Friday, May 18, 2012

Philosophical Inquiry of The Day [PIOTD]: To Be An Architect, Or To Do Something Else With A Background In Architecture? [Part I]

A couple of weeks ago I was working one of my part time jobs at the lovely Urban Outfitters and I had an interesting conversation with the last gentleman I helped that evening, as my shift came to an end. This is how it started:

Me: "Would you like your receipt printed or emailed?"
Customer: "Oh!? Emailed would be nice." (paraphrasing)
Me: "Alright, what is your email?"
Customer: ""
Me: "Berkeley? Cool. What are you studying?"
Customer: "I studied Architecture."

I was overcome by excitement as I had found a fellow brave soul.  I wanted desperately to find out if he - let's call him George -  was faring better than I in this horrid economy. In short, George had graduated from Berkeley with a BA in Architecture a handful of years ago. He was now working as a middle school teacher somewhere in Los Angeles, and - here comes the interesting part - he LOVES it.

I was so curious to know how George had settled for this job. He must be miserable (or so I thought). It turned out George had worked at a number of Architecture firms after his graduation from UC Berkeley and quickly came to the conclusion that he did not enjoy working in his field of study- the hours were too long and the work was certainly not fulfilling. I immediately felt a kinship - I was not alone in my misery and confusion about the field I had seriously been considering running away from. After realizing that working in an Architecture firm, and eventually becoming a licensed Architect, was not his calling, George began working with Middle Schoolers and realized he wanted to be a teacher. He is currently getting his teaching credentials at UCLA and is teaching Mathematics as well as an elective class in Photography. We bonded over our love of the Concept of Architecture and we both agree that we would not go back and change our majors. George said that teaching his elective course is so fulfilling because he gets to teach his kids about the beauty of photography. His teachings are very much influenced by what he learned in Architecture school. There is a lot of value in getting an Architecture Degree, without the ultimate goal of becoming a licensed Architect. The Dean of the Architecture Department at Cal Poly, SLO once said: "Architecture is the Liberal Arts Degree of the Twenty-First Century!" And I have to say, I agree.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think everyone should just major in Architecture for the hell of it. While, I admit, most of the time I had no idea what I was doing and my college career is a major blur due to the countless sleepless nights, rigorous class schedules, endless assignments, and the myriad of hours sitting in front of a computer screen and orbiting around my 3D model to no avail, I got a lot out of my degree. I'm still figuring most of it out, but I know those 5 years (6 for me) have given me many valuable skills that I can apply to the real world as well as to any job I set my heart on. I came across a discussion topic posted on the popular site Archinect that read: "To be an Architect, or to do something else with a background in Architecture?" I ask myself this every day in hopes that I will have an "AHA moment" and all my problems will be solved.

So now, for the fun of it, here are a few people that studied Architecture and are now doing something else with their lives:

Coolhaus Ice Cream Truck:
image courtesy of
This architecturally themed meals-on-wheels, aka farchitecture (food + architecture), was created by Natasha and Freya in 2008 in Los Angeles, CA as a result of a not-so-booming economy. They have combined ice cream with architectural dialogue and named their business after Dutch architect Rem Koolhaus. They are bomb.
image courtesy of

Vanessa Hirschowitz Jewelry Design:

 Vanessa studied architecture and art history at Barnard College and received her Masters in Architecture from Columbia University in NY in 1993. She practiced architecture in NYC while studying metalwork and then in early 2000 decided to practice jewelry-making full time. These are just some examples of her many works of art.

images courtesy of

These ladies inspire me to find what works for me, and just frickin' do it!

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