What's your job title and what does the gig entail?
My job title is 'Architectural Designer' at a small firm in Albany called 3tarchitects. Technically I am an architectural intern, but the industry has recently adopted 'Architectural Designer.' I believe that this shift in terms is in part to acknowledge that the architectural internship can last years (until one takes their licensing exam) and the knowledge base really grows far beyond that of a summer intern. Also, it commands a little more respect when interacting with consultants, clients, and contractors. The architectural internship is pretty old school — similar to an apprenticeship. My daily tasks are designed to provide me with well-rounded on-the-job training; from client meetings and site visits, to designing and producing construction documents, to interior design and in-house marketing. As an intern the majority of this is done as part of a team, with the oversight of a studio leader or project manager who is typically a more experienced intern or a licensed architect.
Ten years ago, is this something you imagined you might be doing?
At age 17 my primary concern was the next punk show I was going to drive into Pittsburgh to see. However, when hard-pressed to think about my impending college enrollment and a future career I knew it would be in a creative field. I have always had a love for powerful spaces-in nature and the built environment. It took some exploration for me to articulate that this interest could be channeled into a career as an architect. So 7.5 years after starting college (majoring in studio arts and earning my bachelor's in interior design) I finally got my Master's in Architecture in December of last year.
Do you still harbor other aspirations?
My primary aspiration right now is to focus on this chapter. Although I am done with my formal education I still have a ton to learn about producing successful, interesting, and beautiful architecture. A big part of me feels that until I get that license I haven't really even earned my degree. Other than that I'd love to make furniture and maybe be an Olympic handballer.
How has working in an office environment changed you?
So far office life has not changed me that much. I do fight the urge to use smiley emoticons several times a day, I did high-five a co-worker last week, and I confess to saying I had a case of the Mondays yesterday... it's only a matter of time I suppose. The architecture office is a pretty lively and flexible work environment. It is a smooth transition from the academic 'studio.' At 3t we all have our own workspace in a brightly colored and lit open office housed right in downtown Albany. Sometimes music and laughter can be heard, other times we are all wearing headphones and frantically clicking our mice. The biggest change is that office hours are typically 9 hours a day instead of the 18 I had become accustomed to in school.
Do you think your job will still exist in ten years?
Absolutely, my brain won't even let me imagine an alternative. I mean, food, water, shelter, right...?
Is your office more The Office or Mad Men?
Neither. Our office is rich with talent, intelligence, passion, and fun. We also have a great group of smart, funny women; a demographic grossly absent from both The Office and Mad Men with a ratio of women to men as 4 to 1 compared to a traditional architecture firm. We do have a couple of Office-worthy characters (I'm too new to name names), and we have a wall where a framed Simpson-ized version of each of us hangs.
What's the best part of office life? And the worst?
The best part of office life is finding a group of people who share my philosophy on the power and potential of architecture. Also, after going through an academic program designed to break your spirit and dole out criticism at every opportunity it is great to be an integral and valued part of a team... and actually have work built (and I'm not talking an ant-sized center for kids who can't read good). The worst part of office life is copy machines.
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