I run my own architectural practice; it is a one-man sole-proprietor firm. I’ve done this for over nine years.
How do I have time to do this? I really don’t know. I am running out three afternoons a week to go to studio so I must balance the rest of my week efficiently. I schedule meetings very carefully, work many nights after my family is asleep and many Saturday mornings before anyone awakes. I can be found doing office work, accounting and proposals on Sunday evenings. Yet I’ve never missed any of my son’s school activities or other family commitments due to work. We spend a lot of time together as a family.
Architects like me cannot boast of a large income and many of us do work that goes unnoticed. Yet I love what I do. I find myself truly blessed to get to work 1-1/2 jobs in a field I have been obsessed with for most of my life. Now I have far more important things in my life like my faith in Christ, my family and my friends. But coupled with that, I get to teach the next generation of architects while I strive to make a difference in my community and throughout southwestern PA.
Why do I do both? I’m not going to give you an esoteric reason. However, it is really simple and complicated at the same time. There are economic reasons, but even though I’ve chosen a profession that may not be lucrative, I simply must do it. Even after sporadic hard days, frustrating times, occasional tough clients, a few rare obstinate contractors and engineers that sometimes don’t understand me, I get to do what I love. My idealism is often met with cynicism.
The glossy magazines, funky blogs and endless photos of the coolest architecture in the world are both a haunt and an inspiration. Every day I wake up thinking that maybe, just maybe I’ll get to do something that will be as amazing as what I see elsewhere. Yet the allure of these pictures does tempt me at times to want to work for these star firms. A few seconds later I wake up and remember that there is no greener grass. The architects designing these projects sacrifice much and most of the credit goes to the few names on the door. I believe in the ‘bloom where you are planted’ concept.
As for teaching, there is no greater satisfaction and joy than to see the gleam in the eyes of students who find inspiration and success in their work. I get to attempt to instill my values on those who will be the future of this profession. It is an extremely important responsibility and at times I doubt my capabilities. Are we sending them out to disappointment, unemployment and discouragement? That depends on if you are a half-full or half-empty type of person. I can see my students going on to greatness and it’s really satisfying to know that maybe I’ve had some part in that. They don’t need to remember me; it will be enough to hear about them someday contributing something great to architecture and to communities around the world.
Now there is something in it for me too. First, I believe in leading by example. Therefore, it is a daily challenge to expect the same out of me as I do for my students. The process of being in studio is inspiring. We still believe in possibilities. Architecture is still pure and for a few hours a week, we can put aside the several realities and dream a bit. It keeps me fresh and it enriches my own design process day-to-day. I am quick to admit that my students teach me more than I teach them. They also inspire me as do the talented colleagues that teach alongside me.
Will I be able to continue to do both indefinitely? I can’t say. I plan semester to semester and that’s fine with me. After almost ten years, I am learning how to balance the two and how to structure my time. It is difficult. I often get outside help and I’d like to think my teaching lends a benefit to my clients in some fashion. I give them the creative and critical thinking that I expect out of students. I may look at their projects with an eye that is fresh and still ask the really important questions.
To me one of the most important questions an architect can ask is “what if?”
So why do I do both? I am not sure. Regardless, like I said before, I’m blessed and I’m grateful.