What did you want to be when you grew up?

November 8, 2011 — 60 Comments

.Roll of architectural drawings

This is an easy question for me to answer because I have always wanted to be an Architect – even before I knew that the word “architect” even existed. The key word in that previous sentence is “knew” because I am at a loss to explain how a 5 year old would know such a thing. I can also tell you that the moment this decision was clarified in my mind was on Christmas day, 1973, when I was 5 years old. That year I received from Santa Claus; a T-square, an orange 45 degree triangle, and a laptop drafting board (which was basically a 24″ x 30″ piece of nice wood). I didn’t know what these things were but I remember looking at the drafting board and having this conversation:

5 year old Bob: “Man, I can’t wait to cut this up and make something cool!” (or something similar in 1970’s lingo as appropriate for a 5 year old)

Dad: “Hey, hey, ho hey!… that board’s not for cutting, it’s for drawing”

5 year old Bob: (thinking – “How can I draw with this piece of wood?”) … once a smart ass, always a smart ass.


2 years later, that kid in the middle knew he wanted to be an architect


the rest – as they say – is history…. (needle screeching on record) … What?!? No it isn’t, it’s not even close!

When I decided that today’s topic would be “What did you want to be when you grew up?” I thought I could take this opportunity to describe a few things that happened between that moment almost 39 years ago when I decided I wanted to be an architect to today. Despite me thinking from an early age that I knew what I was going to do when I grew up, I had many, many occasions of self doubt where I questioned my ability to actually be an architect. These moments were almost always followed by an overwhelming sense of panic – the sort of panic that occurs when you lose some sense of your purpose and self-identity. At these critical moments, I would tell myself that if I couldn’t be an architect, I would become a chef (don’t ask me why but that was my back up plan).

I didn’t take any drawing classes when I was in high school, I didn’t even take art classes. I did, however, take drafting classes every year but anything I learned from my drafting teacher – who was really the strength and conditioning coach for our high school football team – was quickly “un-learned” when I got to college. I also wasn’t very good at math … I have short term memory issues and hadn’t learned how to deal with that yet when I was in high school and the sort of linear thinking that math demands did not suit my beautifully complex yet disorganized brain. I was able to skate through high school with relative ease because I was smart enough to work the system and eventually graduated 7th in my class out of 365 (or so) kids. The bar wasn’t set that high at the public school I attended and without knowing the difference, I headed off to one of the highest rated architecture programs in the country thinking I had everything alllllll figured out.

When I arrived on campus and started off in the architecture program, I painfully became aware that the entrance requirements had separated the wheat from the chaff and there was little dead weight in any of my architecture classes. The amount of time and effort that was required to produce the work was staggering and I simply wasn’t prepared for the demands. As a result, the work I generated was beyond terrible and it was embarrassing to pin my work up next to that of my classmates. I shortly entered into one of those panic moments I described earlier where I thought “being an architect is all I’ve ever wanted to be …. and I’m terrible at it! What the hell am I going to do?”

What I did was take a year off from design studio and focus a little bit on growing up while trying to decide if I thought I had what was clearly needed to compete with the other students that were coming into the architecture program. This is not the sort of life crisis an 18 year old should have to deal with. I spent the next school year doubting myself, my abilities and my commitment level … it was not a good time for me. Towards the end of my sophomore year, one of my sisters pulled me aside one day and said “Mom and Dad are going to pull you out of school if you don’t get your sh*t turned around”.

I have since asked both my sister and my Dad if they recall that particular conversation and they have both denied it ever having taken place. Let me tell you with no uncertainty –

I remember it

I remember that conversation very clearly although, it wasn’t so much a conversation as it was a single declarative statement from my sister. Something did happen, though it may have been subtle. When I came back for my junior year, I was a different person and most everyone who remembers me from that time recognized it. That was when my competitive streak and fear of failure combined to create the perfect scholastic storm. From that moment on, I haven’t ever wondered if I made the right decision continuing down my chosen path as an architect. Some days are better than others but I can’t recall wishing that I had bailed out of the architecture program and switched in to something else. That same sister of mine has told me on several occasions that I should have gone into sales but that’s probably just because she knows it hasn’t always been easy for me to pay my bills. Luckily, those days have been behind me for many years.

If you are considering becoming an architect, or you are already in architecture school wondering if you should bail out now, and you’re thinking about sending me an email – you should consider the source you are asking. I have always wanted to be an architect and just had to find a way to make that work for me. If you do send me an email with either of those two questions, I am going to tell you that you should follow your dream – because regardless of where your dream puts you, you are going to have to put in the work to make it happen. For those people, would you rather look back and answer the question “What if?”

I wouldn’t.


There are other posts in this series, they are:

Do you want to be an Architect?

Do you want to be an Architect? The College Years

Is it too late to get out of architecture?

Wanted: Advice from other architects (read the comment section)



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even better stuff from Life of an Architect

  • Rachel

    In your opinion is there a difference between an architect and an interior designer? I’ve always been in awe at how space is organized in rooms and how I would configure it myself. As a kid I would build doll houses out of cardboard and tape, play with Lincoln logs and Legos, and rough sketch “blueprints” of houses complete with landscaping that I wanted to build (taping them together at times). I loved going with my dad to new developements and walking through their model homes. At 41 I still dream of pursuing my dream after putting motherhood first. I can’t describe fully the excitement and joy that begins to swell up when I see a building or interior of a home I visit or a dream of a model I want to sketch out before I forget every detail of it! So I too believe I want to be an architect. Or is it some other career related to architecture? What do YOU, Bob, hear from my story?

    • There are about a million ways that interior designers and architects can be different – but – in many ways, they averred similar. In an effort to answer your question without writing a book on the subject, the biggest difference between the two is that architects deal more with building sciences and system (design with the integration of structure, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems) and those items tend to shape the designs we create. Interior designers tend to get involved a little later on in the process and while not always the case, they tend to deal with the more esoteric aspects of the design process.

      Other than that, your story (believe it or not) isn’t all that unique and I don’t know you well enough to elaborate any further. Remove the labels of architect and interior designer and if you can articulate what makes you happy, do that.

  • Charlie Burris

    To my memory the only thing I ever wanted to be when I grew up was an architect. I think it was crystallized into a conscious thought when I was around 12. I’d had lot of building sets when young but always preferred something like Girder & Joist or American Bricks than Erector Sets. I was always the planner in the kid group designing the adventures (maps), tree houses, forts, etc. My brother and I used to build whole cities in the far back corner of my grandmother’s yard with bricks, streets, even out of town vacation locations. My favorite building set was Kenner’s Girder & Joist which was a modern skyscraper, steel frame with curtain-wall panels, type of set. I chased one down recently. Turns out the European version was called ARKITEX….the name of our firm! We didn’t know that at the time interestingly. I was always scribbling and figure I could have been an explorer, map maker, or an architect. So I actually became all….an explorer of ideas and the mind, making maps to build things, and of course….an architect!

  • Denasimoneaux

    i was just reading your story and it starts out eerily similar to mine. i wanted to be an architect since i was 4 years old. i did not even know the word i would just point to a building and say “i want to make that”. people eventually understood what i wanted to do. I loved lego’s and Lincoln logs and anything i could build with growing up. Even when i played with m dolls and barbies growing up i would only design their houses…i never actually played with them.

    i was asked once in an interview “why did you decide to be an architect?” and strangely, my response what exactly what you said. I said “i did not choose architecture, it chose me…” i was asked to clarify and they understood what i meant.

    So i can very much identify with wanting to be an architect from such a young age you cannot say what it is, cause that was me as well.

    i read someplace on your blog where you said that you felt all architects should be blogging. (i just read that tonight) i do have a blog i started a few months back and i have slowly but sure been developing it.

    thanks so much for your site, as i get inspiration from it and enjoy reading it!


  • Rachel Ghindea

    Hello there! I’ve read a large number of your posts in the past few days after finding your site while looking up information about becoming an architect. My google search sounded something like “reasons to not become an architect” though your site has since led me into a different way of thinking. I’m currently a first year (just finished my first two semesters) engineering student and the ohio state university. However, it seems that the amount of math and science required just isn’t my thing. I’ve since come to realize that my favorite part about this career choice was the drafting, the use of cad and the idea of designing something. All things that I probably wouldn’t end up doing as an engineer anyways. This has made me reconsider my choice and consider architecture school. As a kid, myself, I never seemed to have a difinitive answer to what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. So now, of course, I am second guessing this decision, as I wasn’t particularly in love with designing things as a child. Do you think that my recent development in interest is enough to make a decision on? I guess that is a pretty big question but I am just interested in your opinion or any suggestions you might have for me to figure it out. Thank you!

    • The easy answer is that you’ll never know unless you try and since you’re already in the right academic environment, give it a go. There are a lot of jobs an architect can take on so even if designing isn’t your thing, there would still plenty of options available to you.

  • Nichole

    Hi Bob! Thank you so much for making this blog!I have found my way to your site at least 4 times when searching for questions about architecture school and everything I have found has been valuable to me. This one struck so close to home, as I was feeling particularly discouraged about a project I’m working on in studio that had me questioning if I had what it took to be an architect. Despite that I do very well in design, model building is my downfall and I lack confidence in my sketching. Now I realize even successful architects have their struggles. I know that I have always wanted to be a designer and architecture is my passion. I just have to find a way to overcome my own personal obstacles. Thanks Bob and I look forward to more articles!

    • Hi Nicole – glad you liked the article. Head down and stay the course!!

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  • August

    Great article! The whole wanting to be before you even knew it concept really reminded me of myself – people keep asking me “when/why did you decide to be an architect?”, and I can’t find a good answer other than “I just have.” As a child I remember creating complex towns in my sandbox (complete with water features with the hose, requiring bridges to be built for the matchbox cars) – I would design the whole layout to scale, and even got myself a bunch of square-inch blocks to build the buildings. My parents tell me stories of me critiquing the buildings/layout of New York City when we visited for my 8th birthday. I think I designed my first building (a museum/library) when I was 10 – I drew sections and plans of it, and it had this interesting curve to mirror the shoreline where it was built. Heck, even my doodles in Middle School consisted of complicated multi-highway exit systems (everyone else just thought I was drawing squiggles).

    It’s really kind of crazy to think about how the concept of being an architect has just seemingly “been” with me my entire life. I can’t really explain it. But I have certainly had those moments of panic as you described, especially when i was applying to undergraduate architecture programs. I think it’s really because since the notion of being an architect has always been with me, I’ve never really questioned it – and thus, panic attacks would ensue when I would.

    I now find myself in my first year of a 5-year architecture program, still sometimes stumbling along – but I’m sticking with it. At any rate, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one out there who’s just always been an “architect” to some extent, and it’s nice to know that (at least hopefully), things will work out to some extent in the future.

  • angela

    great article ! thanks

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  • Nelsha Athauda

    That’s really great! I wish I was like that. I’m only 14, trying to find my way in the world but, I don’t know really what I want to do yet. It’s a work in progress 😉

    • It will always be a work in progress – that’s part of what makes it so interesting.

      Best of luck

  • Iwasonceatree

    I’m feeling so lost today. One part of me says its great I did Architecture and other thinks what the hell was I thinking?! Someone please shed a light of wisdom..

    As a child, I always loved art and craft since I was a kid, but I was horrible at math, drawing or sketching. I also loved crime mysteries, decorating doll houses and standing in front of the mirror pretending holding a mike telling stories and of course talk endlessly to strangers. The reason I chose Architecture because I thought it was a glamorous profession and at least I won’t have to see blood all day if I studied medicine. I won honorary mentions in design competitions with my teachers seeing a unique design sensibility in me that I could never see myself (even today). I was a topper in class but my designs have always seems mediocre comparing to the other class mates. I’ve never had a conviction that I’m a good architect. Yet I know I would be a terrible person as a lawyer or a doctor or a biologist. I don’t know if I should continue this path or not. My dad says, I should. He thinks I’ve not been granted the right opportunity to shine my light in this field but I FEEEL deeply that if was meant to be, I would have realized that potential in me. And then the big question arises, if not Architecture then what? Where would like to start at the ripe age of 34? What did I want to be as a child? Or what career path will align with my purpose? This question has been tormenting me for years. And now that I don’t have an architecture job, I feel I’m quite unworthy to go back to that profession (granted I’m so under qualified for REVIT or other computer programs that are no 1 priority to hire anyone). But the dilemma is, if I don’t find an Architecture job, I’ll be kicked out of this county within months and I want to stay. So the final dilemma, I know it in my bones that if I’m trying to find a job in the profession I’ve not felt happy about in years which is my only re-course to stay here and yet not finding it with positivism and conviction, there’s proof right there (law of attraction) it won’t come to me. Yet, I want to go in the direction of my dreams (stay here, do sustainability propaganda, bit of photography, god life) if I can only know what they are. Its not at least Architecture or may be it is. Who can tell?

  • Betty

    This article is so my-situation-by-now. I really want to get into Architecture, but what if I’m not good enough? But well, as you said I would not want to answer the question “What if?” in the future, I’m more than decided, and I will just pursue what I want to be. Thank you for cheering my day up with this article!

  • Doubtful

    This is exactly what I needed to read. I am currently a third year student at the University of Colorado at Boulder and am having a mid life crisis of some sort where I don’t know if I am able to handle thr workload any longer. This was definitely the kind of thing I needed to read.

  • lizc13

    Hey, what classes should i take in high school in order to be an architect?

  • Hi Bob,
    I’m a Filipino architect with more than 7 years of experience. I just want to ask if Canada is offering BEFA (Broadly Experience Foreign Architect) program? Canada doesn’t recognize any profession outside their country. I’m thinking of migrating in Canada because according to them, they have a shortage in Architect.

  • Bob

    Wouldn’t change a thing.  It has been tough, haven’t made a ton of money and lived through some very rough times in my 35 year career, but I really can’t think of doing anything else.  
    I what I treasure most is seeing my efforts and work in built form.  Being part a team that produces beauty and betters the lives of others with really good environmental places and spaces.  
    Sure there have been the pain-in-the-ass clients,  I could single out one billionaire.  But i have been blessed with working with some amazing clients, some who became friends or mentors.  What is special about the profession is that we get to know our clients intimately and if we are successful we go beyond answering there issues and designing to their “program” and bring them to a better and special place.  Somewhere where they never imagined.

  • Enrique

    Hey Bob. I really enjoy reading your articles. It’s comforting to read your experiences as well as the experiences of all the posters on here. It makes my struggles a bit more bearable. I didn’t always know I wanted to be an architect, although, I’ve always had a bit of an artistic streak. I spent a while at community college trying to figure out what to do with my life and it wasn’t till about 3 years ago that I decided to go with architecture. I entered CCA San Francisco’s architecture school but just like you, I was completely unprepaired for the work load that was required of me. I managed to get through my first year and a half just fine until the 2nd semester of my 2nd year. I didn’t adjust well to the graduation of hand drafting to computer drafting,since I wasn’t the most computer saavy person. I ended up repeating that particular studio and was completely devastated because being at that school was a huge financial strain on myself and my parents. I took a semester off and decided to give it a second go the following year but something had happened to my confidence during the semester I was absent from architecture school. I managed to get through the year ok but was devastated that my second effort in that studio was only somewhat better. I did some thinking and ran some numbers on how much debt I would be incurring at the end of my studies, and it didn’t look pretty. I am currently in the process of applying to an architecture school out in Boston (BAC). It’s not the most prestigious school but it will be the fresh start that I so desperately need. Being away from studio has made me realize that I made the right choice in pursuing architecture as a career. Best of luck to you and your readers. This is one of the few blogs that I really enjoy reading. Keep up the great work.

  • Andrea

    fantastic post and hit me so hard smack in the middl eof my forehead, thank-you for reminding me.  I did not want to become an architect until I was about 12 but it has been immense/intense but hard fought.  Currently working in retial while the kids are young and we move country, I miss my design roots even with the memories of pain/sorrow and struggle, because there was also extremem success and joy. 

    Thank you for your post.

  • Although I’m no longer practicing architecture… For me, I didn’t know what I liked until I got into the middle of 1st year in architecture school.

    I always loved art and doing creative things. I aced my woodworking class in high school and by the first year in architecture school, I was one of those 30% of newbie architecture students who learned fast and “got it” quickly. That was the defining moment where it dawned on me that I have a natural talent for “making things”.

    My dad was an influence to me doing architecture, since he was a furniture maker as was my grandfather.  Making and building things runs in our family blood, he tells me. I totally agree with him.

    Incidentally, my dad was also an influence to me quitting architecture,
    My dad made his wealth from other businesses. He quit furniture making because he struggled and realized that he needed to do something else less back-breaking (back in the days where it was mostly by hand). He became a waiter and then finally a businessman.

    I too had to make a decision whether to leave architecture or not.
    The lifestyle is unhealthy and for my personality trait, the profession is mentally self-destructive for me.  I went through a tough period, questioning myself whether it was self-doubt or do I know whether I should really leave.

    Although I have some level of success (by my own definition), I found out I wasn’t happy and was NEVER going to be happy – I can’t have my cake and eat it.
    I can’t be a designer AND be an owner/director of a company at the same time. I either have to accept being a designer (but a lowly grunt), or be an owner/director but have other people to do the design for me while I run business affairs.

    I left the industry and pursue some artistic work in my free time. I realized that I am equally at home with being a manager as I am with being a designer – it isn’t as bad or boring as people give the impression. I find it’s being BOTH a manager and an artist at the same time that kills me. The emotional conflicts with compromising my ideals of art at work drives me crazy.
    Right now I don’t have such conflicts – because there is none.

  • Elmer Hernandez

    This is a truly inspiration story. I am a sophomore in college studying Architecture and finals week is coming up. I was feeling overwhelmed trying to balance studio with other classes, but after reading this, it’s motivated me to try my best! Thank you! 

  • lula

    Nice post Bob. 
    I have another question in extension to this. I’m interested to know what your experience was like  finding your first job in architecture. Were you handpicked by a tutor?What are your thoughts now? In this current economy it’s fairly cut throat to find firms willing to give the students a job.

  • Hi! I just wanna say that I wanted to be an architect when I was on the high school, I remember that I really wanted to be in the electronic class but the teacher just said : sorry, you arrived in the second grade and probably will be difficult for you :), so I chose the drawing class and started to be great, and look at me! since that moment I like and love, and really want to be architect (I’m studying architecture)

    Regards to everyone and sorry for my english, it’s just that isn’t my first languange 🙂

  • Hey Bob,  I wanted to respond to your blog ever since I saw it.  It is uncanny how we have such similar stories and experiences.  I also ALWAYS wanted to be an architect.  I remember I was 11 when I had to write an autobiography and said I was either going to be an architect or a nuclear physicist (WHAT?!?).  I didn’t really know what either of those were, but I for sure knew and pursued my architecture journey.  I also took drafting in school, graduated in high rankings in HS, but when I got to UT (our Alma Mater) I also SUCKED!  I doubted myself also, and my back up plan was to be a psychologist like my mom (SAY IT ISN’T SO!) I also panicked every time I would think about it.  I also made it work.  I think there is a competitive streak in me also.  And I too finally graduated, entered the world of architecture, AIA, was named Young Architect of the Year in 1999 and started my own firm in 2004.  I am glad you’re in my journey and so glad to know I wasn’t the only one who felt the way I did.
    Great post!  thank you

  • Just today,after a stressfull day of design studio, this text really encouraged me to keep going on!Yeah,I really love architecture…and as people say, No Pain No Gain!

  • I remember the years I spent in architecture school at the University of Minnesota.. well, ok, they had a cool building that was the first one closest to the parking lot that was open all hours. I’d get to campus about 5:30 am (because there were not ever enough parking spaces for all 65,000 of us idiots) and would trudge 8 blocks through whatever hellish weather Sept-Mar had in Minnesota, pull open the door to the ARCH building to a blast of hot air, go down one flight of stairs, put .25 in the vending machine for coffee, .35 for a pack of Grandmas double-fudge cookies and hike up to the main floor, nestle in some nook for breakfast, coffee and a cig. 

    There was always a new collection of models and drawings and whatnots from the day before. I almost switched majors during a moment of weakness when I found myself imagining me to be a builder of bridges. But then when I’d gotten into the stacks of Walter Library across the quad, the lure of leather binding and the smell of dusty paper made me all but forget about the little towns of Foamcoreopia. 

    I really tried to work juxtaposition into this comment, but.. oops, never mind. I did it.

  • Thaat’s a wonderful story.

  • K-rankin

    Great post. I want to become an architect and have since I was 13. I’ve always liked building things (LEGO FTW) and now in high school I just design things (mostly houses) on autocad in drafting class. Im sure Lots to learn tho about architecture.

  • P Anater

    Great post Bob, I love getting a glimpse into the mind of the young Bob. Thanks for your candor, as always.

  • Jeremiah

    I think for a majority of architects this is a very easy question to answer. I’ve only ever met one person who gave me a different answer than the one you’ve posted above. He was one of my studio mates in college. I asked him once on our way to atlanta why he chose to be in the Arch program and he told me that his father told him to choose a profession (before going away to college) and he chose architecture because he wanted to be artistic and make a lot of money. I remember thinking at the time, and telling him, that that was a horrible way to choose a career path.
    And I have no idea what he has done with his life since graduation almost 10 years ago.
    For those of us lucky enough to have always “known” where we’re going we understand there are many reasons NOT to be an architect. But none of them are reason enough NOT to be an architect. 🙂

  • Hey, that’s pretty slick!
    That was my initial thought when I saw the plaque at the end of your blog.  I also think the blog was pretty slick for all kinds of reasons.  Yours is the third one on architects I’ve read so far as I’ve been making my way through these.  It’s something I might have pursued myself, had I looked at life differently way back then.  I chased after writing for a very large portion of my life, and then when we came to San Diego in 1982, I began building things for the first time and discovered a talent I didn’t know I had.  And now, looking back, architecture would have been cool for all kinds of reasons.

  • Barsha Chitrakar

    Hi! I’m from Asia, an architect by profession, and well, after reading this article, I felt like posting a comment.
    When I was a kid I wanted to be 100 things (ok that’s a little too much, but I did want to be this and that).  ‘Architect’ was never in my option list. It was only when I was in my high-school did I think about it; that too because I had (still have) a cousin brother who’s an architect. I wasn’t artistic, apart from writing, if ‘writing’ can be even termed ‘artistic’, that is. But when my name was enlisted on the merit list of one of the top engineering colleges of my country, I suddenly had wings. And then I decided to fly. So that’s how I ended up being an undergrad student of Architecture. And oh, during my 5-years of undergraduate study, I did work hard. The working pattern and study pattern of US, Europe or Asia might be different; but this doesn’t necessarily mean any architecture student or an architect in US, Nepal or elsewhere in the world works less harder; and in the process they sure do discover the gravity of the subject they’ve chosen to study. I’m now working as an architect for over two years now. Truth be told, I’m not completely happy with it, but then who is? But then again, I know I wouldn’t have made a happy doctor or an artist or a lawyer either. I really am not cut out to be an architect, I’ve got to learn a lot, I’m not the best one there is, hell, I didn’t even top off my class and I haven’t yet created top-notch designs; but I still am an architect and I’m proud to call myself an architect!By the way, that now-a-famous line of yours, Mr.Borson, I have copied it as my FB status, with your name courtesy, of course. 😀

  • Denese Bottrell

    Great advice, Bob. I think we forget sometimes that even when you always knew what you wanted to be, you still have to work really hard to get there. It doesn’t come any easier when you have it all figured out at 5. I can so relate to “these moments were almost always followed by an overwhelming sense of panic – the sort of panic that occurs when you lose some sense of your purpose and self-identity.”  – a sure sign you need to keep going, no matter how hard it seems. 

  • Jfz0803

    This is a great article! it really reminded me of my self. I was about 6 years old when I decided  to be an architect. I think it was a TV show where the star was an architect..something like that. I started looking up what architecture means, and I loved it more as I learned more about it! The first house I designed was when I was 7. For some reason, it was a section drawing, not a plan 🙂 but as I got more sophisticated I learned how to draw floor plans 🙂
    Now that I’m a registered architect and although my dream has come true, I’m in the “doubt” mode. Sometimes I seriously think to change my field, like to IT, or graphic design, or even interior design, especially when I think of all the liability that falls on architects in any project. :-S 
    Your article is so inspiring that it gave me some new hopes. I hope I can get back on track with my career. Let’s see 🙂

    • Ryan

      Graphics design is the classic escape. I am in Interior design at the moment (though choice not economic natural selection) but I still read every architectural blog and draw dream projects in my sketch book.

  • Young & Determined

    Thank you so much Mr. Borson!

    As a final year Architecture student, I needed to read this! From reading all the comments below, it seemed that everyone knew all along they wanted to be an Architect. I on the other hand wanted to be a supermodel (aren’t you the glamourous one) 😀 I was already 6ft 2, slim, and apparantly had the “look” and 15yrs of age just out of High School but when I got to 18yrs reality started to kick in, modeling was fun but I can’t do this forever…I never really doubted myself on what I can achieve, I always knew I was good at drawing especially paying close attention to detail.  I originally did not want to be an Architect or even study Architecture, it was something I randomly picked…First it was Medicine then Law, what can I say I am a female pisces 😀 “indecisive was my middle name,” but after seeing the amount of students who wanted to study Law I said to myself I did not want to add to the then “popular” Profession. After High School I had enough of sciences..No more Chemistry and Biology..However I knew I loved Art with a passion, Physics, History, Languages etc but Math and I were not the best of friends, sadly. 

    Some how I found myself studying Architecture, the more I studied it the more I loved it, fascinated by the beauty of buildings and I wanted to create beautiful buildings…At first it started all well, but moving to a country to study in a language where it was not my native tongue was very challenging, listening to lectures for 3hrs and not fully understanding was like sitting through a screaming child not forgetting enduring an educational system that was completely the opposite of where I came from..every part of me screamed the need for creativity and understanding. Clearly the frustration started to show in my grades combined with other social problems…Eventually I took a year and a half off school to pull myself together and figure out how am I going to make my learning here work for me, I couldn’t leave after spending 3-4yrs of my life there and still there…but I made it, or atleast working towards it, with added mental maturity, stronger sense of what I fully wanted, better yet a plan…I had to learn how to control the “scrabble of my mind”..Ideas and thoughts were like scrambled eggs, I realised I had slight A.D.D which contributed to my hard to focus mentality. 

    In conclusion, thank you Mr. Borson, in some ways, you reminded me partly of what I went through, I feel so assured to know that I am not alone. I faced my fears of failure and disppointing others especially self.  I had to learn it was okay to fail or struggle but never give up and keep working towards a goal while ignoring those who thought you would not make it and stop doubting myself.

    “because regardless of where your dream puts you, you are going to have to put in the work to make it happen. ” – Bob Borson – My newly found Hero.

  • Small Town

    My path sounds oh so similar to those below…Enjoyed blocks & Legos.  Designed elaborate castles for Dungeons and Dragons games.  Took drafting classes in HS (mine taught by the wood shop teacher at least), graduated 20 out of 220, went to college for engineering, but quickly switched into architecture, where I found out that the person to the left of me was a Salutatorian and the person to the right a Valedictorian.  130 to 30 in five years.  Went to reunion a few years back and there’s maybe a third of us actually practicing.

  • The sentence that popped out for me is “regardless of where your dream puts you, you are going to have to put in the work to make it happen”.

    I’m not an architect, but I grew up with an architect dad. A few years ago (and after a divorce) I started a new career as an interior designer to have my own business so that I can have flexibility as a single parent. I went back to school while working and pretty much didn’t sleep for two years, but loved the learning and the confidence it gave me to do this. Many days I am totally freaked out and overcome by fear of failure, but then I just remind myself to push on. It’s up to me to make it happen, and so far I am at least moving in the right direction!

    • I have no doubt that having a father who was an architect impacted your sensibilities – I can already tell that what I do (and how I go about it) has already made an impact on my 7 year old daughter. She might decide that being an architect isn’t for her (I think it has more to do with wanting to hang out in my office) but she is more aware of her built environment than most other children her age.

      There must always be moments in a persons life where they experience some level of doubt on their abilities, or their will to continue down the path – but doing just that is what makes the journey so rewarding.


      • Yes, being around my dad definitely had a huge influence on how I view my world, and my innate awareness of design. I can thoroughly appreciate architecture on a more complex level as well, since I went to many site visits with him as a kid, and loved it when he talked through his design process. (That’s why I love your blog!!!) I sometimes regret not studying architecture when I was young, but am happy now to be working in the design field. I think I was always afraid that turning something that I love (architecture/design) into work will spoil it, but I find that the opposite is true. It’s very fulfilling to finally immerse myself in the design world…and get paid for what I do! 

  • Anonymous



    Started for me when I was freshman in HS and saw drawings for an addition to my family’s bicycle shop.  At that point, there was no turning back.  Watched many drop away through my 6 years in college – started with 125 and graduated 30 – and have seen others step away post college.  No regrets.

    • Thanks for sharing Christopher – I wish I received more emails where people are happy with the decision they made becoming an architect. Its not that happy architects don’t exist, its that they don’t take the time to tell me that they are happy.

      I am glad you have no regrets

      • Anonymous

        Hey, you are the one doing the sharing -and thanks!!  Great post.  Keep doing what you do.

        Being an architect is not often rosy (or is it rosie?), that is for sure, but persistence is what makes the difference.  The end justifies the means,…right???

        Thank YOU, Bob.

  • I thought about doing/becoming an architect but at the time I hated math. Now I use it constantly. Great post Bob!

    • Yeah, I think most people hate math. The difference between then and now is that it is a means to an end. My desire to be an architect was stronger than my hate for math. Now, math doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

      I’ve seen your skill set, maybe becoming an architect is the next phase for you 😉

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know when exactly I wanted to become an architect. I do however remember one incident in the third grade where we had an assignment to draw the floor plan for the house we lived in. My drawing was such that everyone, including the teacher thought my parents did it.

    And I do remember having this giant set of wooden blocks and building these very elaborate structures that would stay in the middle of the living room floor for weeks with my mother carefully vacuuming around them. I’ve seen family photos of some of them and they were impressive for an eight year old.

    I do remember during about my sophmore year in high school wanting to be an architect but don’t know when that decision came about. During my junior year I wrote to several local firms looking for a summer job. Didn’t get the summer job but one firm offered to hire me after school starting in September when their current office boy left for college. After a few weeks in there, my decision was solidified.


    • Doug,

      Why am I not surprised that you seemed to have your act together so early? 

      Despite knowing that I wanted to be an architect, I couldn’t have told you the names of 5 architects before I got to college. You seemed to have identified it early and moved steadily along the path – I think that’s great.

      Thanks for commenting

  • Anonymous

    I knew I would be an architect since I was about 10.  I would spend lengthy amounts of time during the boring summers, drawing home plans for my dolls on notebook paper. I got a plastic drafting ‘kit’ one year (which I still have).   I maxed out my elective credits in high school with drafting classes, and still wanted more.  I reluctantly took art classes, but somehow always linked the art projects back into the drafting projects.  Needless to say, the first three years of college were a breeze for me… I had acquired CAD training, hand-drawing, perspectives and orthographic projections, printing, hand-drafting, various rendering techniques such as graphite, pen and ink, airbrushing… all in a public high school, all by the time I was 18. 

    Any struggles I had didn’t really happen until being accepted to the Professional Program, when the all-nighters commenced.  I *hated* them, and yet had this unexplainable thrill about being able to stay awake for days with my colleagues.  I fared well, despite not being a favored student among my professors.  I was able to intern during college summers for a small office in my hometown, and learned what architecture was really about, way before most of my fellow classmates.  I wouldn’t change it for anything, and have had a relatively positive experience in my 13 year career so far.  I feel rather lucky…..

    • It sounds to me like you made your own luck.

      Thanks for sharing your story, I don’t hear enough positive tales from the people who send me emails.


      • Bigplns

        I truly enjoyed your description of the early years in your life. I too was quite young when I discovered Architecture. I was raised as a farm boy in California and learned quite early in life that the rigors of farm life didn’t quite fit my plan. I was about 10 years old when I discovered that I had talent in art and I spent a great deal of time pencil drawing and oil painting during those early years which was in the late 40’s and early 50’s. Once I began high school in 1953 I enrolled in all the shop classes where I learned wood working, metal working and also took an art class. My Sophmore year was the actual beginning of my lifelong journey in Architecture as I took a mechanical drawing/ Architectural drawing class with a brand new instructor who was a graduate of an Architectural school. At the semester of the class a local real estate developer and a local builder came to school and invited the Architectural students to design a residential project which they would judge and offer a $50.00 prize, trophy and would build the winning design. I jumped at this challenge as well as all the other students in the 5 classes that were involved. As it turned out my design won the competition and the house was built. During construction I had the opportunity to watch it come out of the ground and was amazed that it actually looked just like my drawings. The builder tried to make to make a shortcut in the fireplace design and I just happened to be there the day the mason was finishing it. It was nothing like I had drawn. My fireplace was flagstone veneered and was the entire width of the living room, while the fireplace that was built was a standard 5′-0″ wide fireplace. I went directly over to the developer’s office and complained that they were not follwing my plans. The next day the fireplace was demoed and my design was executed as drawn. Following the completion of the house, my parents purchased it and I was able to live in the very first house that I ever designed! In the fifties not all young people directly went on to college. As in my instance, once out of school the first thing to do was to get married. I was fortunate that I was able to obtain employment in an Architects office at age 18 as an apprentice, working for the wage of $1.00/HR. During those early years I had to reley on three jobs to make ends meet, working 8 hours a day in Architecture, 3 hours a day pumping gas and 3-4 hours a day driving tractors on the farm. I had very fine mentoring as I made my way through all the facets of working in an Architectural office. To make a much longer story shorter, I was able to obtain my California Architects License without ever attending a day of college! I did however spend a lot of time in self study to get there. Today I am 72 years old, have been in a 50 %  partnership for over 32 years and still work 5 days a week. The magic of Architecture has never left my thoughts over all those years. It still amazes me to see ones work rise from lines on paper to structures which can be utilized for living, working, learning and playing.
        Bob Machado AIA |E

        • That is an amazing story – I loved it!

          Thank you for taking the time to write it out here – I am sure that others will find it quite inspiring.