good to go back to school


Does your architect go to school? If you have interviewed architects, did you ask them if they stay current with ongoing education? Why is it important that architects stay in school?

No, I’m not going to write about my son going back to school or the shift from summer to fall, and I’ll for once refrain from advice for students. For this #architalks, I am taking a different approach.

I had six years of college after high school largely because I transferred from one school to Kent State University to be an architectural major. I started my masters with a joint B.Arch, M.Arch program, but for several reasons, I got my B.Arch but did not finish my M.Arch. That was 25 years ago. Looking back, maybe I’d reconsider.

that was my home up there…top floor…for many years

I’m not done learning.

It ought to be common knowledge that architects, like most professionals, are required by either their licensure board or through being a member of the AIA to accumulate a certain number of continuing education hours yearly in order to maintain some status. Therefore, it’s required. However, how one chooses to do it, at least in my state, is flexible, let’s say “soft” in some cases.

My approach is generally focused as I have the attitude “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” I can thank my little British Mum and my Italian heritage from my father’s side for drilling a strong work ethic into me. Therefore, I don’t seek out easy credits or take a class and fall asleep during it (actually I have drifted). My attention span wanes after an hour or two, but I do intend to get my money’s worth out of each class or each credit. Just provide coffee.

So why should YOU seek out an architect who is current with their educational pursuits?


Learning is a lifelong privilege and choosing an architect who loves to learn and who admits that there is much to learn is someone with whom will approach your project with a fresh mind and treat your project as special and unique. They’ll quickly understand that they need to understand and investigate rather than follow a rote process with uncertain results. Expect to answer many questions and be a partner in the design process rather than a spectator.


Our profession and industry are changing rapidly in every aspect one can imagine. Building performance, for instance, has undergone radical changes in the past decade. We don’t build them like we used to for good reason. What does your architect know about current building performance? They may not have a ton of letters following their name, but ask them a question that should stir a lengthier answer. How did they do? Another category is the regulatory environment (rules). Is your architect adept and conversant about building codes? Yes, it can be a dry topic, but public safety and equity are more important than picking nice paint colors. We must get this right – our licenses depend on it. Lastly, digital skills change faster than I prefer. How is your architect using digital tools for your project and for your benefit? I’m not the best in this category, but I am constantly learning nuances in the software I use to communicate and coordinate better. Online training is extremely helpful these days in this category.

Ability to Think

Learning takes mental power and discernment. It takes thought. In addition to that, reading and interacting with material requires an ability to think critically – to simultaneously consider multiple ideas, conflicting appearances, and diverse approaches and synthesize a position or a response. Someone who is seeking out relevant classes and actively participating in them not only gains knowledge but an ability to use that knowledge and sift through material that may or may not be relevant to where they are in practice. It ought to stir more questions. Aside from that, this ought to motivate action in the community. Digesting information without being challenged to think deeper and think beyond one’s current limitations is like eating real food with no expectation of nutrition. It’s empty calories. You don’t need an architect who is pretentious with arrogant “archispeak”, but you also should seek out an architect with a strong intellectual capacity that will see beyond the obvious of your project and mine deeper into what issues are important that you may have never considered. They need to be more than technically adept at creating drawings, but be able to cause you to say “I had never considered that before.”

Earlier this year in May, I attended the AIA Convention in Philadelphia. For three days I attended classes that I carefully selected that were relevant to my practice and interest level. However, beyond that, I have taken additional classes and webinars, beyond my required number of hours that I felt could augment my knowledge base about some of the categories mentioned above.


I believe one ought to have a broad experience in many subjects and a deep knowledge is a few subjects. Some call this the “T” of learning. Research this and it will tie you up for the better part of a week.

I just love to learn.

photo 1 credit: School House District 17~ 1859 ~ Cayuga County NY via photopin (license)

Many of my friends have differing responses to the idea of back to school – please read them. #Architalks

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Back to School!

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Designing Back to School

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: “Back To School”

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Have We Learned? It’s Back To School For #ArchiTalks 21

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Back to School: Marketing for Architects

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
4 Tips As You Go Back To School

Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)
Back to School Again

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#architalks 21 “back to school”

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Let’s Get Back To (Architect) School …or Work.

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Back to the Cartography Board

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Back to School

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
#ArchiTalks / 15 Ways to Make the Most of Your Architectural Education

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
getting [schooled] again

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Back to {Architecture} School

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Back to School: Seoul Studio

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Back to School…

Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
[ArchiTalks #21] 10 Things Architecture Students Say Going Back to School

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Back to School? It Doesn’t Stop there for Architects.

good to go back to school

3 thoughts on “good to go back to school

  1. Once again your reveal something we have in common. I too transferred to Kent State to study architecture. But from a different school and for different reasons. And my love of learning nearly derailed my college career.

    It has always seemed odd how CE units are marketed as a nuisance we must endure to satisfy a requirement. But they can / should be so much more than that.

    Thanks for taking on this topic.

Please leave a reply, and consider sharing this with a friend.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.