What type experience holds value for an architect ?


I am a Junior Architect in a large architecture firm. I majorly work on sketchup and photoshop i.e presentations and have no experience of technical aspects of projects as GFC and coordination with MEP, Structural consultants. (All junior architects are given only presentation works in this firm)

My seniors at the firm are suggesting me to leave this firm as there isnt much to learn.

I want to know which type of experience is helpful in long term : prrsentation or technical experience.

Aug 16, 18 12:33 pm

what do you want to be? bjarke is good at presentations, renzo is good at building.

I chose building, never made much money.

Aug 16, 18 12:35 pm

I would say go work for a general contractor and learn how buildings are built. Not only will your technical knowledge of buildings be far superior to most architects, you will make more money. Work toward becoming a licensed architect and you will have more flexibility than your peers in terms of providing value to the construction side as well as the architecture/design side. 

Aug 16, 18 12:46 pm

I'd second this. I learned more in 3 years working for a construction manager than in 5 working for an architect. If you want to go back you'll have significant CA experience and be more valuable.

Non Sequitur

Anyone can push buttons in sketchup and make pretty pictures... it's not a difficult role to fill.  Knowing how shit sticks to other shit in the real world is what real careers are built on.

Aug 16, 18 1:00 pm

I find being in a place where you have the opportunity to learn all aspects of practice to be helpful.  As this is rare, it is about knowing what you need to know and pursuing opportunities to check off each area (following the license rerequirements is one place to see a list).  Technical skills are take a long time to build as it is about knowing how something is typically done and how to improve on it and ask the questions to see where pitfalls are for construction, budget, time, liability, ease of use, maintenance, etc.

In addition to considering presentation vs technical skills, think about management (both project as well as team and business side), communication (not just presentation to potential clients but also internally and to the team) and leadership as well.  Some firms run better than others and it has a lot to do with how they are planned and run (strategic and business plans; and follow through).

Aug 16, 18 1:28 pm
( o Y o )

Networking first. Presentation (PR) second. Actual competence in anything is highly overrated and largely unnecessary unless you want to be the guy pushing the mower.

As you can probably tell, I'm in a foul mood today.

Aug 16, 18 2:24 pm

yeah, slavery was a choice


Learn the technical aspects by keeping track of the projects you make presentations for and keep following their development,. Ask the same senior(s) that tell you to leave all sorts of technical questions about the projects you work on, ask to join site visits etc. , they apparently see or recognise something in you...don't forget they once made the jump from junior to senior too! That, or leave.

Aug 16, 18 2:58 pm
Non Sequitur

I had to explain basic area calculation of a rectangle to an intern earlier today.  Set your bar higher.

Aug 16, 18 4:21 pm

You must be very understanding. I asked the owner of my firm what glazing putty was once, and he literally turned and walked away. In my defense, I only had a week of work experience.

There was a girl working the coffee shop who used her iPhone calculator to figure out the change from a five for a $3 drink. To her credit she was exceedingly well-versed in history, especially for a 23 year old.

As for the intern who didn't know how to calculate area, I'd fire them on the spot.


Do we need a thread that's just ridiculously stupid things we've done or seen people do? I'd be on board for that.

I could fill a book with that. Come to think of it I already have.

Non Sequitur

I'd should be canonized twice over with the hand holding I've done so far this week for this one individual.

Do you get paid extra for babysitting?

Non Sequitur

Extra... not really, but salary negotiations next month will certainly be interesting.


That's pretty bad, but you can extend a little bit of leeway to someone who's fresh out of school. While working at a "top 25" firm, I once overheard three senior architects slowly, and with increasing frustration, explain to a design principal, who had 30+ years of experience and had previously run his own firm, the concept of a UL rated wall assembly and the necessity for it. That really blew my mind beyond any dumb thing I've ever heard from an intern.

Non Sequitur

I'm the ULC (C because Canada) expert in our office and I'm constantly explaining things to the top tier senior folks.


NS, do you have anyone below you that you can delegate your intern responsibilities to? When I had about 2-3 years experience, I oversaw a summer intern mostly because no one else was available to spend the time with her. Learned a ton about what it takes, how to teach someone the basics, etc., and she actually came back to work for us full-time after graduation because she wanted to work with me again.

Non Sequitur

Thatsthat, nice story.

Our office structure is not set up in such a way... we tend to overvalue new hire's skills and throw them a small project to do solo as a test. It's always a gong show and I'm not sure why ownership keeps doing things this way. But, at the moment, I have one summer student and one fresh junior tech whom I am overseeing casually and it's just like I was a studio TA. I end up solo on pretty much all my projects once they leave the DD phase (size from a few 100ks to 40+million) so I never have grunts at my disposal. Our grunts get shared around mostly on the int-des projects.

You don't have "grunts". Grunts are called that because they do the heavy lifting. Sounds like your people couldn't lift a roll of trace.

Non Sequitur

Hands off my trace!


Interesting! I am always curious to hear how other offices are structured which is why I asked. Our ownership would be mortified to give any new hire a project of their own. Our greenest are somewhat shared but mostly assigned to a project team until they show they are capable of more.


If I were in your shoes, I would look at moving to a small firm.  I've worked at two offices that were on the smaller side (current is about 10 in the studio; previous was 2-4 including me) and what I've experienced is that you really have to learn how to do almost every part of the job.  Here, you start out by getting redlines for 1 project, then as you show your competency, they give you more opportunities for new responsibility.  You slowly get opportunities to go on site, interface with the client, talk to contractors, and work with consultants.  The teams are small so the upper-level managers WANT you to learn so they are able to delegate to you.

Aug 16, 18 5:27 pm

I agree, small(er) firm and some construction experience will serve you very well, not many master builder's out there anymore, Renzo Piano being one of the best examples. His work shows a technical understanding that is rare on both large and small scale projects. If that's your interest, but if you just want to wave your hands around a lot and use big words, get a nice outfit and hit the cocktail party circuit!

Shifting from firm to firm is not uncommon when you start out, it is kind of like dating you probably won't want to marry the first person you date so get experience in different offices if for no other reason than to see how other shops run things and to give yourself some idea as to what is normal and what is bad or good out there in the work environment. 

Get your licence and try to join a professional group like AIA, NAIOP or some other group that is active in your area. Most AIA chapters do free events for folks just starting get into the architecture career.

Over and OUT

Peter N

Aug 17, 18 11:49 am

Changing firms a few times early in your career to diversify your experience is what most people do. BUT one thing to consider is if you're not getting the type of work you want, why is that? Have you shown interest in it, or any particular skill at it? If you're interested in learning detailing, do you think about how the details would resolve when you do your SketchUp models/PS renderings? Do you ask about how design elements would really be achieved? Same goes for the engineering - if you start asking questions about this stuff, maybe the senior architects will start looping you in more. I'm definitely not just going to start handing off technical stuff to the interns unless they've got a track record of asking intelligent questions about it and showing at least a basic level of understanding and interest. But if I know they're interested, I'll start pointing stuff out and eventually loop them in more. 

Bottom line is you're responsible for your own career. If you're not being handed technical stuff to do (which if you're under 5 years experience is totally unsurprising), you can go learn on your own. Read the basic books on this stuff. You can find all the info you need to get started in the ARE study guides. 

If you start to understand the basics and can have intelligent conversations about, for example, "hey this giant cantilever we have in SketchUp might be hard to support" then you're in and you'll start getting the exposure you want. 

Aug 17, 18 3:41 pm

I think knowing how to bullsh*t with confidence is the greatest and most important skill. Mix this ability with some actual knowledge .

Aug 17, 18 4:17 pm

The sound of ladders drawn up in an ageing population of longevity of life society in a profession that favours experience.

Aug 17, 18 5:39 pm

I think the knowledge of both presenting and building is essential for now and the future.  Its not this or that or one over the other. 

Aug 17, 18 8:56 pm

Presentation experience will not make you an architect.  If you want to be an architect you *need* to know the technical need to at least have a basic understanding.  It is FAR too early for you to make a call on whether you want to be more design oriented or technical.  Go somewhere where you can get exposure to all sides of projects.  

Aug 21, 18 10:56 pm

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