architecture :: eleven questions is less than twenty


As part of a great group of architects and friends from social media, I was graciously invited to contribute my answers to a series of questions as an interview for architects.

These are questions that are often posed to many of us and specifically they’ve been posed to our friend, Bob Borson who so graciously invited all of us to contribute our own perspectives. I hope you read all of these and can find useful solutions and information that may help you on your own journey. I also recommend you follow these architects on social media and read their blogs regularly.

What kind of projects were you doing when you first started as an architect?

I’m going to interpret the term architect as “since graduation” – can I do that NCARB? Upon graduation, I returned to a small firm that I worked summers and breaks while I was going to school. The work at this small firm varied from custom single-family residences to various small commercial projects (and NO computers). Most of my career has been spent adding to or renovating existing buildings.  At my next office I began to spread my wings working in downtown Pittsburgh. That work was also quite diverse from corporate renovations all the way to historic preservation work and adaptive reuse projects. One day I’d find myself working for a university or a bank and the next day I might be working for a local community group or small business owner. It’s quite exciting in hindsight as my formative years were spent on a diverse series of projects that gave me a good base for my career as an architect

How many projects can you expect to be working on at once?

As a solo practitioner we must either take on one or two very large projects if possible, but it is probably more common to find us taking on a multitude of projects and types. In my case the latter has been the norm. Over the course of a given year I may work on 10 to 12 different projects at all levels. Some of these may be only simple consultations and some may be full services. During any given week, I probably toggle between two or three projects in design and one or two in construction. It can be a juggling act. (BTW I can juggle).

How often did/do you work in a team?

Architecture is best made by a team – how do you define team? Currently I find myself working independently as an architect, yet as a team considering clients, consultants and contractors. My past professional life was largely working as a team; however, there would typically be two or three other people in the team. As a solo practitioner, I am constantly thinking of creative ways to benefit from the input of others. I am interested in finding non-traditional ways to work as part of a team…that’s in the works.

How important is an innovative mind to the company?

I find it very important. Yet, it depends on one’s definition of innovative. It seems that a common definition is thinking of things that have never been done before or progressing the state of something into a new territory. I don’t disagree with that mindset, but the day-to-day of operation of a practice and working at the level at which I work, innovation comes from using what you have in the most creative way and in the most fiscally responsible way as possible. So in terms of innovation, it is important to be able to stretch and push to create and think beyond the current boundaries of where one is.

What key things do you look for in potential new hires?

I would want someone who is passionate, curious and who has a team or community mentality that would want to see the firm benefit as much as they would benefit personally. Also, I’d appreciate it if they showed up on time and didn’t steal my lunch from the refrigerator.

How important is diversity to your company?

I do believe that diversity (in however that is defined) is extremely important. Architecture will benefit from different viewpoints, mindsets, gender, backgrounds – all can contribute to make a project richer.

How big of a role does HR play in your company?

I am the only one in my company so does that make me HR too? I usually get along with myself – no grievances filed yet. I have threatened to fire myself but…well…there was no one else to do the work.

Would you say Architecture is a field for everyone?

No, emphatically no. After teaching for more than a dozen years and being in this profession for more than 23 years I’m finding that certain personality types, values and goals are required to succeed at this. I think more people would be happier in other careers and could potentially thrive doing something else. Nevertheless, I strongly believe there is a place for a variety of types of people, not just the “designers.” Many have said to me at a party “you know I’ve always wanted to be an architect.” I typically say “yeah, me too.” Or I say I always wanted to be whatever they are. I’m not sure what the right response to that comment is.

What is the best asset in your company?

People – all types. It’s that simple…oh, and my #2 pencils.

Describe your best employee in one word?

Curious…relentless…passionate…that’s more than one word. Hmmm. I’m also adding consistent because I peeked at the other’s responses.

What style architecture do you love most?

If you have read my blog in the past especially regularly you will know that the work style and I do not get along. However to answer the question as concisely as possible, I would direct one to the home page of my website where they would find the words “modern” and “contemporary”. I prefer to think of authenticity or clarity or craft as being more accurate terms. However, from the point of view of the general public they are going to most likely conclude on either contemporary or modern as a style more than a mindset when viewing my work.

That is my take on the questions. As always an interview is answering questions at a particular point in time. If you ask me the same questions two days from now it’s quite possible you may get a different response.

Thanks for reading, thanks Bob for letting us contribute. Please visit these blogs below. #ArchiTalks
Find me on Twitter @leecalisti

 Bob Borson – Life of an Architect (twitter @bobborson)
“Being an Architect”

 Marica McKeel – Studio MM (twitter @ArchitectMM)
“Q+A with a Small Firm Architect”

 Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (twitter @enochsears)
“Life As An Architect”

 Jes Stafford  – Modus Operandi Design (twitter @modarchitect)
Ask the Architect

 Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (twitter @EntreArchitect)
“11 Big Questions”

 Jeff Echols – Architect of the Internet (twitter @Jeff_Echols)
“11 Frequently Asked Questions About Being An Architect”

 Nicholas Renard – Cote Renard Architecture (Twitter @coterenard)
“Answers from this Architect”

 Evan Troxel – The Archispeak Podcast (twitter @etroxel)
Eleven Questions About a Career in Architecture

Andrew Hawkins, AIA –  (twitter @HawkinsArch)
Being an Architect: Questions Answered”

Jeremiah Russell, RA – (twitter @ronestudioarch)
ten plus one is better than eleven plus none


photos are from stock photo galleries on – click on photo to see author (used under the Standard Restrictions)

architecture :: eleven questions is less than twenty

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