#ArchiTalks 19: "Dear Future Architects,"

"Dear Future Architects,"

Architecture is not perfect, because Life is not perfect.

For every perfect floor plan with a clear concept and axis, there’s the client who wants to add a half bath in the corner of the living room…

For every perfect day at the beach with cloudless skies and blue water and warm sand, there’s that seagull that comes up and scatters your lunch while you were having fun in the waves…you just don’t see all that in the photo...


As much as we like to make plans, things don’t always turn out the way you wanted them to and it will be okay.

There are many things that you will need to know, to be an architect, but I think these are what one needs to know to get through the days when it isn’t a beautiful day at the beach, the storm is coming in, the rain dumps on you, your iPhone (or whatever we are using then) gets wet and you are wondering what you are going to do to keep pursuing or not pursuing the career...


Be kind to others
I went to California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and I was a pretty good design student.  However, the way you were in school does not dictate the way you are in life, though there are certain personality traits that do not seem to change.  A friend and I were talking about where people went to school and what grades they got and how that it still doesn’t dictate the rest of your life.  It is who you are and what you want to do and if you can do the job that is required that will predict what you do as an architect. In fact, he repeated a saying that the head of the architecture department at Cal Poly SLO used to tell the students there

“A and B students should be nice to the C students.  A students teach and B students end up working for the C students.”

Years ago, one of my friends was working for a really talented Architect Y and Y came back from the building department really excited because he had run into one of his former classmates, Architect X and X had a lot of work and he wanted Y to do some work with him.  So Y got a call and it was X and it lasted about ten minutes and from what we could hear, which was pretty much everything as Y did not leave the room, was that X had gone back to his office, thought about how they were as students and that they were different and had decided, “i don’t want to do any work with you” and of course Y says,

“well, don’t let how i was in school change your mind, i mean, i can do crappy architecture too”  

It was like a line from Hank Moody, funny, and something that we would think but never really say, not only because it isn’t nice, we never want to be on the other end of that conversation when we are doing work that might not be our passion but we need to pay bills.
Let’s not dissasemble any of those Sixth Street Bridges if we can help it!!!


Appreciate other’s work and achievements
I deal with this almost every day if I am talking to someone in the profession or not.  If it is another architect and they do schools, they will criticize another architect’s building on the campus.  If it is a contractor, he will badmouth the plans some other architect has made and if it’s the building department they will complain about both.  Please, can we all just get along???  It is hard enough working with clients, contractors and consultants in this profession, let alone criticizing each other for projects that are actually getting built.  And it is difficult to try and justify your work when you want to get paid by a client when you made the same mistakes that you pointed out previously for the other architect’s work when it appears it could be a miscommunication with this client (including miscommunication as to when and what you would be getting paid) and not an architectural error or omission.

It doesn’t even matter that you never got along with that person in school or at that firm or that, “they just copied the “the latest starchitect’s magazine winning design” for that project in second year studio and then got an “A” on it”  

Or that you are a fiercely competitive person

It doesn’t matter, let it go, give the person one good compliment about the project and move on.

Years later, they will see you in a grocery store with your toddler, you will remember their name because you yelled at them in a square in Copenhagen back when they didn’t help on a group project, and then they tell you that they work for an architecture firm named, (they pronounce it phonetically because somehow they think that you don’t know the word for  The manner in which an organism or any of its parts changes form or undergoes development. And you will yell, “of course i know that firm because i knew you at DIS in the architecture studio!!! And then he will say, “cute kid...”

But because they don’t remember the altercation, you might still be able to get work from them!!!

Just as the sunset I see here is different than the sunset that you see where you live, in the scope of things, The sun goes down, the sun comes up and it happens everywhere, it might look different because of the location on earth the and weather conditions but it is just another 24 hours.

Is working for a large corporate architecture firm better than working for a small residential firm?  No, they each have positive and negative aspects and a firm that is good for one early in life, may not work for them later and those are things that an individual decides.  When we become licensed, it doesn’t come with the labels: Corporate Architect, Residential Architect, Will do whatever it takes to make money Architect,

it comes with the title: Architect

How we decide to practice (within the limits of the law) is up to us. 





And the sunset above?  It was taken at the same place within 30 minutes, one’s view can change a whole lot in just a small amount of time depending on the circumstances.


Be Inclusive.
Be Inclusive not only in Gender and Race but in Economics and Abilities.  We are not helping ourselves as a profession by being Exclusive in any of the above.  

Yes, here it is the “Equity Talk”, from The Wife, The Mother, The “Woman” Architect

My blog is called, “i never met a woman architect before…”
It is not called that because I go around calling myself a woman architect, it is because when people asked me what I did, I would tell them that I was an architect and they would say, “Oh, (awkward pause) I never met a woman architect before.” And I typically will say because of my “snarky” personality, “Well… now you have!”  

And for me, growing up in basically, a WASP family, with two sets of parents who never told me that I couldn’t be an architect because I was a girl, it was somewhat of a shock to get to architecture school and have people say things to me who had a much different opinion on women in the profession than I had.that confused me.  Luckily, at the community college I had a professor who ran the department who was a woman and European, so it was not any different of an attitude than I had grown up with but she did instill in me a philosophy that it was going to be difficult and I was going to have to work, just not hard but harder.  I was oblivious to that fact at the time and just worked hard and thought that would be enough. Maybe I couldn’t be as feminine as I wanted to be, maybe I wasn’t wearing enough makeup for some people to feel that I was feminine, who was I supposed to be?.  

I think it worked fine until I got married and had a child and it became more difficult because of those responsibilities to work in someone else’s office, that I chose to practice part time for myself.  That is why when I hear women say that they have never been descriminated against because they are a woman, they have never gone to try and get a project on their own or a job being six months pregnant.  Working for myself gave me the schedule and the income that I wanted in order to raise the family the way I wanted to without free childcare from family members. I think that until some of the work requirements for the profession change for women and men, women will take time off (including part time) from their architectural careers if they decide to have children and if it is too difficult, you will lose them completely in the 32 percent.  If you are inclusive, you get the whole picture and not just a piece.


So, “Future Architects”, I hope that you will not have to deal with these things that I basically have heard the last thirty odd years...  What I am hoping for is that every man and woman out there can think about their own daughter, their wife, their sister, their mother, and about how they would feel if they were asked any of the following questions or had these comments made to them and like I said, I have a sense of humor.

We all see the sunset, it is just when i photograph, or paint, it is through my eyes that it is interpreted in the picture.  I can put a filter on it to make it look a little different, maybe a little rosier than it might be, a little more shadow, more contrast, I make it mine.  Life isn’t perfect, Architecture isn’t perfect, but you can make it yours.   


“if you are dating, you will never make it as an architect”
Five years later when i was 8 months pregnant, “Once you have a baby, your career will be over”
“Well, maybe you should stop wearing lipstick” (so that I would be taken more seriously)
“Oh you are an architect too?”  (when i started to talk about construction and they looked at me as if i was from mars and my husband started explaining why i was talking...)
“Oh, you’re married?” (Sigh of relief) (apparently many people think this is strange for an architect who is a woman to be married and I’m not sure if Same Sex Marriage becoming legal has cleared this up for many people or not…)
“Oh, your husband is also an architect?!?!?!” (Second Sigh of relief)
“How old are you?  Well, you don’t look old enough to have enough experience.”
“Oh, i thought you were going to be Asian…” (“oh, does my name sound asian?”) Well no, but the architect who referred you is Asian.. (“yes, he is….”)
“But I really thought you were going to be Asian…”(”I really think that I should leave now…”)
“Oh, it wasn’t intentional was it?” (as far as my pregnancy at age 29 with my husband of three years)
“Is she pregnant?” (a prospective client asked the consultant who had been the main contact)
“Oh you were pregnant when you took the Supplemental Exam? They probably passed you because they felt sorry for you.” (I was 4 months pregnant and wore size 4 pants, unbuttoned at the waist with a jacket over it)
“Do you color your hair? Well maybe now is the time to start. Don’t you want to be attractive to men?” (from a woman client) (At least now people don’t ask me how old I am)
“I thought of something that you could do…” (I replied, “ya, what?”) “I thought that you could paint billboards” (well, one, billboards aren’t painted anymore and two, i’m an architect) “well i thought you could make a lot of money” (again, i charge (this much per hour) and i don’t think i could make that much money “painting billboards”)
“Well, some women just aren’t nurturing” (in regards to whether i would work after i had my first baby)
“Oh, I didn’t know that you were an architect (at our church where i was a member since i was 16)
(“Well, my husband is an architect too.”)
“Oh, we knew your husband was, we just didn’t know that you were too”
(“Well, I designed the preschool and the schematic design for the commercial kitchen for this church and i designed the addition to (church member’s) house...”)
“You’re too aggressive”
“You’re not aggressive enough”
“Maybe if you weren’t in the same field, you would have a better relationship” (what field do you think he should be in?) a "better relationship"???

If you would like to read other views on "Dear Future Architects", please follow the links below

Please contact me via my website below for more information on the firm and sponsorship of the blog and podcast.

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Dear Future Architects: A Confession
Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Dear Future Architects: 4 Perspectives
Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
dear future architects
Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
Evan Troxel - Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel)
Dear Future Architects
Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Dear Future Architects: 3 letters
Collier Ward - One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)
Dear Future Architects
Nicholas Renard - dig Architecture (@dig-arch)
Andrew Hawkins, AIA - Hawkins Architecture, Inc. (@hawkinsarch)
Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
future architects: #architalks
Jes Stafford - MODwelling (@modarchitect)
Dear Future Architect, Listen Here
Cindy Black - Rick & Cindy Black Architects (*)
Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Dear Future Architect -- Remember Then
Rosa Sheng - EquitybyDesign [EQxD] (@EquityxDesign)
Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
"Dear Future Architects,"
Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Dear Future Architects..
Amy Kalar - ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Dear Future Young Architects... Please Quit Screwing Around!?!!
Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Dear Future Architects: Don't makes these 4 Mistakes
brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Dear Boy in the Plastic Bubble,
Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Dear Future Architects
Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Dear Future Architects, Be Authentic
Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Brinn Miracle - Architangent (@architangent)
David Molinaro - Relax2dmax (@relax2dmax)
Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Dear Future Architects...
Daniel Beck - The Architect's Checklist (@archchecklist)
Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Anthony Richardson - That Architecture Student (@anth_rich)
Dear Future Anthony
Lindsey Rhoden - SPARC Design (@sparcdesignpc)
Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Dear Future Architects, Do Your Thing
Greg Croft - Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Dear Future Architect,
- ()
Courtney Casburn Brett - Casburn Brett (@CasburnBrett)
Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Dear Future Architects, Don't Forget to Treat Your Clients with Respect
Aaron Bowman - Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Samantha Raburn - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Dear Future Architects...
Nisha Kandiah - TCDS (@SKRIBBLES_INC)
Karen E. Williams - (@karenewilliams3)
Jared W. Smith - Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
Dear Future Architects...
Rusty Long - Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
Dear future architects, never lose your optimism
Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Dear future architects, are you credible?
Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Dear future architects, are you credible?
Adam Denais - Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
Dear Future Architect, a Letter to My Younger Self
Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Dear Future Architects...
Ken Saginario - Twelfth Street Studio ()
Dear Future Architects...


  1. I'm constantly hearing other people tell me what other people have said to them. I'm in constant amazement of the foolishness of so many. I regret if I've said such things, but I can't remember people saying such brazen things to me. Perhaps people don't talk to me. I'm sorry you've had to deal with such nonsense, but you've become such a great person due to it or inspite of it. Thanks for sharing the story and the advice is solid. We tear down our own profession so often by not appreciating the work of others - especially at the top. Bad architecture is just bad, but I hear people snip at good work just because it isn't "their thing." I also hear snarky comments about work that is amazing for the context in which it was built. The fact that anything remotely good gets built in the Pittsburgh area is a victory.

  2. Well Lee, we have all said things that we shouldn't say, many times to the people who are closest to us, I think sometimes people say them out of pure ignorance. Their life is so different from mine, that they don't even see it as being a slight. Being from Pittsburgh and attending the same high school as The comedian Dennis Miller, and having family members who are supportive, intelligent and humorous have given me the "tools" I need to respond to things. I just think that a person shouldn't have to go out of their way to act a certain because if they don't they won't make it in the business workwise. Like I have a friend who has been pretty successful at the firm she has been at for decades and she said that she has never taken meeting notes because that is perceived to be a "woman's job".

  3. I know what you mean by WASP, but in my family WASP is Women Air Service Pilots - http://www.wingsacrossamerica.us/wasp/ - My aunt was a WASP.

  4. This letter is awesome. I'll send this to my friend who is an experienced architect in the Philippines. For sure she'll love this.


    1. Thank you so much. I am glad to see that it is still enjoyed.


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