New Year, New·ly Adult Architect

IMG_0203It might appear as if Frank Gehry sprung out of the womb as a spry 86 year old Benjamin Button with a T-square in one hand and a bent piece of sheet metal in the other. But architecture is a long and tumultuous career that requires years of requisite knowledge and relationships to obtain recognition within the profession.

Indeed, there are a few charlatan Bart Simpson architects, with limited knowledge, spiky hair, and enough confidence to pull a practical joke on Principal Skinner and the rest of Copenhagen by constructing man-made mountains. But for the most part, architects are old in societal standards.

Frank Gehry is 86. Rem Koolhaas is 71. Even Zaha Hadid, who seems like a contemporary mercenary imposing sinuous curves upon the status quo of robotic modernism, has been receiving discounted senior meals at Country Kitchen for over a decade.

The new year typically ushers in a changing of the guard. Out with the old, in with the new. But architecture isn’t like most professions. Good architecture is like a dish of hard candies, it sits there for eternity, yet somehow never turns stale. And for the most part, the hard candies are produced and consumed by the elderly.

Building science is slowly evolving, but the modern principles of architecture haven’t changed. The new year isn’t fresh beginnings epitomized by a cherub wearing a sash, it’s Father Time realizing he needs to exchange his cane for an orthopedic walker with tennis balls on the feet.

I’m rather excited that architecture flips the script on Father Time. Last year I was the cherub, a meek Baby Architect sitting at the kid’s table. But this year I will graduate to the adult table, with actual grown-up architects. It will still be several decades until I can qualify to sit at the card table, after dinner, playing Bridge with the established senior citizen architects, but this new year fulfill a long sought after goal. 

If my weak metaphors are not resonating – I will finally be able to refer to myself, in public,|1| as a living, breathing, building-constructing Architect.

Being a Baby Architect sucks. I received a Master’s degree in Architecture. I passed all 7 A.R.E. tests plus any additional requirements for my jurisdiction. I worked for several years in 4 separate architectural offices. But I hadn’t completed all of my “intern development” hours in a handful of categories. Therefore, I was not issued a little piece of paper from the State of Montana stating that I was officially a licensed architect, and I could not tell other humans that I was an Architect.

I used to go on long-winded rants of how as an intern architect I actually had a Master’s degree, and was not the prototypical idea of an intern, and even years after graduating from architectural school, and working in the profession, there are still advanced requirements before one can legally refer to themselves as an architect. My wife used to become exasperated and say, “No one understands these requirements, and they assume if you have a Master’s degree in Architecture then you are an Architect! So next time someone asks if you are an architect, just say YES.” 

But somehow after these repetitive conversations, I seemingly lost my way even further. I wanted to tell people I was an architect, because I seemingly was performing the same duties as an architect. But I was still morally compelled to verbosely circumnavigate the word “architect” – further obfuscating what my job was and what I am passionate about.|2| 

My current job title is Project Manager. However, my current firm doesn’t have the word architect in their name. So instead of telling people I am a Project Manager at Pearson Design Group, I try to state varying job titles to incorporate the word “architect.”|3| Thus, following my wife’s advice to not loquaciously orate about the profession, I now succinctly say either, “I’m in the architectural industry” or “I work in an architect’s office.

Unfortunately, this has caused even further confusion. Working “in the architectural industry” doubtlessly implies that I am an insulation sales representative with irrelevant knowledge about the properties of cellulose. And saying “I work in an architect’s office” implies I am a mere receptionist who directs phone calls and makes coffee. Which not only degrades my job, but also degrades receptionists, because it’s an outdated term from the Mad Men era, but I also hate answering phone calls and still don’t know how to operate the new coffee pot.

I currently have a handful of “community service” IDP hours remaining. I was hoping I could justify all of the time I spent working on this blog as “bettering the community.” But apparently, telling people they have ugly rain gutters is not a “public service.”

Therefore, this new year will be a welcome one. It will be such a relief to finally say,
“Hi. My name is Brady. And I am an architect.”




Click the purple numerals to transport between hyperlinks

1 I tell my cat all the time that I’m an architect, but she doesn’t know any better to report me to NCARB.
2 Damn you NCARB! This is probably why your one free mini-Monograph is Ethics and Professional Rules of Conduct: Distinction and Clarification.
3 A project manager could work at a janitorial supply outlet, but I’m a baby architect!

This post is part of the #ArchiTalks series in which the multi-faceted architect Bob Borson, of Life of an Architect, selects a theme and a group of us other (architectural) bloggers all post on the same day, on the same topic. This month’s theme is New Year, New ______.
#ArchiTalks began with a handful of architectural bloggers, but now has seemingly grown into 2 billion. I am thinking about implementing Facebook’s infinite scroll javascript to accommodate all of the bloggers. But if you have a chance, please try to read the other blogs – there is an overwhelming variety of knowledge and opinions.

Enoch Sears – Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
New Year, New Community on Business of Architecture

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
New Year, New Adventures that Might Kill Me

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
New Year, New CAD

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
New Year, New Adventures

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
new race new year new start

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
New Year. New Budget.

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
New Year, New Goals

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
New Year, New Business

Nicholas Renard – dig Architecture (@dig-arch)
New Year, A New Hope

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
New Year. New Gear.

Cindy Black – Rick & Cindy Black Architects (*)
New Year, New Casita

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
New Year, New Underwear

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
New Year, New Era

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“new year, new _____”

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
New Year, New Plan

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
New Year, New Adventures

Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
New Year, New Direction

Michael Riscica – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
New Year, New Life!

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
New Year, New Home

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A Little Premature

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
new year, new [engagement]

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
New Year, New Business

Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@simplybrinn)
New Year, New Perspective

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
The New New

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
New Year New Reality

Anthony Richardson – That Architecture Student (@anth_rich)
New Year New Desk

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
New Year, New Goals

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
New Year New Office

Aaron Bowman – Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
New Year, More Change

Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
New Year, New Office Space

Jared W. Smith – Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
New Year, New Reflection


  1. Congratulations on your new found status. I am curious though, how are you able to sit for the ARE without completing IDP first? I had to have all my IDP hours completed before i was even eligible to sit for the exam.

  2. brady ernst

    Thanks Matthew,

    Either you’re from the Virgin Islands or you completed IDP several years ago.

    Most states adopted concurrent ARE testing with IDP in June 2007.

  3. Mike

    Great article. I hear your woes. The whole process is ridiculous. I was in the very same boat until very recently. I had just the 80 hrs of “Leadership and Service” to complete. For the non-baby architects, that’s Community Service! Yes, that’s a requirement to become an architect….

    Working full time with two kids, when does one find the time? Anyway, I finally completed it through my son’s school (PTA).
    Then comes the next frustration, NCARB. Their review took 3 months! I received a lot of bad information from them along the way. After three months, they finally sent my record to the State. The State then took maybe two weeks.
    So, my point – once you get finish your IDP, be prepared for a little frustration and waiting – it’s not over until you have that little piece of paper in your hands. And hilariously, the paper is quite small – 5×7 in Illinois.

    • brady ernst

      Thanks Mike,

      Yep. It’s the same certificate they issue to barbers in Montana. Not even a nice certificate, but just a flimsy piece of paper. No large rubber stamp or gold embellishments!

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