#architalks 39 "experience"

When I saw the post for this month, guess what sound i made?


Do you know why?  Because I am the oldest (not by much, by the way) of this blog group so I felt that it was up to me to give some great advice, as, after all, I am most experienced at life.

Maybe I don't have as many full time years in as the rest of the bunch but I have been licensed as an architect, in the state of California, for 24 years now, easy to keep track of because my oldest is soon to be 24 and I was about three to four months pregnant with her when I took the California Supplemental Exam (The Oral) as it was once called because it was actually an exam that you took in front of three examiners in a hotel room, yes, California can be weird, and No, they didn't just pass me because I was pregnant, which is what a lot of men say when I tell them that story, you couldn't tell.


for more on this.

I have been doing projects during most of the 24 years, I just decided to do them whil I was procreating so I didn't always work a 40-60 hour week at the office, though I was working overtime at Life. And I was working at other things like starting the La Mesa Arts Alliance ( non-profit arts organization benefitting the community within the La Mesa Parks and Recreation Association while I had a one, 3, and 7 year old. And volunteering in the kids' school as an "Art Docent: which was part of an art and architecture program that they had but really hadn't developed a curriculum for, so we had to still work with the teachers and administration to implement it.

But, the volunteer Arts organization parlayed itself into a position as a Planning Commissioner.


And working with another Mom who was an artist, Lee Puffer and the school principal and students became an entry into the Architects for Humanity Classrooms Open Architecture Network Challenge 2009 entry: MUM's the word! (for Murray Manor, the school).


And there were other things that I was involved in, with a husband and three kids, it is neverending


Bandolier National Monument New Mexico, day after Thanksgiving 2016
photo by Michael Fisher-Vallen, Nomad Mobile Motor Lodge 


Also I started working in an architecture office in, no lie, the end of 1983.  So, as one of the great architectural bloggers told me,

"Wow, when you say that you sound really old!!!"

Yes, 1983.  Which, no I wasn't out of architecture school then, I was in a community college program and the head of the department, Therese M. Weedon, would give students names to architects in the community when they called her.  So, I went and interviewed with Steven G. Davis, Architect and got the job.  I was the only woman in the office, barely a woman, I was 19 years old.  So, even before I got to Cal Poly, Pomona, I already had worked for an architect for over a year.  And the reason I probably got the job in the first place i sthat I also had two years of experience in a High School Technical School program that was half a day on top of taking a High School drafting class at my high school for a year.  So by the time, I got a job in an architecture office I had already been drafting for four years. So, when I did get to Cal Poly Pomona, I wasn't making friends with a lot of people who were older and said,

"it isn't fair because she can draw!!!"

Until they realized that I wasn't so good at things like Algebra and Physics    and they felt infiniately better about themselves...

So, I would work summers at the architect in San Diego and after school, I didn't really want to go back an dwork for him, because I wanted to work in Los Angeles, which was a big deal back then, because there was a lot more interesting architecture going on (Sorry, the rest of the nation, but look in the architectural history books...) and it was right down the street from where I got a job after college.

Wojcicki said the new campus — three adjacent buildings including Frank Gehry-designed Binoculars Building — would also help Google attract candidates from area colleges and universities... The company's focus on Web search is evoked by the iconic binocular sculpture at the site, created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. — latimes.com

So, after college, I was looking for a job and my boyfriend, now husband, was working at the firm of Appleton & Associates and one of the partners there said that someone he went to architecture school with was looking for a person to draft fo rher, so I nterviewed with her and I got the job and I asked her for what this partner had told me to ask for.  Several months later when work died down and I needed to move home to my parent's house because I couldn't afford to live there, (because that is another benefit of living in California, the high price of housing, and me not wanting to live with a roommate that i had found through Los Angeles Reader ad) that the architect told me,

"you should ask for more money at your next job"

of course I moved home and commuted to LA to do contract work and stay with friends. I asked for more and I worked for my stepdad's company doing a new tenant improvement for them and they paid me more, so a year later when she asked me to come back because she had more work, I told her the amount and she was like,

"oh, well I guess I told you to ask for more, I just didn't know it would be such a big increase in one year., but i need you to work for me, soooo"

I wish I had a 50% pay increase now!

I am also in a couple of Facebook groups, one EntreArchitect with Mark LePage and Mothers in Architecture, Design and Construction that is focused on Moms who are taking the A.R.E.  I am not taking the A.R.E. but I am a mom who did take the ARE (well, I was pregnant and i had morning sickness from 6 weeks to 4 months so I believe that I am part of that group as an older, experienced mom)  This experience of having my kids,  being a stay at home mom and running a practice was not something that a lot of people did back in the early 90's.  It was an all or nothing thing, As I explain in my podcast on EntreArchitect,


"someone at an art opening looked at me with my baby (where I was renting office space from Michael Folonis) and said,  "what do you do? and quite frankly, i could have been nursing at the time and I said,  "well, I'm an architect but I am working part time so that I can be with my baby.  And he said, "i could never do that!" and of course the joke with Mark was, "work part tine or nurse?" and I said, "well, i don't think he could do either"  So, my advice about the Mom Experience is that you will learn a lot from just raising kids that is totally applicable in the workplace and don't let anyone ever tell you that you have "just been watching your kid" all day and really haven't gained any experience from that part of your life, you most definitely have!!!

I started my own firm when I was 29 and had quit my regular job because I was going to have a baby and I wasn't quite sure what I would do, but the work came in.  Also, again, I had done projects on my own while I was working for the Structural Engineers office that I worked at.  Gordon L. Polon, where I drafted the work of Frederick Fisher, Barbara Bestor and Marmol Radziner back when Ron had super long spiral curls and a bunch of other people who were young architects at the time and also Gwathmey Siegel houses, but again this gave me experience in structure, and it was probably one of the best offices I have ever worked at as far as what experience I gained there.

two black boxes, venice, ca 1997
owner built

But it's funny, as I started to get more gray, more in teh past year) people have stopped asking me if I have enough experience to do their project.  I made a comment on Dezeen's post about an woman architect who was asked if she thought that women were getting further in the field and she said that she thought they were but it wasn't easy.  And then someone made a comment about her appearance, like she was older so she had the experience, while I am not even sure how old she is, but the other men she was with, got no comments as to their older appearance.  which I was really angry about. Also, just because someone is older or looks older, doesn't mean they have more experience.  They could have easily gone to architecture school after completing other degrees, other careers, etc, etc.  A person's age can have nothing to do with how much experience in architecture they have.

Also, about 18 months ago, I gave a proposal to a potential client for architecture services and a contract and he came back with three pages of reasons why he thought he shold pay less and amendments to an AIA contract that I had given to him, that I just said,


But one of the things that he had said was, "You show a rate of BLANK but multiple salary surveys show that a high range for architect V compensation is BLANK per year in San Diego. Assuming a 20 hour work week that would be approximately BLANK. Can you help me understand the reason for the difference in the surveys and your asking rate?"

I said, I am unsure of what an architect V is, but when I googled it, it appears that it is for people's salaries, not what they are billed out at and based on my level of experience, which I am unsure of how you determined that, my billable hours are BLANK.

There was no negotiation, I just saw his plans in the Building Department and they were basically the design that we use and he just took it to someone else, who is younger and apparently "less experienced" or he would be making more money. right? It hasn't been built yet, so we shall see.


Long Story Short,
Experience: It always counts for something unless it's
Jail Time
Food Poisoning

I am now offering sponsorship opportunities and I am grateful for that. Please contact me via my website below for more information.

If you would like to read other architect's views on experience, please follow the links below:

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
experience comes from experiences

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Gaining Experience As A Young Architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
knowledge is not experience

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
That's Experience -- A Wise Investment

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
You need it to get it

Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Channeling Experience: Storytelling in the Spaces We Design

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
The GC Experience

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)

Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)


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