I haven’t always known that I wanted to be an architect. It was an idea that had crossed my mind in high school, along with so many other ideas. I knew I loved art and design, right from the moment I could hold a crayon or mash finger paints. However, as the years rolled on I learned I loved a lot of other things, too. I’ve loved playing sports, reading true crime novels, dissections in biology class, and by high school I even loved calculus (thanks to one incredible math teacher). I am grateful that I have taken interest in so many different aspects of life, though that personality trait has led to somewhat of a convoluted path.
I believe it is because of my path that I can relate to the question: “Is architecture right for you?” I can relate to the confusion you might be facing and share with you what has helped me decide to pursue architecture.
This is somewhat of a complicated question to answer because architecture involves so many different aspects of life, some of which are obvious, while others are not. Though architects possess a vast number of qualities, let’s break down five major qualities to consider:
Creativity. Do you enjoy being creative? Do you love to draw, paint, sculpt, build? Perhaps you prefer photography? Have you always been interested in interior design, or architecture? If you are creative in some way, you may thrive best in a career, like architecture, that nurtures your creativity. Though the problem solving challenges of careers like law or medicine can be alluring, at the end of the day you might find something is missing if you do not get to explore creative design.
Innovation. Do you enjoy the challenge of solving problems? Do you want to learn how to innovate and execute ideas? Though problem solving is not unique to architecture, I have found architecture brings innovation to a whole new level. Architecture allows for creative innovation in every single aspect of life imaginable: buildings, interiors, landscapes, furniture, electronics and systems, web design and print media, photography and film, sustainability, medical, humanitarian, hell – even space travel, and the list goes on! When you begin to truly understand what architecture is, its far reach doesn’t seem so unbelievable. Architecture is our entire built environment and all of the interactions that occur within it. It impacts our moods and behaviours, the success of our homes and cities, healing and rehabilitation, and really every aspect of our daily lives. On top of that, the innovative design and project management skills we learn as architects provide us with the tools to branch out into any other field we desire.
Generalization. Have you taken interest in a large variety of things throughout your life? Would you have considered yourself a well-rounded student, thriving in the majority of your classes? Architecture is often considered a generalist’s career. You may specialize in one aspect, like design, however you are versed enough in other aspects such that you can manage and communicate with the other experts. Architecture dives into so many different specialties beyond design. Every project will involve working with engineers. Some may require medical expertise, an understanding of sports and recreation, marketing and retail, office and education, music and acoustics, knowledge of particular cultures, religions, or people with special needs, and again the list goes on.
Humanitarian. Do you have an interest in contributing positively to society? Perhaps you would like to innovate ideas to end homelessness, design housing for individuals with special needs, or provide disaster relief housing? Maybe you have an interest in how to improve the daily lives of people through the spaces they occupy – a more calm and comfortable home environment, a reflective or spiritual space, a productive and fun office, an inspiring school, a healing medical facility? Generally speaking, are you interested in how people live?
Environmental Sustainability. Are you interested in the way humans and the built environment interact with natural ecosystems? Do you have a passion for existing harmoniously with the environment now and into the future? Are you interested in the way we can model design after adaptations found in nature (biomimicry)? Are you curious about the techniques and technologies that make off-grid, or net-positive living possible?
You may find that you can relate to some of the above qualities of an architect, but perhaps not all of them. Start by considering whether or not you want to spend your days creatively. If the answer is yes, then carefully consider how you feel about the other qualities. You do not need to fit all of them, but perhaps you can relate to some. In the meantime, feel free to check out my other blog posts on why I loved architecture school, the realities of architecture school, how school compares to work, and the documentary Archiculture.
Architecture is not an easy route to take and is not for everyone. It will involve a lot of hard work that will not end once you’ve graduated from school. It is a life-long journey, but one that can be extremely rewarding. If you thrive in creative environments and if you love to learn new things every day, then this profession could be right for you.