Thirty-five & 5

A continuing journey

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    Three months in and where to go?

    By TAB1006
    Apr 12, '17 2:31 PM EST

    Three months in to my new job and I'm already seeing the revived passion I once had for architecture and design. However, my path as to what I wish to concentrate on still eludes me. In school there was always a clear path on what to study, what to draw and learn. Design studios were so involved, many times I didn't even have time to stop and explore new curiosities when they arose from my design process. I kept a skratch book (yes not skratch book, not sketchbook as my penmanship and sketching skills are, well... Crayola, for lack of a better word) to jot down terms, projects and ideas for further research and exploration. As first year turned to second, third and then the hell of fourth year thesis the book scratches got longer and less were crossed off.

    That's not to say I didn't research, explore and learn all I could outside the classroom. I attended as many lectures and social events that time (and money) would allow. Being involved with AIAS and several other architecture groups in my community I attended Quad conferences in two cities, Build Boston, numerous AIA guest lectures and CSI talks. Coming from a non-artistic background I strove to accumulate as much knowledge about the industry that I could, what paths I could take.

    After my BA graduation however, reality set in, amid the recession and ever increasing unemployment rate I had no prospects and a rapidly approaching loan repayment. So with that and a family to support I began working in the retail lumber world. There I learned all I could as well, about products, materials, the construction climate, anything applicable. That however is where I learned a very hard lesson, the knowledge that was required was not about how this new material would revolutionize the industry or how it would fit the design, it was about how much money it would save the client living in rural Maine, and how much profit it would make the contractor.

    That is not to knock either party, that is the market and the market only sees cost as the common denominator. My job as sales was to convince the client or contractor why said product would benefit them, and in rural Maine, selling something with twenty percent more initial costs that would have 'projected' cost savings in the long term was a near impossible sell. So after a year of being told the knowledge I sought out was useless and I was there to do a job, I became subservient, doing as I was told, ordering was I was told and in essence, became burnt out.

    I let my thirst for knowledge go though it wasn't quenched, letting my subscriptions lapse and forgetting my Archdaily login I let myself become burnt out. Years passed and the circle of professionals I once knew had moved on to different firms or out of state, my memberships to architecture societies seemed like wasted money and I stopped going to their events. All of this culminated in the thought I no longer desired to pursue architecture. That of course was the biggest lie I told myself, for on every excursion I made out into the world, I was still looking at architecture, still exploring buildings and analyzing the thought processes of the designers, in the back of mind that appreciation was always there.

    Three years later and the opportunity arose to leave retail lumber behind and join a firm I had always hoped to work at. Finally I was back in the fray, joining a multi disciplinary company with architects, engineers, interior designers, urban planners and designers in an environment that fostered creativity and encouraged free thought. Now that I'm here however, I find myself at a loss to discover where I wish to apply myself, what areas to focus on. I still have that inner curiosity to learn all I can, but do I wish to be a design architect?, an urban designer or planner?

    I know that I do wish to become licensed and play a pivotal role in the firm, I have a great desire to make valuable contributions to the companies success and perhaps one day become a Principal, but how to get there? To answer that I look to my passions, I've always been fascinated by history, particularly historic architecture, delving into forgotten and forsaken buildings since I was young which were aplenty in Maine and I have always enjoyed researching (libraries and micro-film!). Old fabrication mills and the communities surrounding them in particular had always intrigued me. Huge brick and mortar industrial structures that spurred development of tight knit middle class immigrant communities all over the river valleys of Maine with beautiful industrial age downtown commerce architecture. 

    In school this passion led me to involvement in several non-profit community re-development groups aimed at reviving these forgotten downtowns which continues to this day. There I learned the ins and outs of community re-development and the effects of urban design on it's architecture. It is also where I discovered my people skills, an innate ability to converse with people from all walks of life, relate and understand them in a way that allowed the forming of ideas into a singular vision. Public speaking, presentation and compromise came easy to me leading to development of coordination, planning and delegation skills I never thought I had. The question remains though, how to apply these skills and my passions to an area specialization to most benefit the firm and my career?

    Having just re-entered the world there is still plenty of time to decide where my focus should be, and have dedicated myself to learning all that I can to discover my path. Whether it be historic preservation, design architect, urban planner or some specialization I have not thought of yet it will no doubt reveal itself one day. Hopefully it is discovered before I re-enter school for my graduate degree but as I always say, if I just keep moving forward, one day I will get there

    "Travel far enough, you meet yourself"

    - David Mitchell

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About this Blog

This is an account of my journey towards licensure, the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. At 35, many people, including myself at times, doubt that completion of the journey I started nearly a decade ago can be obtained. But here I am, with 2 years of school and all of my internship ahead of me, finally working in a firm after escaping the world of retail. May these thoughts serve as inspiration for those in doubt, encourage supportive wisdom, and of course, an outlet for frustration!

Authored by:

  • TAB1006

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