Why I Am an Architect

World Alive BiodiveristyI walk through a blue glow, then glance at the sign above the opening. As I advance forward, I am transported into a new world at every step. To my left is a large technicolor globe with hundreds of pictures behind it celebrating the biodiversity of the planet. To my right is a exploration delight: drawers opening up to reveal unique objects, electric microscopes revealing the tiniest detail, and a really, really large bear.

This is why I am an architect. I design environments. I design experiences. And when I’m lucky they are something that has never been seen before.

(The project I am describing is the Discovery Place World Alive Exhibit in Charlotte, NC designed by Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc.)

World Alive Explore More CollectionsI have long believed that architects have superpowers—to see the unknown, question through curiosity, to create physical space from a client’s vision, and assemble large amounts of information into understandable data. Who do you think designed that tall building all the other superheroes are leaping off of? Right, architects.

Let’s call these superpowers an architect’s skill set. In my opinion, key elements include:

  • Ability to envision things that don’t yet exist.
  • Ability to make connections between disparate things and wow others with bringing them together seamlessly.
  • Ability to innately know when something is not at the right angle.
  • Ability to spot exit signs, sprinkler heads, ceiling cracks faster than anyone else. (A by-product of #ilookup)
  • Ability to communicate through drawing and sketching.

Although being an architect is fantastic, I have to remind myself that it is just one aspect of who I am. I know that there is something in my personality that compels me to make things. I love seeing the product of my work. While not the primary reason why I am an architect, it is a great benefit.

World Alive AquariumSo for all this talk about superpowers, I also know there are downsides to being an architect. Here are a few negatives:

  • It comes with seeing every little detail in the physical environment—a rust stain on a building, misalignment of doors, and the truly unfortunate color choice because someone didn’t really think about how a 1”x1” lime green color sample at a local hardware store would look on a house exterior. Sometimes I just can’t let go.
  • While architects use drawing as a form of communication, sometimes we can’t contain ourselves and get an overwhelming sense of anxiety when there is no trace or paper in front of us. It causes architects to grab pens out of the hands of others and resort to anything available—often napkins.
  • Don’t even get me started about bad fonts. (Architects know what I mean.)

To be an architect, you need to love people and have a sense of creative adventure. Sometimes things that seem similar will transform into completely new situations. I am an architect because I love to transform my client’s mission and purpose into a physical vision.

It is satisfying, exciting, and complex work, but it is not easy. Then again, when has anything requiring superpowers been easy?

This post was written as part of Bob Borson’s #ArchiTalks series—a monthly series to encourage architects to write about a single topic. This month’s topic is “Why I Am an Architect.” Please see links below to check out the views of others:

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Emily is an Architect, Mother of 2, and Somerville, MA resident.

One thought on “Why I Am an Architect

  1. Wonderful entry.

    I agree with your list of architectural superpowers but I would add “scale” to the list. I thought about adding scale to my own skill set list but thought it would come off as boastful so I left it off. Whether or not I have that particular superpower, I think it is one that great architects possess. Mediocre architects maybe to a lesser degree but it is a skill that few people ever develop and is one skill that I think puts architects in rare company.

    Best of luck dealing with your rust and misalignment neurosis.

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