I think architects are like snowflakes. Not because they are delicate, but because each is unique and (it frequently seems to be the case) that external conditions need to be perfect in order for them to properly thrive. Of course, if you want to know what those external conditions are, I can’t tell you – they’ll be different for every single person … just like a snowflake.
This is an analogy that has been floating around in my head for a while and during the process of responding to the latest student email I received, what I have been thinking about sort of fell in place. The vast majority of emails I receive from young people who want to be architects, architecture students, or young architectural professionals, and they almost always start off in the same way. They feel the need to regale me with their personal circumstances in an effort to set the mood for their question. The truth is, almost everybody has some version of the same back story, and over the last few years of reading this same back story over and over again, I started thinking (and who could blame me) that we architects are not as unique and special as we like to think we are. As of late, my thinking on this has started to evolve and I’ve come to realize is that I’ve been looking at this the wrong way (please note the time and date … I have just publicly admitted I was wrong). I have been looking at this from a fixed point looking back at the journey people make when deciding to become an architect. What I should have been doing, is looking at this as a fixed point starting from the moment people actually become an architect and look forward.
The field of architecture can be extremely rewarding but it does not seem to reward those with indifference towards the profession. I really dislike forwarding the notion that you must have passion about this profession in order to succeed and find happiness, but in my experience, this almost always seems to be the case. Since the practice of architecture is so varied, it is quite possible that what you have been exposed to does not represent the type of work you might eventually discover as your passion. I know from my time working that the things that bring me the greatest joy were items that weren’t even on my radar screen when I was in school. One thing that few young people realize is that once an architecture student has graduated, they will continue to evolve and grow as they become exposed to new thoughts and ideas, and they will be influenced by the places they work, the type of work in which they focus, and the people they surround themselves. If you are struggling to find your place, or look around you at the people who seem to move effortlessly through their work, don’t let that fundamental change who you are – eventually you will hopefully discover what makes your perspective and talents unique and you will have positioned yourself to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself.
“Let your work speak for what you believe and love. Soar, my boy, and be bold and fearless, and the world will never forget you.”
Andrea Del Verrocchio, Da Vinci’s Demons
For most people, their job is an end to a mean and the thrill associated the achieving a goal has nothing to do with the journey. In this regard, architects are somewhat unique. From day one – on your first day working – you might get to do something amazing. Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective, what seems amazing to you would not be amazing to one of your coworkers who is a bit further along in their career. For anyone in any job or profession, getting to do what we want is a luxury; and most toil away doing a task that might not normally motivate or inspire us.
I’ll leave you with words of wisdom from my father:
“You go to college to learn how to learn.” It isn’t until you start working does your journey to becoming an architect really begin. After that, anything is possible.