The Self Education of An Architect

I haven’t caught up with catasterist as much as I wanted this week, partly because the combination of a flu shot and blood-giving pretty well knocked me out yesterday, and partly because I’ve been running around trying to tie other loose ends together. Why, you ask? Because, my friends, on Monday I start a job. Actually I have two days of orientation to get myself well orientated to the many policies, procedures, and excellent benefits coming my way, one day of work (Wednesday), and then it is Eat Too Much Day, so I don’t know how much working will get done this week.

Hurrah! A job! A job with the equivalent of a 20% pay rise (and the possibility of regular increases if all goes well), a job with three weeks of vacation, paid holidays & sick days, and PAID OVERTIME. A job with pensions and health insurance and dental insurance and what seem to be really excellent bosses doing really interesting and important work. I was not entirely sure such jobs existed in this day and age.

The one thing this job does not have is architecture. It has nothing to do with architecture, except insofar as everything has something to do with architecture, which if you ask me is quite a bit. There are moments when this seems to me a bit of a failure on my part—a failure to be able to withstand underpayment and other forms of disrespect, failure to call up a good job, or failure to just keep looking. You could, fairly, call me a quitter.

But here’s the thing: I can’t afford to be jobless any more. And I’m kind of excited to have more time, energy, and money to firstly sort my life out and secondly work on my own projects than I ever had working as an architect. And to be honest, I’m not all that good at being bossed about creative things, though I’m perfectly happy to either collaborate on creativity or straight up help people with other things. Plus as time went on my previous job involved fewer and fewer things that could even remotely be construed as creative. And I have to say, I’m pretty excited to go help some people who seem to be really pleased to have me.

When I first considered taking a non-design job I made, as I often do, a pro-con list for three scenarios: small architecture office, large corporate architecture firm, and non-architecture firm. I weighted various areas (pay, creative freedom, responsibility, etc..) and ranked the choices, and was pretty surprised to see non-architecture job (assuming good pay & benefits) win out. Why? Because the only think it really lacked was education—I can get my creative freedom during the moonlight (and weekend) hours, so as long as the workday is reasonable and I can get better money outside architecture, among other things.  I wish I were wealthy enough to work for peanuts and/or buy my own health insurance; I wish I were young enough to work fourteen-hour days seven days a week, I wish I didn’t mind all the difficulties and disappointments, but I do. I could maybe take one of the three, but I can’t take them all for an indefinite period.  I do hope to one day have my own design office, but if I’m living month-to-month hoping my rent check will clear, that’s not going to happen. And maybe an excellent architecture job will turn up sometime, but I can’t afford to wait any longer right now, so time for a new tack. In the tradition of Charles Ives, William Carlos Williams, Herman Melville, and so many others I’m going to divvy up the bread earning from the bliss following.

When I was comparing my various job options, I decided that the one thing I was really going to miss out by working a non-design job was education. But you know what? I generally do a better job of teaching myself things than most other people do teaching me. I know there are inherent limits in self-education, but they are pretty easily remedied, and four years of grad school, really, should be enough to get me going in the right direction.

So! Here goes! A new project! I haven’t decided if I should give The Self Education Project (is that a good title?) its own home or just use Catasterist… we’ll see. I’m going to keep up The Fulfillment Center (drawing is an important part of architecture) and my photography, but The Unemployment Project is over and the ongoing Ice Cream Project is taking a back burner (I can barely fit in my pants anymore), so other than following continuing Candela updates, I don’t think anything else is going to take an inordinate amount of my time for the near future. Once I settle into the new job the new project will begin: The Self Education of An Architect. I’m going to start putting together a syllabus, course aims, and goals. Will I take the ARE exams and use that as part of my course? Maybe I’ll make myself my own client and whip this wrecky apartment into shape. And once funds are less tight I’ll definitely take some architectural field trips, and of course there will be assigned readings. I may even take a night class in industrial design if I can find one. Suggestions for independent design study welcome!

It’s a little scary jumping off in a new direction like this—have I sacrificed all my architect cred? (Architects—will you still say hello to me when I run into you on the street? Can I still call you colleagues?) Will this help me do cool new things? Will I run myself ragged? Will I run out of steam? Is this brilliant or stupid? I have no idea! But I’m about to find out…



This entry was posted on Thursday, November 18th, 2010 and is filed under architecture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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One Response to “The Self Education of An Architect”

  1. John C

    Congrats on the new job!

    I’ve been contemplating some of the same issues for the past year. Luckily, I’ve had some sweet unemployment benefits (thanks, Massachusetts) which have kept me (nominally) in the architecture game. But, I’ve also been part-time programming on the side, and as Congress goes more Republican and the unemployment benefits get cut, I’ll have to start thinking about moving to full-time computer programming.

    I’m with you – the main thing I want in any job is the ability to keep learning. And if I can’t get that in the job, than having enough free time to learn on my own is imperative. You are a great self-motivator, so I think the Self-Education is a great idea. Another blog, perhaps? I don’t know how you juggle so many.

    I have learned a lot through my ARE studying. I feel that it’s filled in a lot of the gaps left over from school. Dowside – all the information is presented so dryly. It also depends on your level of interest in any one test. I was somewhat interested learning about contracts, but HVAC currently has me bored to tears.

    I look forward to following/being inspired by you Self-Education project!

    - J