Being an Architect

I recently was given the best gift, a drawing titled “Sky High Environments.” It was created by a nine year-old aspiring architect. I was thrilled she was inspired to think about architecture by watching her parents design and build their new farmhouse. On career day at school, she even dressed as an architect carrying the roll of construction drawings for her future new home in hand. I too have always wanted to be an architect. Looking at her beautiful drawing now carefully on display in my office, made me think about my own architectural journey.

“Sky High Environments” drawn by 9 year old Charlotte an aspiring architect.

I too started drawing and thinking about homes and cities when I was in grade school. My sister and I would look at the home of the week floor plans featured in every Sunday’s KC Star and read them. There was a first floor plan with a sketch of front exterior view. It was exciting to see what each week’s floor plan would be! We would even cut them out and glue them in scrap books to read later. Foyer had to be one of the first words I could read!

I do really enjoy being an architect. Why do I do what I do? I like solving the puzzle. I love the challenge of sorting out what every client wants and translating it into floor plans and all the additional drawings it takes to build a home. It is a balance between beauty, function & budget. Everyone has a different house they are dreaming about. It is fun to see pictures of what a client likes. Sometimes I feel as if I am detective tracking down materials or a picture of what they described in words but can’t quite find an image of. I am often hired because all of my clients’ homes are unique showing that I listen to my clients. It is helpful to imagine how a client will live in their home. I think about a million different things when designing. What will their everyday experience be to carry in groceries in the rain or do laundry? Where will a Christmas tree go? How will the dog get in and out? Where will the daily pile of mail go? Is there enough natural light? Is there enough wall space for bunk beds? Will there be a glare on the TV? Is there enough space on each side of the stove? And on & on it goes thinking about the new owners. Thinking about how a family will live here. Children will grow up in this house. Their needs change over time. How a can the house grow with them?  A play room can be a quiet home work space. A small extra space in a bedroom has years later become the perfect spot for a grandchild’s crib. And on & on it goes thinking about the new owners and how to create the best home for them!

I am often asked by clients and friends with kids interested in being an architect either how did I get here, what should their kids do now to prepare for architecture school or if their kids could spend a few days shadowing me?

Visiting “Falling Water” south of Pittsburgh PA by Frank Lloyd Wright when I was in college 1988. I even dressed up wearing a skirt to my first FLW building! It was an important day and very thankful to my folks for taking me there!

How did I get here?  I am fortunate to have found a career that inspires challenges and makes me work incredibly hard for my clients.  While writing this I thought about a few of mentors. All the people that helped me from grade school to now!  The nice lady at the “Y” who taught my elementary level drawing class even when I was the only student enrolled!    I owe a tremendous thanks to my high school drafting and art teachers, and my professors at Kansas State. Those exhausting endless studios seem a lifetime ago and as if yesterday all at once! Shout out to Raylene my first “design” boss who mentored me one summer in Kansas City.  It was after my junior year at KSU. She was a wealth of information even down to how a woman should dress on the job. Once commenting on a laminate representative who looked like as if she was on the way to the pool! Dress to be taken seriously. Tony owned that firm owner and while I rarely had any contact with him when I did he repeated over and over “you must get licensed. Don’t delay! Only when licensed you will be an architect.” The next summer, Pat who had small children and as she worked at home after dinner marking up redlines with her little kids coloring on the sheets too. Picking up corrections with crayon marks on the drawings made me smile knowing her family was nearby and most importantly she did it! She balanced architecture and a family. After I graduated, Don and Jens let me see an eighty million dollar office building from initial design to owner move in. Working side by side with the contractors and clients in site job trailer for years on a design-build project made understand what a team is. Also to be accountable. They patiently would walk me out to the adjacent site and explain everything. Those years I learned a line isn’t a line but a directive for someone to do act on.  My first prebid meeting, was the scariest event I could imagine. A room full of bidders at the crack of dawn with a list of questions.  It wasn’t easy but I am thankful they trusted me enough to give me the chance!

For anyone interested in architecture. My young aspiring architect whose drawing is shown here has started on the right path! DRAW! Look around and sketch. Don’t be intimidated. Have fun. Take art classes if they are available. Computers are taking pencils out a generation’s hands. They are missing out on doodling and sketching not learning the beauty of a crisp pencil line. Stop reading now grab a pencil and draw! Look at new buildings online, follow interesting blogs and online magazines. Learn about the world wide environment.

As a one person show, I am not very interesting to shadow! I work on the computer drawing with Revit ACAD, I build models some days, travel to job sites, go to meetings and talk/email clients.  Every day is different!

Women in Design Kansas City offers a day of shadowing each year. Check out their Facebook or webpage page

UMKC has a Design Discovery Program for a week each summer. I attended the same one many years ago at K-State. Here the link…hurry it fills fast and is ideal for high school juniors or seniors.



Design Discovery Certificate!



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