, and talking about duct pathing I realize that it is more like 95% work-work 5% design-work. But it is also way more enjoyable than I thought it would be.

I can think of very few things that are more gratifying that walking into a space that had its kernel of beginning in my head, and a lot of that joy comes from being a part of the immense journey that has transpired from the time that idea was born until it is a finished space. There are countless, seemingly small, decisions that need to happen for the little vision to become a heated, cooled, lighted, structurally sound moment for people to enjoy for many years to come.

Please take a minute to review the other architalk posts and see how everyone else has fared on the perception vs the reality of practicing architecture.

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Where It All Went Right

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
From Then to Now...Residential Architect

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

Mark R. LePage - EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
The Biggest Surprise of My Life as an Architect

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Then & Now...and the middle

Nicholas Renard - Renard Architecture (@dig-arch)
15 Years of Architecture

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
then and now: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)

Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Big Ass Buildings

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Pens & Fizzy Drinks: Or How to Set Measurable Career Goals

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
How did I get here?

Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Reflection on My Wonderful, Unexpected Career

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Being the light in darkness

Anthony Richardson - That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
Then and Now

Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Career Path: Follow Your Heart

Nisha Kandiah - TCDS (@SKRIBBLES_INC)
Then & Now : Still Chasing the Dream

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
The Reluctant Code Guru

Tim Ung - Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
10 Lessons Learned from a Young Architect

Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
#Architalks 22 - Then and now