So You Want To Be an Architect By David M. Puretz, Architect

posted by: | | Plans & Permits Nov 2019

A friend of mine recently mused that young architects spend much more time drawing than they do thinking about the architectural solution. My friend is not only an architect but a very scholarly, academic architect having taught at UC Berkeley.  I thought that was a curious observation but I can appreciate where he has come from.  Young people are drawn to architecture typically at a very early age.  I saw my own future when I was about 10 years old. National Geographic Magazine did a substantial article about this new city rising out of the jungles of Brazil, namely Brasilia, the new capital and the proposed Mid-Century Modern iconic designs of Oscar Neimeyer, a disciple of the Swiss Modernist god-head of architecture, Le Corbusier.  I was absolutely fascinated by these pure geometric forms: soaring elegant towers, inverted bowl shapes, gorgeous open spaces, magnificent cantilevering roof shapes, etc.  And then I saw in very short order Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal at Kennedy International in New York, and I couldn’t imagine a more attractive or rewarding career.

So, I would ask any young person coming into this profession, are you struck with the same passion to elevate the built environment around you?  Do you wish to change the face of the city for the better? Do you see this as a rewarding career path?  I ask these questions to any novice wishing to pursue this profession, because the upsides to this métier can be glorious and wonderful, but the downsides can be equally defeating and exhausting.  And, the first thing I always counsel a young person is this:  You are NOT in this for the money.  PERIOD.  If you enter this profession because you think it is a lucrative career move, then you are patently headed in the wrong direction.  If, by shear accident, you should make a financially rewarding career out of architecture and you still enjoy showing up to work every day, then you are truly remarkably blessed.  Whatever god you worship (or not) has bestowed their grace on you and rewarded you beyond your wildest expectations.  To love this career path and to attract a professional caliber salary is an extraordinary accomplishment, and to my knowledge, very few architects achieve that level of success.

If we are agreed now that you should NOT enter this profession with wild expectations of financial reward, and you still wish to go forward, my suggestion to you is a full immersion architectural baptism.  And by that I mean, start collecting and reading the history(s) of architecture, take art history and humanities classes.  Architecture doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  Duh! Begin by subscribing to the architectural journals, start purchasing the monographs of your favorite architects.  I happily joke that I don’t read anymore.  There is some truth to that moronic statement.  I buy picture books.  That is why e-books or downloads do not work for me.  I like large format material, glossy pages, hard-bound when possible.  I spend much more time studying drawings, plans, and photographs than I do reading the parallel material.  And, I go to the books often to refresh my memory of what I liked about their work and why.  And, needless to say, travel and visit the monuments, both ancient and modern, at all costs.  Whatever your budget affords, travel as much as you can.  Visit the iconic cathedrals, castles, palaces, museums – The Louvre comes to mind easily, or Versailles.  Full immersion.  This is your career path.  Treat it as such.  It is unbelievably rewarding if only for the books and the travel.

And, finally, draw, draw, draw.  Carry a sketchbook with you and draw at every opportunity.  Draw the building you see, or just a part of the building, or a quick city vista if you are standing at a vantage point where you can draw a quick study of the cityscape in front of you.  Drawing is the medium by which you transfer your ideas to your clients and your fellow workers.  I find it remarkably ironic that people call themselves designers and have no capability to communicate their visions to others.  In other words, I don’t think you can call yourself a designer if you don’t have that ability.  Now everyone is reliant on their phones or laptops or I-pads to transfer their ideas.  I do not think they offer viable substitutes for actually using a pen or pencil and a sketchpad to communicate one’s ideas and visions.  Architecture at its core is a graphic process, and I believe that drawings, especially hand drawings, are the very best means to express your talents.

David M. Puretz, Architect,
VP of Business Development
SKSI Plans & Permits

About David M. Puretz, Architect

      David Puretz is among the most reputable Architects
having completed over 600 projects spanning 40 years of experience.
A graduate of UC Berkeley School of Architecture, he has

been involved in the planning, design and construction of virtually
every type of retail environment from kiosks to big-box stores, from
price point and outlet venues to high-end specialty stores. David’s
core clientele includes Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Starbucks, Ulta,
Westfield, and many other household name brands.


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