My Story – My Architectural Past, Present and Future

My Story – My Architectural Past, Present and Future 150 150 hopeworksdesign

So, with all the discussion online about architects as storytellers and adding the architects’ voice to our society’s narrative, I thought I’d add my own story to the mix. As you know from my blurb on the hopeworksdesign about page, I used to be an architect. I guess I should be a bit more specific and a little more careful when I say that. For one, I don’t believe one can really stop being an architect despite no longer creating architecture. There’s a way of thinking and seeing that you never lose. So, in that respect, I’m still an architect. But, here’s the catch, I left architecture before getting licensed. So, technically, I can’t refer to myself with the title of architect. I guess architectural designer is more accurate? Anyway, all of that to say, I used to design buildings and other tangible things and I went to school to get a professional degree to do so.

My particular backstory shares some similarities with many other architects and probably yours too. I’ve always wanted to be an architect. I decided when I was about 8 years old that I would grow up to be an architect. It may seem crazy to some, but I know many of my archie buddies also decided to become architects when they were very young. Its a thing I guess. Anyway, I loved playing with legos and lincoln logs and erector sets…all the usual toys of little architects-to-be. I liked building structures from McDonald’s french fries when my mom would take me there for a Happy Meal treat. (Building anything with just fries and ketchup as mortar is a difficult feat, let me tell you!) I also liked to draw “maps” of houses.

No time to read a long post? Click here to get the short story!

You see, at the time I didn’t know what plans, sections, or elevations were and didn’t know about architects either. But, when playing house with my dolls, I’d pretend to have several families each with their own house. I’d play the mom in each of these families and switch between them throughout play. It was kinda like doing a one-woman show playing all these characters. What can I say, I was an only child and was very adept at playing by myself…very good imagination you know. So, to keep all the families’ homes straight, I’d draw out the layout for each…all the rooms on all the floors and what each home looked like on the outside. I’d keep them handy in case I forgot where the kitchen or some other room was supposed to be for each home in my head. A lot of effort for playing but hey, I was a crazy kid and I liked to be accurate.

One day, someone (maybe an uncle or a cousin) saw my “maps” and asked me if I wanted to be an architect when I grew up. I didn’t know what that meant and was told its a person that makes houses and draws them up like my “maps”. I liked making my “maps” and thought it’d be cool to do that for a living. And so began my quest to become an architect.

Not long after discovering architecture, I read an article in the kids’ magazine “Highlights” about an architect out west making adobe homes and using discarded materials (plastic bottles, the plastic rings that holds six packs together, old rubber tires, etc) as part of the insulation. I thought this was fantastic! There was a lot next to that McDonald’s that we would frequent where people would pile up old tires. I saw that pile of discarded tires as future home insulation! As I grew up and read about famous architects I saw myself becoming a great master builder that would save the world through design. My hometown is Detroit, so of course like everyone else, I wanted to save Detroit via architecture. I went on the study architecture at Cornell and intern at a firm on almost all my school breaks. I was very fortunate to have gotten to do a lot of real design work on some amazing projects while interning.

Unfortunately,  a few years post graduation, the Great Recession helped force a change in plans of becoming a licensed architect. It doesn’t get all the blame as around that time I was beginning to question my single-minded vision of my future. Architecture made me happy but something was still not quite right. The crazy hours and low pay, the long process of getting licensed and wondering if I had chosen the correct field to pursue at 8 years old fed the doubts. Due to the recession and the lack of work, I needed to do something to support myself and that turned out to be graphic and web design. Web design (and marketing also to an extent) were hobbies all along, profitable hobbies but just a side thing to do outside of architecture. With the recession wreaking its havoc on the building industry, I found steady web design work from small and medium businesses. I also found I had a talent for marketing and when combined with my design skills, it made for an interesting change of life plans.

The Short Story

So, while I stopped practicing architecture, I’m still and will forever be passionate about architecture, urban planning, everything about the built environment. That’s why I’ve decided to use my design and marketing expertise to help AEC professionals tell their stories and effectively use the web to prosper. Helping others be successful in an field I love; helping that industry reclaim its voice… these are goals as lofty as my previous desire to save the world via architecture. So some things never change I guess!

I wake up happy to do what I’m doing and feel excited to do what I’m doing…that’s the best part of this journey so far. I had thought the path to architecture would get me there…in way, it did, just not how I expected. Life’s funny that way.


So what’s your story? How do you use your online presence (website, blog, social media) to add your unique story to the built environment narrative? Tell me in the comments below.

If you’d like to brainstorm ideas about how to get your voice heard or how to use the web to effectively connect with your target market, contact me for a free 20 min website and online marketing review.

    1 comment
    • Collier Ward

      Thanks for sharing the details of your story here. I too wanted to become an Architect from an early age.
      I’m glad you had the wisdom and courage to make your career pivot when you did. I believe your potential to “save the world” through design is even greater on the path you chose.

      Keep up the good work.

      Collier Ward
      Architect & Writer

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