The road to becoming an Architect may be a lengthy and demanding one, but the destination is well worth the journey, at least according to three employees of BKDI Architects who are in various stages of the process.
One thing that's usually clear about the journey for aspiring Architects is that it's something that starts quite early.
Marilee Sulewski, an Architect with BKDI, had her first introduction to the idea at the young age of ten. “We had just moved, and I was trying to describe the house I lived in to people. They couldn't understand it, so I drew out the floor plan. I mentioned it to my parents and they asked me to show them the drawing and just in passing they said, 'Wow, you got it. Maybe you'll be an Architect.'”
Maciej Kijak, Intern Architect with BKDI, explains that as a second generation architect he was raised in an environment immersed in the industry, recalling the piles of drawings, drafting board and pins on the floor that were commonplace in his childhood. His decision to pursue the profession himself came somewhat by chance, meeting an architecture student who was offering hand drafting lessons to future students at a party when he was 17. Not being the type of person to say no to trying something new, Maciej opted to give it a shot. “After a week of sketching churches and sculptures all over the city, I passed the admission exams. I was one of 120 people chosen from over 600 – after that Architecture became reality – in all aspects: aesthetics, function, forces, moments, pipes, ducts and electrical cabinets.”
Josephine Ho, Intern Architect with BKDI, says that her journey has been a process of discovery. While her interest in architecture did not form until her early 20s, the foundation was developed from an early age. “I was always drawing, and I knew that one day I wanted to pursue a career that could elevate my talent in the arts. As I progressed through my fine arts undergraduate degree, I wanted my work to go beyond the 2D illusory plane and into a more concrete, rigorous realm. That was when I applied for a minor in architecture as a test to see if I preferred that occupation as an outlet for my creativity. At first it was a difficult transition from expressing visual ideas on paper into material form, but after each studio, I was able to express my creative ideas through the understanding of architecture.”
Transitioning from the point of being passionate about buildings – how they're designed, constructed and used – to actually being a part of the process can take quite some time, upwards of seven years or more from entering an architecture program.
Once you're there, it won't always be what you expect from depictions of architecture in pop culture. “I tell a lot of students that the education is not at all what you would expect,” said Marilee. “They weren't dealing with the process of architecture, they were talking about the process of design and creation,” she said of her professors. “Once you kind of stepped out of that box, you were okay.”
The work itself can be extremely exhausting in terms of the hours you put in, they say, and also take an emotional toll. Many architecture professors are extremely demanding, and don't adjust that expectation downwards for students, making the presentation of projects quite stressful. On the other hand, meeting their high standards can be worth all that anxiety. “The feeling that you get when you get a good critique is amazing,” said Marilee.
Stay tuned for Part II of this article!