Architecture can be an incredibly creative field, wildly rewarding for those who like to think outside of the box … but there are also roles for those who love architecture whose predilections and skill sets lean towards the straight and narrow. There are times when I wonder “… which one am I?”
My daughter asked me a question the other day that required me to put on my thinking cap.
Kate: Daddy, are you the best architect in Dallas?
Daddy: Uhmmmm …. maybe, it ahh, depends on how you – … well, you see, people have different abilities that allows them to take advantage of their particular skills. Some people might be good communicators, others might be good managers. Or, maybe they are really creative and design things that people can’t live without.
Kate: Which one are you?
Daddy: Well, I’d like to think I am a bit of all of those things.
Kate: So you are the best architect in Dallas.
Daddy: Well, if you become an architect, I might not even be the best architect in this family. What do you think of that?
Kate: I don’t want to be an architect, I want to be a marine biologist.
Crisis averted for now. I was always pretty good at free-lancing answers, or at least calculated opinions to questions. Since having a child, I have become a master so that I don’t lie to my daughter, but I also don’t address some realities that at 8 years old she doesn’t need to process. I also would like to keep her thinking that her Dad is awesome for a little bit longer.
So what does this have to do with architecture and my opening paragraph? It means that at 44 years of age, and 20 years in the real working world, I still haven’t figured out exactly what sort of architect I am. Am I designer? I’d have to say yes but I would be the first one to tell you that there are better designers out there. What about solving problems along the straight and narrow – yes, I do that, I can’t help but feel that I owe it to the people who hire me are getting a strong balance between design and construction knowledge. The last bit that I have figured out over the last 10 or so years is that while I still have a long ways to go to meet my individual goals, my communication skills might actually be my most developed skill. (It should come as no surprise that I like to talk.)
The blurb above was published in the Dallas Chapter AIA magazine and I had no idea that it was in the article. At first, I wasn’t particularly happy about the way I thought it made me come across. I don’t like to yell – I think it’s counter-productive and doesn’t really lend itself to creating the team environment that I try and create on every project. Now, several years later, I kind of like the quote … maybe because it makes me think that I am capable of moving outside of my comfort zone to get something accomplished.
Because of the skill sets I just outlined, it is easy to see why I have experienced my greatest success while working in small firms where I have to wear many hats. So what happens next? Does a person get to consider themselves a great architect with any one of these skills or does it take some combination of them to achieve greatness.
Maybe that’s why most architects don’t really hit their stride until their late 40’s, 50’s and beyond. I don’t think anybody can consider themselves the ‘Greatest Architect in [fill in the blank]. That’s really a moniker that gets thrust upon a person. Right now I would settle with being happy, paying my bills and having my daughter think I am the best architect in Dallas.
What are your thoughts, what does it take to be considered great at what you do?