a day in the life…part 2


Woke up, fell out of bed / Dragged a comb across my head/ Found my way downstairs and drank a cup / And looking up I noticed I was late…”

That’s still a great song if you read my last post on this subject. It’s also not far off from how my mornings begin (well without the bus ride and a smoke).

Yes, this is another look at a day in the life of an architect. In this case it’s a sole proprietor architect who happens to have his office in his house. I just fell into a dream.

As stated a few years ago, I have always been fascinated with this topic. What do people really do all day? If you pour through the other blogs listed below, you’ll likely find that the life of an architect varies – and dramatically. If you’re considering a career in architecture, you might find that engaging, but I can’t say that even these few blogs represent the entire profession. I’m sure there are some whose days are quite routine and perhaps even monotonous. However, in my case each day is rarely the same. It’s how I like it.

What day should I choose? How to capture this subject is quite difficult. I knew I had to get this post out on time, so after this particular day was over, I made a few notes so I could return to it later. Here’s the news today, oh boy.

…this was Thursday, 20 November 2014

5:00 AM – Yes, it’s early and I get out of bed around this time. I shave first thing while I wait for my wife (who is already up) to finish her turn on the stationary bicycle. I get in there around 5:15 AM. Yikes – that’s early you’re thinking. After almost an hour on the stationary bike, it’s time to shower and move along.

6:30 AM – I’m cleaned up and ready to go. I get the joy of waking up my son each morning and we go down to eat breakfast together. I love this privilege of being self-employed. It’s time for breakfast and discussing the stats in the local newspaper’s sports page.

7:20 AM – I’ve just dropped off my son at school; now I return to my office and begin my day. This morning I sat down and worked through a series of hand sketches for a new restaurant expansion. I’ve been working back and forth between the computer and my drafting table. This morning it was just me, a roll of tracing paper and simple #2 pencils looking for solutions.

desk sketches

9:05 AM – I take a brief break from the action because I need to respond to a series of emails related to the historic and architectural review board I’m on. Perhaps it wasn’t the best time to break the flow of action, but one will find an architect’s day is often broken up with good and bad interruptions.

9:15 AM – I returned to the previous sketches and feverish work to finish because I need to scan them and send them to the client. I’m finding the pencil is smearing a bit, but that makes them endearing sketches.

9:50 AM – Knowing I have a meeting in just a few minutes, I finish the sketches, and begin to scan them. I wasn’t able to format them in a manner to email them to the client, so they’ll have to wait until later. Now I’m late and dashing off to a meeting downtown (Greensburg, that is). It’s a good thing it’s only five minutes away.

parking meter

10:07 AM – I arrive a few minutes late at my meeting after searching for a parking meter (that is the actual lot above). Fortunately, the people I’m supposed to meet about a new commercial project are in another meeting so I get away with being slightly late again. Oddly enough I run into several other people I know coming out of a meeting in the same office. It’s good to network. We finally start the meeting and review their project. They wish to pursue a schematic design for a renovation project they’re considering in their building. I convince them that they really need to answer broader questions first before getting into a design process. We discuss a feasibility study to answer questions they’ve not considered. They give me a tour of the empty spaces in the building and then I leave. Out into the cold I go back to my car.

12:10 PM – I returned back to my office intending to eat lunch but I make a common mistake by checking my email. I deal with a few of those and walk out of my office so that I can eat lunch before 1:00 PM. That is awful late for my routine, but sometimes our routines are broken. Did I mention that before?

1:15 PM – I no sooner wolf down some lunch and another client calls whom I was intending on calling any minute now. I’ll clean up dishes later. We discuss the preliminary cost estimates for a small addition to their home and strategize the next steps. This will require an email to them later as well. It never ends.

1:45 PM – A reality of having a studio in one’s home manifests itself. A friend stops by to drop off something so I stop and bring the boxes into the house.

2:00 PM – Wow, a text message to call someone really? I’m doing a pro bono renovation project for my church and I make a phone call to discuss issues related to moving that project along. The contract has been signed by the contractor, but there are logistical steps, colors and tile samples to review and other scheduling issues.

2:30 PM – I’m finally back to work and I get the restaurant sketches cleaned up and sent to the client. This requires an email of course and a request to meet or discuss them over a telephone conversation. At least that buys me some time on that project so I can jump onto yet another project.

3:00 PM – I have a unique opportunity to do illustration work for a new client for their retail candy shop. It’s a long story that I should return to later. However, I reach out to this client by telephone to discuss the project. This falls in the “+design” part of my firm’s name and returns me to my artist roots from years ago. This could be quite interesting.

4:30 PM – Time to change gears once more. I have a brief time slot to do a bit more detail research on the previously mentioned restaurant addition. I even do a bit of computer modeling. This will take me until the unofficial end of my day. A guy has to eat dinner with his family you know. That is very important.

Screenshot 2014-11-26 14.01.34

6:20 PM – Oddly enough I have a trustees meeting tonight while my wife and son are at youth group. I’ve been a trustee at my church for three years now. I was recently appointed head trustee – no I didn’t volunteer, but the spot was open and I’m not one to leave things open. Here is where I can use my skills as an architect to administer a process that has far reaching benefits (eternal y’know). It’s also connected to the pro bono project mentioned earlier. I’ve never mentioned it, but I’m sure I exceed the 1% that many architects vow to commit to pro-bono each year.

7:00 PM – The trustees meeting starts and I lead them through the agenda. Since my wife and son are in the other side of the building participating in youth group (as a leader and as a….youth). At least we’re sort of together. We get to drive to and fro together.

9:15 PM – We arrive home – finally. It’s time for a small snack, we debrief from our day at the dining room table together in our dimly lit house and wind down.

10:00 PM – Good night. (cue up that big chord)


Well, tomorrow might be completely different. I am as eager to find out what happens as you are. I’m so glad to be an architect.

photo 1 photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc
photo 4 photo credit: JanetR3 via photopin cc

oh…you didn’t think I wouldn’t post this did you? Now play it and read it again.

This is the fourth post in a group series called #ArchiTalks in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect gives a group of architects a theme or a set of questions and we post our response. This month’s theme is: A Day in the Life…
Follow me on Twitter @leecalisti

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect
A Day in the Life of an Architect

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture
A Day in the Life of FiELD9: architecture

“Marica McKeel – Studio MM
A Day in the Life of a Small Firm Residential Architect

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
What To Do When You Lose Your Job In Architecture: A Day In The Life

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect
EA054: A Day in the Life of Mark R. LePage [Podcast]

Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL
A Day in My Life

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
A Day in the Life of: An Almost Architect

Collier Ward – Thousand Story Studio
A Day in the Life of an Architect

Nicholas Renard – Cote Renard Architecture
Another Day of Living the Dream

Andrew Hawkins, AIA – Hawkins Architecture, Inc.
Day in the Life of a Small Firm Owner

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture
a day in the life of a rogue architect

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design
A Day in the Life of MODarchitect

Cormac Phalen
Life in a Day of Panic

a day in the life…part 2

17 thoughts on “a day in the life…part 2

  1. sounds like a typical day to me – the ebb and flow of constant course corrections. And how you can get any work done in your house is beyond me … I know for a fact that I would be less productive due to the fact that I am surrounded by the distraction contained within my home (the things that are supposed to a) be distracting, and b) supposed to be in my home).

    Good luck!

    1. Working from home is the same discipline that you have in other parts of your life. For each benefit is a responsibility. I read your lemon chess pie post again and we share another trait in common – our mothers are no longer with us. My heart goes out to you as my mother has been gone for ten years. I share fond memories too. One of my many reasons for being so committed (or needing to be committed) is to make her proud.

  2. “Perhaps it wasn’t the best time to break the flow of action…” – perfectly put for how so many of my days go! and then there’s another 2 minutes of “wait, what was I doing?” Fun post Lee!

    1. Thanks Matt. You should be an early riser with your gardening and farming background…and bees. Yes extra-architectural activities…we ARE architects not just play them.

  3. Andrew Hawkins, AIA says:

    Sounds like a day full of the fun stuff! Initial project meetings, schematics designs and drawings; to me the most exciting parts of a project. I have real respect for you folks who work from home. I could never do it; not enough discipline. Much like Bob I would find even more distractions. But looks like you manage to take care of it all with ease. Great day!

    1. I have a foot in each camp. Nowadays sketching is for conceptualizing and working out details. I am a Vectorworks user and have been adopting a BIM workflow for a few years. I use it more for bim than BIM. I’ll try to post some of my digital renderings soon.

  4. My Beatles brother, this was a fun read. I think one of the main things I struggle with is having a solid block of time to work on a single project. Too much jumping back and forth and it’s just a mess, but that is the world we live in. Sitting at a desk in a large office is probably worse because lots of people just stop by for a minute here and a minute there… It all adds up. I have to admit I’m a bit jealous you get to work at home. Nice sketches by the way!

    1. I suppose there is no greener grass, but I miss having others around to give feedback and input. I do like not having to wear earphones to listen to my favorite music. I’ve been a Beatles fan since I was in middle school. My mother being a Brit certainly helped that too.

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