Why I became an Architect, by La Femme Architecte
They say if you ask the same question to 100 different people, you will get 100 different answers. We like to ask questions here at Habitables – we believe answers lead to more questions, broadening the mind and improving ones outlook and opinion. With this in mind, we present to you the very first ‘Architect Q’.
To begin this new entry, I wanted to introduce someone that personally has been extremely helpful and supportive over the last 6 months. La Femme Architecte is a New York based architect, writer, blogger, tweeter and all round wicked person, with a love for architecture that puts most architects to shame. Her blog La Femme Architecte is an honest and frank account of her professional journey – if you want to explore the work life of an architect, this is a great place to begin.
I wanted to know from La Femme Architecte what exactly it was that guided her to this career, why she was here and ultimately, what it is that makes architecture such a passion, so I asked one simple question: Why did you become an architect? Here is her honest and open response.
Why I became an Architect
Many architects whom I have met over the course of my education and career seem to share the same story of always wanting to be an architect since they can remember. That’s not my story. I did not aspire to be an architect until much later in my youth. In fact, it did not start off as an aspiration but a suggestion for my consideration when I came to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Before the idea of being an architect was ever considered, I wanted to be a graphic designer or a writer. I have always had an interest (and still do) in art and writing. I began drawing at a very young age. I drew on anything that provided me with a blank canvas, which included white walls. I don’t think I had a natural gift for art but it was something I enjoyed and pursued it through high school where I studied graphic design. Although I enjoyed my arts education, I found writing as my means of self-expression and creative outlet. In the beginning, I would be inspired to write based on a story I read. As I matured, my life and observations inspired some of my later stories that I have written.
Some of my other professional aspirations included wanting to be a New York City detective. I wanted to solve crime and put away criminals. Then I learned I had to be a cop first. This required physical training, which I did not think I had the strength and stamina to go through. This did not excite me. I also wanted to be a scientist that specialized in genetics but I quickly realized that science was not my best subject in school. I was overwhelmed by complicated looking words, and I had a difficult time grasping scientific concepts.
I was not convinced that studying art or writing was the best use of my college education, or if it would lead to a fulfilling career. And then the idea of becoming an architect came to me as a suggestion from my mom. An architect? What does an architect do besides build houses? Well, apparently much more than that.
I enrolled in an architecture program for high school students at Pratt (Manhattan). It was through this introductory program that opened my eyes and mind to the world of architecture. Architecture, for me, became a myriad of things. It was complex in the issues and questions it posed. Architecture was poetic in the forms that it took. Architecture maybe static but it didn’t have to be. Architecture was also analytical and detailed, and it challenged me. I found these qualities attractive as a path to a fulfilling career.
Education alone did not inspire me to be an architect. It was from studying abroad in France in the summer of 1997 that had impressed upon me the aspiration to become an architect. We traveled all over France looking at modern and contemporary architecture, one of which was the Maison De Verre by Pierre Chareau, one of my favorite buildings. We also visited The French National Library by Dominique Perrault, The Arab Institute by Jean Nouvel, The Lyon Train Station by Santiago Calatrava; to name a few. We also met and visited the offices of French architects, including Jean Nouvel (though he was not present at the time of our visit). I remember being impressed with what was happening architecturally in Paris compared to NYC. The architecture was progressive and slick in their forms and materials. The spaces within were full of character and complexities that played with light and program. I wanted to do that. I wanted to build those buildings in New York.
For me, becoming an architect encompasses some qualities of my previous career aspirations. The young girl who wanted to be a NYC detective may never put away criminals but she gets to solve architectural mysteries with clues left by clients, and investigate job sites to determine what may or may not happen there. She may not become a geneticist but at least she gets to probe, isolate, and enhance desirable building attributes and spatial qualities to create something that has a positive impact on society and the people who occupy them. Being an architect may not be a childhood dream of mine but it is something I’ve been inspired to become because I want to do good creative things.