experience comes from experiences 


There is an age-old debate among architectural professionals and those in the academic world about what should or should not be taught in architectural school. How does an institution prepare young minds for the world of architecture or some related area of practice? Should it be different in 2018 than it was in 1918 or 1818? Is the Beaux-Arts methodology outdated? Are mentors unnecessary and did the apprentice model go out of style decades, if not a century ago? Should students come out of school ready to “hit the boards” and make the office money? Should we learn more business, codes, technical aspects, construction detailing, construction management, or even theory? Is theory a waste of time? Should we learn analog skills, more digital skills, fabrication skills? Is five years enough? How about seven, no, eight, no, nine?

Take a breath; accept that it will never end.

I’m all for unproductive debates over coffee or late-night conversation as an intellectual muse, or even an online social media sparring match – only for fun and to stretch our minds. Then, it needs to end while we are still friends and laughing. Otherwise, these articles become another click-bait distraction with a comments section three times as long as the original post with nasty insults hurled from anonymous avatars. Pointless.

20180604_214804.jpgExperience in this profession comes from experiences, plain and simple. I’ve been in practice for over 27 years; I’ve had my license since 1995; I graduated in 1991. I am still learning, and I still make mistakes that sometimes make me want to scream. My world of practice has been with complex, but small commercial and residential projects. I can’t say I’ve worked on super large projects or know anything about them.

But, I know something.

20180604_214726.jpgCurrently, in my office I am finding myself as a negotiator between a client and a contractor. This is not my first time at this. Nevertheless, both parties have met several times, but the communications outside of meetings comes through me as I navigate a boulevard between my client for whom I work and a contractor for whom I recommended. It’s murky water at times. We all want to be friendly, but there’s money and time at stake. I just want to see my awesome design built, but if I put my self-interests first, I’m shirking my duty to my client and to this profession. To me that’s not ethical.

I could have read a hundred books on this and yet nothing replaces doing it and thinking through the unscripted acts of this play.

20180604_214446Lately I’ve found myself using new cladding systems and envelope sealing techniques that are as common to many architects today as hot dogs and French fries, but some of them are new to my projects and definitely new to the contractors installing them. I’ve read dozens of articles, consulted books, videos and queried other architects. We have pre-installation meetings, site visits, reviews during installation and so on. My details are actually 6” = 1’-0” so we can all see up close. I can draw them blind-folded, but nothing beats standing in the mud, holding up the components and thinking through the issues. It’s no longer an academic exercise; we begin to “see” the things we couldn’t “see” on paper or better yet on the screen or in the model. This is real.


Should we go to school at all? Why not just take off the cap and gown and walk directly into an office – right? No, absolutely not. School is valuable to prepare us to think, develop a framework to solve problems and teach enough skills to make it through the first day, the first week and the first experience. Hopefully, that foundation allows us to steer circumspectly through our careers, with the help of interested mentors, who have been where we are now. Remember that they are still learning, and their current experience is our tomorrow experience. It never ends.

Nothing beats actual experience. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

20180604_214525I invite you to learn and glean from the experience of my friends by reading their #Architalks posts from today.

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
The GC Experience

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Gaining Experience As A Young Architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
knowledge is not experience

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
That’s Experience — A Wise Investment

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
You need it to get it

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Channeling Experience: Storytelling in the Spaces We Design

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)


experience comes from experiences 

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