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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

Why Every Project is My "First"

by Rosa T. Sheng, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
— Steve Jobs, Excerpts from The 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech

#Architalks is back again. For those that are unfamiliar with Architalks, it is the brainchild of Bob Borson, AIA (also the recent recipient of the Texas Society of Architects Honor Award for his social media contributions to spread the awareness of Architects and Architecture to the general public.) Architalks can be thought of as Architects blogs meets The Iron Chef:  November's secret ingredient topic is "My First Project". 

The "first" thing that popped into my head was trying to decide what would define a "first" project. There are no fast an ready rules and we are all left to our own devices to figure how we approach the topic. So I let my stream of consciousness lead the way and the results teased out many firsts:

  • My first project on the first day of architecture school (yes, but too abstract, not architectural)
  • My first project in studio with architectural solution (yes, but design outcome wasn't that great)
  • My first project at my first job after graduation? (My multiple 1st projects were not memorable)
  • My first project completed as a Project Architect? (If I told you, I would have to...)
  • My first project that I got really excited and passionate about? (okay, I may be on to something...)

If you were to capture all the "firsts" and boil it down to its bare essence, there is a common thread. It's the feeling of excitement of unknown potential; the Tabula Rasa (or blank slate) effect. There is an exhilaration of limitless possibilities; to produce a successful, positive impact that is aesthetically stimulating in form and seamlessly integrated in function. And with that "first" project or experience, we have a more heightened sense and awareness. The process of design somewhat demands that we come to the table with this "first" project frame of reference. Without it, we would be crippled in our ability to deliver the creative problem solving skills which make our profession so valuable to those we serve. 

Pixar Animation Studios

Pixar Animation Studios

Part of the challenge throughout my 21 year architectural career has been to keep that fresh, optimistic perspective and excitement of that "first" project. New clients, new site, new programmatic opportunity and challenges, new consultant and design team. And in many ways, I have been very fortunate that most of the projects I have worked on have been "firsts". Each one is unique from the others, but they all had the desire to innovate; breaking new ground, leading others to new ways of seeing and doing things that had never been done before.  And sometimes the fact that "it" hadn't been done before, is like a dare of sorts to be the "first" to accomplish it.

This has applied not only to architectural project work, but the amazing movement of Equity in Architecture that started with founding Equity by Design a little more than two years ago. Each major initiative has been a "first" project. The Missing 32% Project Equity in Architecture Survey which garnered 2289 national responses. The Equity by Design Symposium which was a "first" in delivering an interactive and engaging conference format which sold out with 250 attendees from all over the country. The EQxD Hackathon which was the first workshop at AIA National Convention to leverage a new format for continuing education. And AIA Resolution 15-1, Equity in Architecture which garnered the support of 4,117 delegates at the AIA National Convention in Atlanta. 

Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! - October 2014

Equity by Design: Knowledge, Discussion, Action! - October 2014

So I encourage you to suspend disbelief and embrace each new project you encounter as if it were your "first" project.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish. 


Please explore other takes on the November #Architalks topic "My First Project" with the veritable offerings from the architect blog community started by Bob Borson

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
My First Project: The Best Project Ever Designed That Wasn't

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
My "First Project"

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
My First Project - Again

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
first project first process

Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
Our First Architecture Project [#ArchiTalks]

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: My first project

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
The First One -- A Tale of Two Projects

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
"My First Project"

Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
The Early Years of My Architecture Career - My Role

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
I Hate Decks

Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
[first] project [worst] crit

Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
My First Project - The First Solar Decathlon #Architalks

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Project Me

Daniel Beck - The Architect's Checklist (@archchecklist)
Fake it 'til you make it

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Define First

Anthony Richardson - That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
my first project

Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
My First Project

Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Top ten tips when faced with a challenging Architectural project

Aaron Bowman - Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Community 101

Samantha Raburn - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
6 Major Differences between my 1st School Project & my 1st Real Project

Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
My First Project – The Contemporary Cottage

Nisha Kandiah - TCDS (@SKRIBBLES_INC)
The Question of Beginning

Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)