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Career Story: Architect For Residential And Small Commercial Projects

Architect For Residential And Small Commercial Projects

Job Title: Architect

Type of Company: My office specializes in residential and small commercial projects.

Education: BS, Architecture, University of Virginia •• M.Arch., Columbia University

Previous Experience: I worked in various architectural offices in Manhattan that focused on commercial and institutional projects. I taught architectural design, history and theory at New York Institute of Architecture for a number of years.

Job Tasks: My daily schedule can vary considerably. Some days, I meet with clients and prospective clients to discuss projects. This can be a difficult task as the client may have certain ideas that differ from what they can do within the ordinances of their municipality. Often, their ideas conflict with what you think would be a better design and there must be a considerable amount of tactful discussion and negotiation.

When I have jobs in construction, I meet with contractors to discuss any problems or issues that arise during construction. Since I do many renovations, issues constantly arise when we begin construction. There can be structural issues that were not visible or changes that the client requests. You must be able to quickly assess a problem and provide various options to correct the problem. Some days, I meet with product representatives to learn about new products. Some days, I have all three meetings. And then there are days when I am in the office working on projects, doing preliminary design work, construction drawings, or code investigations.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I enjoy learning new things and meeting with new people. Even though I focus on residential projects, every client's needs are different, so things are never boring. I enjoy the problem-solving portion of the job tremendously; in the preliminary design phase, you are expected to take the client's list of requirements and develop a viable solution that addresses their needs, the municipality requirements, and aesthetic concerns. That being said, there is a tremendous responsibility that goes along with the job. And this responsibility can be very stressful.

Job Tips: Understand that often there is a chasm between what you do in school and what you do in the "real" world. Often there are mundane tasks that just need to be done. It is not always doing design work to wow the critics.

Additional Thoughts: In retrospect, I would have branched out, looking to get certification in landscape as well as architecture. This is in opposition to the specialization that occurs in the architecture profession, but it would be a valuable asset.

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