#ArchiTalks 11 "why i am an architect..."

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three shells

“why i am an architect…”

When I get the #ArchiTalks prompt each month, I usually ask my kids the question to see if they are thinking on the same lines as I am about the topic and these are their responses:

“why am I an architect?”
“Because you design buildings and design houses and design apartments and you design stuff…”

“why am I an architect?”
“Because it’s great to do something in pen and then turn it into 3D, it’s an actual structure, it’s pretty amazing…”

“why am I an architect?”
“Because you wanted to do that since you were a kid and you wanted to follow your dreams?… IDK, why are you an architect?”
(That last response was from my daughter whose high school career aptitude software program told her that she should go into architecture and she chose social work because, “i don’t want that lifestyle” (the lifestyle of an architect)

IDK, Why am I?

In architecture school a common joke that a professor will say if one is having a particularly difficult time with something (and before the advent of online information and search engines)
“Why did you choose architecture?  Was it because it was at the beginning of the catalog?”

Of course, I believe that Accounting was probably listed before Architecture but we students got the joke.  And probably a lot of Accountants get the joke too, because they are laughing all the way to the bank.

I would not have been an Accountant because my math skills are not that good, though I seem to do much better with a $ sign in the equation rather than an x or y (but we will leave that story to another time).


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mackintosh doors at lacma


But I think that it is answered in my children’s responses and the following:

I am creative and good at drawing, painting, design, and photography and I enjoy doing it.

I wanted to help people in a way that used my talents.

I wanted to have my own business. 

And in spite of how I might feel about it at certain times of the day, week or month, (because after all it is still a job and it is still work) I generally feel that as a career, being an architect is a pretty good one to have and I have been practicing since I passed the California Supplemental Exam at 29 years old and 4 months pregnant with my first child, twenty one years ago.  I have been able to do projects while being able to spend time with my children and I felt that it was important for me to be able to control my own work schedule.

I have also for about 15 years volunteered in my community for a non-profit arts organization, committees and I am in my second appointment as a planning commissioner for the city I live in. I have been an art docent in my children’s schools and designed a remodel and addition for a preschool for my church. I feel that it is important that architects participate in making the environment in which they live in a better one.

Groundbreaking for Centennial Legacy Project

I have worked for and with some really good architects and engineers over the years who have really taught me about the profession and I have three projects that I think represent different phases of my life and career thus far.  
A Home for Caring for Babies with AIDS II  It was in 1990, two years out of school, and I was working for a woman architect in Los Angeles who had some really “socially responsible” projects like affordable housing and I was the only person working for her at the time and I really felt like we were doing some good for the world and I also felt like this was the direction that I wanted to head.

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Caring for Babies with AIDS House 2, Diane M. Caughey, Architect

Another project was one of my first projects on my own and  I had already had my first child. it was an addition to a house in Venice Beach and a garage with a studio above for a Getty museum security guard and his wife. I was so intrigued by what they told me at the initial meeting.  I asked them what they wanted and the husband said, “Well, we want an addition to the back of the house and we want a garage with a guest room above it.  And the husband said, “I have this concept of two black boxes” and I was just blown away.  I couldn’t believe a non-architect had said something like that and then he decided to even build it himself.

Venice House 2

Another project was the Point Loma 1 house, it happened after we had moved to San Diego and was now a mother of three and I was referred to a man who wanted to do a roof deck on top of his house with a 180 degree view of the ocean and it evolved into no roof deck but a major remodel and moment frame and storefront glass and decks hanging on a steep grade and it was a project that really brought together all of the knowledge that I had learned as far as architecture, structure and construction and gave me a renewed sense of confidence as an architect.   

Point Loma House 1

I also have a top secret job that I cannot divulge much about or they will take away my children, ok, they won’t take away my children, but they will take away my license so the only thing I can reveal about it is…  I am a subject matter expert for the California Supplemental Architecture Exam and as such I go to a location and meet with other architects of varying years of experience and practice and discuss things.  There are a mix of us in a room for a couple of days and “we discuss”.

I am always amazed because we are all different but we are very much the same as far as our openness to discussion about any subject during our down time and I learn something new every time we meet.  We as architects are always reinventing, essentially recreating, and our profession as such are not a boring bunch, and as you can see from the different perspectives on this prompt, we have as many different views on why we are architects as we do approaches to a design problem and I think that is

"why i am an architect"

If you enjoyed reading my blog, and would like to see other architect’s perspectives on the subject, please take a look at the other bloggers on the links below.

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
Evan Troxel - Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel)
Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Collier Ward - Thousand Story Studio (@collier1960)
Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)
Nicholas Renard - dig Architecture (@dig-arch)
Andrew Hawkins, AIA - Hawkins Architecture, Inc. (@hawkinsarch)
Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Jes Stafford - Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Cindy Black - Rick & Cindy Black Architects (*)
* - * (*)
Rosa Sheng - Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project (@miss32percent)
Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Amy Kalar - ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Tara Imani - Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Brinn Miracle - Architangent (@simplybrinn)
David Molinaro
- Relax2dmax ()
Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)


  1. Another lovely blog Michele! Your blogs are a delight..

    1. thank you so much meghana! always enjoy yours also!


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