Discussion: View Thread

"How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

  • 1.  "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-14-2016 21:00
    Hi, Folks ---
    Wonderful stories...from "young kids" to Judith Wasserman, who was 39 when she saw the light!
    Neil Silva's being told; "If you're in the field to make money, get out.", brought back a fond memory.  In my first Architects'-office job (age 20), I worked for a wonderful pair of partners in a local office.  Part of my duties included field observation at a school that was nearing completion.  One of the partners told me; "You'll probably never make as much as the skilled-trades people that build your jobs!..."
    He was right...
    Oh well, you can't take it with you, right?
    And, talk-about changing demographics and feelin' old...  In my last job in someone else's office, '81 - '84, we received an RFP for re-use of that same school!
    And, the fascinating stories of young folks' tools-&-toys for inspiration, were great, and kinda familiar.  I had a generous supply of support; thanks, Mom.
    Do any of these sound familiar?
    1.     Summer art classes at the Museum (age 9-to-12).
    2.     Teachers in grammar school gave me extra "math paper", for sketching.
    3.     And, Mom rescued Dad's "shirt cardboards" (from the cleaners') to draw on.
    4.     My house sketches, perspectives, were "originals", incl. a "battle-of-the-styles" mess. 
    5.     I built several model houses w/ construction scraps*, and from Druke's**.
    6.     My brother & I didn't always get along, so I proposed my own bedroom...***
    7.     In 6th grade, I did real work on a neighbor's house!****
    8.     Late '50s car-styling fascinated me ('57 Ford: "Suzie Sorority in steel").
    9.     Architecture books as occasional gifts.
    New houses were being built near our house.  I hung around, knew the framers and kitchen-fitters, picked-up scraps, etc.  Kitchen cabinets were field-built then, which yielded great long, skinny scraps.
    Did anyone have Druke's Lumber Yard sets?  The yellow box contained a great selection of basswood, and a tiny backsaw.  I'd get one at Christmas, my birthdate, and occasionally in-between.  My "intuitive" scale of the model houses was very close to 1:16 (3/4"=1'-0").
    My older brother Jim & I had the room over the garage, and were often at odds.  At about age 8-or-so, I realized there was 7'x14' of eave space behind us, and did a sketch for a shed dormer to have my own area.  That went over like a lead balloon...
    In the Spring of '58, I saw batter boards on a lot 1 block down the hill.  Soon, I'd befriended Tony G., an amazing guy; he and 3-or-4 co-workers at one of the local lumber yards were building his brick-veneer house!  By some miracle, he let me do real work on his house.  I nailed-off his subfloor (1x8 T-&-G on the diagonal; they did the tongue nail, I filled-in the 2 in-between), back-filled some of the foundation, carried hod up the ladder, and did miscellaneous other chores.  After working there much of the Summer, I had to stop for 7th grade.  (Imagine that in today's liability climate!!) 
    Ah well, back to work...
    Keep-on Arkitekkin'!
    william j. devlin aia, inc.,
    Springfield, MA

  • 2.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-15-2016 19:29
        I didn't decide what to do with myself until the first day of college when they asked me to declare a major. What I wanted was to be a sculptor but felt that my family wouldn't like that. My brother (a physicist)  had sent me a letter in which he said, "Don't go down there and waste the folk's money." Since my dad was an engineer, I figured that architecture was sort of half way between engineering and art, so that is what I picked. Seven years of college, three degrees and over 50 years of a modestly successful practice later, I still wonder -what if??? I often  think of the saying, "An architect cannot put square wheels on a cannon--a sculptor can."
    Arthur Rogers, A.I.A.
    Dallas, Texas

  • 3.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-18-2016 18:25

    Interesting story to read.

    1980 June - My parents left for home and dropped me for next day admission committee meeting advising to select chemical or mechanical engineering; I selected Architecture, I was fortunate that they allowed me go on my way, after a month's time gap they learned that I had selected Architecture.

    People who use to feel sorry about my selection, later after my successful practice appreciated .....

    Chintan Virani AIA
    Architect - Director
    Windsor ON

  • 4.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-19-2016 18:22

    I always liked to draw and build things. But I thought I was going to be a car designer, even said so in my high school yearbook. I attended CCNY for engineering and in my sophomore year I was working part time in the NYC office of Victor Gruen Associates running the mail room and the errands. I loved it - the office experience, the people I met, the cool location in Greenwich Village. That turned me to architecture and I registered for next year in evening school at Cooper Union and worked in a small office as a junior draftsman and loved everything about that year. Cooper Union then got  a full degree program and I switched into day school to take it, and went on from there.


    Edward R. Acker |AIA |LEED AP

    Preservation of Historic Winchester

          VP|Chair Education Committee

    106 Clevenger Court

    Winchester, VA 22601



    P  Please consider the environment. Do not print this message unless necessary.


  • 5.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-20-2016 18:01

    I think I was 12 years old when I found architecture to be interesting, but I think my interest started when I was a lot younger. Throughout my childhood I was always drawing everything I saw in the environment. I also built things along with taking things apart. I wanted to see how machines worked on the inside. I used to drive my grandmother crazy because I used to get into the tool shed and start playing with the tools. I think I was already predisposed to becoming an architect from a very young age. 

    Daniel Guich, NCARB, LEED AP, CDT
    San Francisco, CA

  • 6.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-20-2016 14:32

    My love of architecture began with first hand exploration of ancient architecture.  As a young man I was an accountant in the Air Force serving in Turkey with travel throughout Turkey and once to Greece. Many weekends and holidays were spent touring partially restored ancient Roman and Greek ruins. One weekend was spent on the Acropolis in Athens.  Later the GI Bill led me to pursue a business degree at Kansas University where I met architecture students who showed me active architecture studios at Marvin Hall.  I too had taken art and drafting classes in high school and in my youth built many detailed model kits that interacted with wood block cities, Lincoln Log houses, and Erector Set buildings.  Add green plastic army men, HO train sets and Hot Wheels and hours would pass swiftly.  I took a chance and was accepted to architecture school the following semester.  That was 37 years ago and now I am celebrating my 27th anniversary as a sole practitioner.  Other than the occasional wish to join a rock band, I’ve never wanted any other career.

    Randal Steiner AIA
    Randal Steiner Architect PA
    Wichita KS

  • 7.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-21-2016 17:58

    I don't remember deciding until I was looking at colleges, but looking back, it seems inevitable. As a toddler, my parents say I was prone to shriek in odd places with no apparent reason. Once, dad turned as I did it and saw me cock my head and realized I was listening to the echoes. I hated my Barbie Townhouse, and gave it to my sister, but stole the elevator. I turned my bedroom window sill into her light-filled "penthouse apartment" complete with private elevator. And I've always been very tactile, touching everything where ever I go. I was good at art, but also very good at math and science.


    In high school, when it came time to look at colleges and think about a major, my math and science teachers were pushing me toward engineering. My long time art teacher recommended I look at architecture because she thought it might be a good fit for my artistic and scientific sides. Initially, dad and I looked at Architectural Engineering programs. A kind dean discouraged me after meeting me, explaining the degree would not allow me to gain either an architects license or PE and thus would not allow me to achieve anything I wanted. From there, I considered double majoring in architecture and structural engineering. Architecture schools looked at me like I had two heads when we toured and I mentioned that option.


    In the end, I went with Architecture. I still wish I had pursued structural in tandem. I had a fantastic structural professor who loved architects and told us that anything we can dream, he can make stand and to never settle for less. And I wish I could have studied further with him.


    Pamela Leonard


  • 8.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-21-2016 18:34

    (I believe I'm the first female to respond thus far.)

    I knew nothing about architecture and took the plunge when I started a Master of Architecture program after getting a bachelor's degree in mathematics.  I was almost a music major as well in college; I took the three years of music theory that were required of music majors.  I was always good at art.  I had had a few ceramics classes at various points growing up and always loved the sculptural aspects of it.

    After college I knew I was not a real mathematician nor a real musician (though I could play the piano decently).  I conjured up the idea of architecture because I knew I always loved geometry and spatial relations type things, I knew I was good at drawing and sculpture, and I knew that I wanted to do something that involved working with people.  Also, I had always wanted to be in a field where there were more men than women.  Both of my parents were chemical engineers so that I grew up knowing that I could do anything equally as well as a man.

    I had not been exposed to architecture at all in my studies all the way through college.  However, in retrospect, I was always musing about things like...what would this room be like if we were to walk on the ceiling?  I remember being fascinated by rocks, with my nose to the ground on family outings.  I have always loved flowers and trees.  As a girl, I was given a set of plastic girders and panels to build an airport.  I enjoyed that so much more than my one lonely Barbie!  

    One interesting thing after I got my M. Arch - I was in a book store leafing through a book on Richard Neutra.  Having grown up in the LA area I was interested to see his work.  To my surprise, my junior high school was in the book!  I remembered that classroom as being my favorite classroom because there was a wall of windows and a courtyard of trees and grass just outside.  While we couldn't actually go outside, I remember enjoying sitting in that classroom, being able to think and feel refreshed!  So, little did I know at the time but good architectural design had a lasting impact on my twelve-year-old self!

    Now I do residential design and love integrating the outdoors with the indoors, making a house efficient and filled with light, creating beautiful homes for my clients.

    I have been on This Old House (the project is the first one in "The Best Homes of This Old House") and have been published in Sarah Susanka's "Not So Big Remodeling - Tailoring Your Home for the Way You Really Live".

    Harriet (Chris) Chu, AIA

    Chris Chu Architect
    West Newton, MA

  • 9.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-22-2016 10:08

    It was the late seventies when my engineer father steered me toward architecture.  I thought of pursuing a career as a writer or artist, but am glad I completed a five-year professional degree at the University of Kentucky College of Architecture ('80).  I studied under Herb Greene and was honored to provide research for his book Building To Last.  I became interested in systems for materials and transport as overlaid with human use of spaces.  I created my first walking tour, of downtown Lexington, Kentucky, and published it, as well as other work on historic buildings there.  


    I moved to New York City and have been the Principal Architect at my small firm since 1988 (LFAA.nyc).  Work in historic districts engulfed me; I was part of the Steering Committee for designation of the Gansevoort Market Historic District in 2004.  Walking tours of that Market, SoHo and Tribeca West followed.  I am happy that I can incorporate appreciation of art and words in my daily work and personal life.




    Lynne Funk AIA


    LFA Architects

    134 West 29th Street, Suite 605

    New York, NY 10001

    (212) 463-9519



  • 10.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-15-2016 19:47

    My father was my influence, designing and building contemporary homes starting in the mid 1950's.  That was way before 'design build' was a thing.  He averaged about two a year, each one different, yet they were for the middle class.  They were 'open concept' before that became a thing, and he kept most of the trees up instead of clear cutting, so the houses fit into the landscape.  His first houses in 1955 were featured in the front page of the Sunday NY Times real estate section, and referred to as "California style" (but in Long Island).  His company was fittingly called Creative Homes, and he was always creative and intelligent, yet never pretentious.

    Without realizing it, I was hooked!  I grew up visiting, working (and playing), and discovering design.  However with all this, his idea of the American Dream for us kids was to work for a large corporation and get your gold watch.  

    Just glad I followed my instincts on that one. Truth be told, I 'woke up' at age 26, got my architecture degree, and never looked back!!

    William Figdor AIA
    William Figdor Art & Architecture, LLC
    Maplewood NJ

  • 11.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-19-2016 12:22
    I was in math class in 6th grade and was caught drawing floor plans by my math teacher. He was an x-marine and a tough teacher so he told my parents. They weren't happy with my early interest in design. Much later my father helped me go to architecture school.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 12.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-20-2016 20:26

    I was seven years old. Photographs of Fallingwater and the Robie House reeled me in. Helping my father build my bedroom was another major influence.

  • 13.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-22-2016 09:50

    In Chicago, after high school, I entered training and got my cosmetology license.  I was hired as an apprentice at the Vidal Sassoon salon there in 1974.  The seeds of architecture were actually planted by Vidal himself.  He was a design enthusiast and very much inspired by Modernism.  He loved coming to Chicago and always talked about the buildings he visited.  The company culture was very strong on structure (the haircut needed to stand on its own with minimum embellishment), and the training instilled a reverence for craftsmanship.  I left there in '79 to start our family.  Later, after the recession in the early '80's, my husband and I decided that it would be good for us if I went back to school.  I chose architecture as my major, mostly because it appeared to be the only course of study that included a combination of physics and art.  Also, I always had a vague notion about working to improve city life. I started at the City College in Chicago, transferred to IIT, and graduated in '93, exactly 20 years after high school.  Most people thought I was crazy, some people laughed in my face when they heard what my major was.  I had one client, though, who pointed at her haircut and said, "I always knew this was architecture."  When I started my first architecture job, the partner who hired me (Pamela Hutter) said she called me because she saw that I had worked at Vidal Sassoon's and she knew they had a rigorous design training program, and that she considered that valuable experience.  The two crafts are not as different as you might think.

    Marsha Fogarty AIA, LC, IES
    Normal IL

  • 14.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-22-2016 17:44

    I was 8 years old.

    My parents had always had friends who were architects and when I was 8 we returned to Southern Pines, NC where I was born and we visited the home of Calvin Howell who's firm was a well known in North Carolina.  His home was unlike any house I had ever been in and I was hooked.  Fortunately I had the aptitude for it, my grandfather was a carpenter and only sibling, a brother became a builder even though both our parents were school teachers.  My dad was also not afraid to build stuff taking on a rather nice workshop construction project when I was about 10. 

    Early opportunities came my way and I took advantage of them.  I had the opportunity to design an office for the farm that I worked for while I was in high school and designed my first house and a church addition between my sophomore and junior year of college.  These things only solidified my desire.

    Perry Cox
    Perry Cox Architect, PA
    Apex NC

  • 15.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-25-2016 17:45

    I first got interested when my 5th grade teacher used his new house plans to teach us fractions. My family didn't know any architects or any professionals for that matter and it certainly wasn't a woman's career at that point so I kind of forgot about it. It wasn't until I had a bit of a mid-life crisis that I decided to pursue architecture as a career so at 44 I went back to school to get my MArch and have loved my decision ever since.

    Janice Kamachi AIA
    Kamachi Design + Architecture
    San Jose CA

  • 16.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-26-2016 15:12
    Edited by David DeFilippo 07-26-2016 15:14

    Maybe 5th Grade- 10 years old  - It was the 67 Expo  and pictures of Habitat were on an episode of  Walter Conkites show -"The 21st Century" .  I asked who designed it and someone said an architect.  A recent show at our local AIA chapter had a show of Moshe Safdie's work and  some original sketches and model were there.  Full Circle.  It is now almost a 50 year journey that I am still on and have no intention of stopping.

    So in the words of Robert Hunter  and the Grateful  Dead - What a long strange trip its been ...................

    David DeFilippo AIA
    Tsoi/Kobus & Associates, Inc.
    Cambridge MA

  • 17.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-27-2016 18:14
    When I was 8 years old, my family moved into our new home, which was still under construction.  Every day after school, I would review the progress they had made.  My parents had shown me some of the changes they were making to one of the model home's plans and why.  After this, every time we went anywhere in the car (I grew up in the suburbs, so this was quite frequent), I would look at all the homes along the road and redesign them in my head, or pick my favorites.  In 9th grade, I read an architecture magazine at our school library and became aware of Alvar Aalto's work - it was fresh and new, yet related very well to Finland's natural environment . . . . eventually I traveled to Finland to see his work in person.  It's even more amazing when you see the context he was designing in - Finland's historic architecture is very Russian influenced; onion domes and the like.  

    Thirty-five years after college graduation, I'm still glad I chose this profession, because I'm doing what I love, not counting the days to retirement.  

    Carolyn  A. Hunter, 
    Context Architecture, Inc. 
    Durango, CO 

  • 18.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-28-2016 18:20

    This is me, "making cities," when I was 9 years old. I hadn't decided to become an architect, yet. That realization came around the age of 12.


    Jennifer Kretschmer, AIA
    Principal Architect
    J. Kretschmer Architect
    Los Gatos CA

  • 19.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-28-2016 13:34

    I was 6 or 7, in the 2nd grade. I don't know why, no one in my family or anyone I knew was an architect or knew much about architects or architecture. For me, it's always been about how people move thru and use space on all scales from home to, well, space, and how to make the best spaces for that use and movement.

    Genevieve Holubik AIA
    Genevieve V Holubik, AIA
    Anchorage AK

  • 20.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-29-2016 18:04

    I was three and attending my first funeral.  Everyone was dressed in black, which I thought was SO COOL.  I decided then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life dressed in black.  From that moment on, architecture seemed like the only career path.

    Michael Strogoff, FAIA
    President, Strogoff Consulting
    Mill Valley CA

  • 21.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-26-2016 17:27


    I used to walk around my home town of Kearney, Nebraska as a Junior Higher, making sketches in pencil of buildings in my home town.

    I would take them into  my 8th grade Art teacher, Mrs. Emily Beck, and she said to me after looking at sketches numerous times, "Dick, you should be an architect"!

    Sometimes someone's life time opportunities may be perched on the tip of your tongue…

    As I look back on my 36 yr. career in architecture, I will never forget her comments to me. So since the eighth grade, I've always wanted to be an architect. Now, I was one.


    Dick McConnell, AIA


  • 22.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-26-2016 18:10

    5th grade for me as well. That would have been about 1960. I liked to go with my mother to look at new houses. I never had a second thought.

    John Bigham AIA
    Bigham Roof Consulting
    Lakeland TN

  • 23.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-26-2016 23:41

    When I think back on my early influences, I remember going with my Dad to home construction sites, (when I was maybe five to approx. nine years old) he was a small, part-time home builder/ real estate developer. I was always interested in checking out the sites. I would build tree houses with my brothers and was always interested in building all types of detailed models, blocks and legos. So when my older brother was to go to college for Architectural Engineering or Mechanical Engineering, I thought; I would follow that lead and also take mechanical drafting starting in maybe 8th grade through HS architectural drafting. Though, I really didn't know what the profession of 'Architecture' was all about until Architecture school. (So much for Mr. Brady, and the Owner of Mr. Ed).

    Lawrence Schreiber AIA
    Lawrence S. Schreiber, Architect
    Lakewood NJ

  • 24.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-27-2016 17:37

    Second grade (8 years old+/-); we were asked to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up.  I'd not remembered it, but at the high school graduation ceremony they read off all of these from 10 years earlier (this was at graduation in 1986).  Interestingly, I was only one of five kids going to school (or related academies) to become what they wrote down back in 1976 (one lawyer, one doctor, a police officer, and a firefighter).  And, to answer the next question that always ensues, "No, it was not because of Mr. Brady!"  I think that because my grandparents lived in Chicago's Lake Point Tower (by Schipporeit and Heinrich - both Meis disciples) that I was exposed early on to very cool and interesting buildings entrenched within the amazing history of Chicago. Every trip to grandma's house was a drive through the annals of Architectural History.  

    Craig Hausman AIA
    Hausman Architecture
    Sacramento CA

  • 25.  RE: "How young were you when you decided to be an Architect?"

    Posted 07-20-2017 20:34
    Eleven years old.

    William McCullam AIA
    Newbury OH