What do you want to be when you grow up? What a huge question that we ask students to answer at a point in their lives when they are just working on figuring out who they are at that moment.
Hosting high school students in our office has become a regular occurrence over the years. We believe that mentorship is not only a key component to the future of our industry, but simply put is the right thing to do. We want to help students figure out the right path to take before college, to answer the question What do you want to be when you grow up? Or at least what do you not want to be when you grow up. We have had students from a wide variety of high schools around the valley join us with some going on to architectural school and some finding out through their time in our office that architecture was not the right path for them. This year we hosted a student, Ryan, from Eastern Mennonite High School. (past job shadow blogs here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here)
Here is his story:
The question, ‘what do you plan to do after graduation?’ is really hard for a high school student to grasp as the scope of opportunities and jobs available to them is unknown. So for my junior year, I signed up for an internship at Gaines Group Architects. This is a 12-week internship (job shadow) where for about an hour and a half each day before heading to school I had a chance to be in their architectural office to see, hear, observe, and learn.
While most people would assume an architect’s job would be to design immediately on computers, Charles directed me through the thought process and the restrictions real life can play on a project. We looked online for a plot of land for sale and brainstormed our ‘client’ and their requirements. These things would play into my clients’ budget and restrictions on how I could design the house. For anything I wanted to design, I needed to justify value for the design decision.
I was given the goal of making a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1300 square foot house. This right off the bat was extremely difficult because a lot of the standard living sizes for several rooms would require more square feet than I was provided. Charles used this to help me realize that sometimes, customers might come in with unrealistic goals and it is our job to find the best compromise for them. This house is for a younger family with 2 kids so it needs to be large enough for the family but also big enough that they could resell it if/when they are ready to upgrade.
I learned several of the basic principles for designing a house from sketching to spending the first couple of weeks just designing and reiterating the house on paper. I learned how to draw different wall thicknesses and how to think reasonably space. By the end of the first month, I had completed a paper sketch of the house for my ‘client’ that was 1614 square ft.
I have always loved designing and creating new things with my hands or on online design programs, and drawing the house on paper was my favorite part of the process. The next step was for me to learn another design software, Trimble Sketchup.
Trimble Sketchup is an online CAD software that allowed me to design the entire home on my Chromebook. This process is what I spent the last 9-10 weeks of the internship working on. I learned, experimented, and then implemented new and different building techniques into the house. I was able to import furniture and utilities to create a complete 3D model of what the house might look like if it was built in real life.
Through the process of constantly redesigning and thinking about codes and structural integrity I have learned that architecture is not for me. While I love the design process and brainstorming, I am not as interested in designing buildings as a future career. Charles taught me how to think critically and to get the best design possible for the client even if they didn’t think about or originally request it. He makes sure to stay very connected with his team and his clients to always make sure everyone is in the loop and aware of any major changes. His ability to multitask and work with others is why he is a great architect and it shows.
Charles also connected me with Dennis at R.S. Monger & Sons who gave me a tour of their cabinet division. There I was able to see another side of design in a semi-custom environment. I also visited Rocktown Urban Wood with Ned Gearing where he has more freedom to design whatever the material allows. The other experience I gained was two commercial construction projects under construction with Herr and Company owner Jim Herr where I had the opportunity to hear about how he takes designs and executes the plans to reality.
I am very thankful for the opportunity Charles has provided for me through his time and effort to give me a real-life experience of what an architect’s life is like. He has allowed me to discover what I loved and disliked about architecture and it will greatly help me figure out what I want to do in my future career.