Most millennials are actually changing jobs four times on average during their first decade out school according to a study released by LinkedIn. If this is true in architecture then there is a good chance young professionals move on before they see a completed project through.
“The best advice I can give anyone is to think about acquiring skills and knowledge that can easily be transferred from one place to another” says Guy Berger, an economist at LinkedIn. My personal advice is to focus on the knowledge piece and this takes time. “The only source of knowledge is experience” said Albert Einstein. The skills are a given and each individual is responsible for sharpening his or her tools of the trade.
Following the romantic notion of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, we all find ourselves faced with the reality of the business of architecture (or the business of another traditional profession). In most companies there is a sink or swim environment and that’s ok. This type of pressure is not dissimilar from what we faced with a professor organizing a semester around a unique challenge and typology. One could argue that this is actually healthy and like a young child, it is at this point in time that we are the most receptive to learning. Patience is really the key here, along with stamina. In this industry, it typically takes 3-7 years to actually have a chance to see one or more projects come to fruition and begin to connect the dots.
After that first project is complete it is not uncommon to be faced with a brand new project typology. Are we starting over then? No, well a little, but the fundamental design principals gathered through experience are the same. Some things (almost) never change; such as creating a sense of place that connects the project to the site. Designing space really takes meaning when a backhoe excavates earth along a line that we remember sketching on a piece of trace paper. These two activities don’t usually happen overnight.
The technical side of the profession tends to take longer to absorb as there are more distinct differences in the construction systems and codes but all projects still strive to be well constructed with smart, efficient, and durable details.
Along with the design and technical aspects of the profession comes the third part of the knowledge triangle: management, which is people focused. Without experience based knowledge one simply cannot earn the trust of clients. It is important to remember that architects are in the service industry, and essentially sell their time. There is no physical commodity, time is the commodity and the value is based on knowledge and talent. It is really the accumulation of experience on different projects and client types that allow young professionals to draw parallels between these experiences and grow to become complete architects.
It is easy for someone in the industry who is focused on a single project for a number of years to lose the perspective that this is just a stepping stone towards becoming a complete professional. It is important to remember the Why? Why we chose this career. It cannot and should not be compared to some of our peers in the financial or tech industries. “An architect is someone who plans, designs, and reviews the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings, that have as their principal purpose human occupancy or use” –The Nova Scotia Legislature. This is no small feat and is not for everyone. It is a profession that takes patience. There is no hyper- growth but ‘shelter’ is a fundamental human need and won’t go out of fashion.
Photo credit: seier+seier – jørn utzon & ib møgelvang, architects: villa bille, ejler bille house and studio 1954-55