Help me help other architects! This blog is an excerpt from the first draft of my book: Breaking the Box: Explode out of Architecture School to a Successful Career as an Architect. You can help make it better by leaving a critique in the comment section below. Thx you rock! -Steve
Your #1 Goal
The #1 goal for the emerging professional should be to become indispensable. You should be the employee everyone loves to work with and you want your boss to cringe at the idea of loosing you.
One effective way to becoming indispensable is to master the tools of the profession. You need to fill your tool belt with as many tools as you can acquire.
To help you in your pursuit, I have compiled a list of the most common tools used in an architecture office. I have grouped the tools in two different tiers, starting with the basic and ending with the more advance.
Tier 1 Tools
Master these basic tools and you are on your way to becoming indispensable in an architecture office.
It could be a pencil, a pen or whatever drawing instrument you prefer. An architect needs the basic ability to convey ideas and concepts quickly. There is no quicker way than by hand. Although the computer has become the primary tool for creating design drawings, the ability to sketch is imperative to the design process.
It is not important that you draw beautifully, just competently. A quick sketch can answer many questions when working with a colleague or client.
Master the Computer
It should be no surprise that working with a computer is a big part of life as an architect. Being a computer guru is almost required to enter most architecture firms. This is a list of the most common computer programs used in an architecture office:
CAD and BIM Software
There are two basic types of software used to produce architectural drawings: CAD and BIM.
CAD stands for Computer Aided Drafting and is most often associated with the program Autodesk AutoCAD. CAD is computer drafting that is primarily 2-dimensional. While CAD was once the industry standard, in recent years architecture firms have started to shift towards BIM software.
BIM is a newer technology that stands for Building Information Modeling. During the last decade, BIM has become the standard as fewer architects are using CAD. The most popular BIM software is Autodesk Revit. The biggest difference from CAD is that BIM is 3-dimensional modeling. In CAD you draft lines, whereas with BIM you build a digital model of the building with components that are called families. A typical architecture model is composed of wall families, roof families, window families, door families, etc.
It would be valuable for an emerging professional to have a basic understanding of both CAD and BIM. The next step would be to become an expert on the program that your architecture office uses. For example, my office uses Autodesk Revit, so becoming a Revit expert was important for my career.
Adobe Photoshop is a very handy project to use in an architecture office. Photoshop allows you to edit and enhance images. Photoshop can be an intimidating program because of the infinite amount of tools included, however you can become very useful by knowing the basic functions. Some of the common uses of Photoshop in an architecture office include:
- Adding color and texture to site plans and floor plans.
- Superimposing building renderings into a site photo.
- Enhancing renderings by brightening or adding entourage.
- Cropping and resizing images.
Microsoft Office Suite
The use of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint have become so ubiquitous that it is hardly worth mentioning. I have included them on this list in the event that someone is unfamiliar and to highlight that a basic understanding of these programs is required. Common of Microsoft Office in an architecture office include:
An architect will use Microsoft Word to create: meeting agendas, meeting notes, proposals and many other project related documents.
An architect will use Microsoft Excel to: create building programs, track square footages, build schedules and other spreadsheet friendly documents.
An architect will use PowerPoint to build presentations.
Tier 2 Tools
Master these tools and you will elevate to rockstar status.
Rockstar Pencil Skills
Although most architects will have a basic drawing ability, few ascend to the ranks of Rock Star Status. These artists/architects are in high regard because their drawing ability is extremely valuable. There are many instances where a beautifully crafted hand drawing will exceed the potential of a computer drawing.
Someone who has Rock Star Pencil Skills has the ability to:
Generate quick process sketches that are worthy of presentation to a client.
Transform a simple 2-dimensional line drawing into an sexy colorful rendering.
Create enticing 3-dimensional perspectives.
Convey design intent in a limited amount of strokes.
There is a common belief that artists are gifted. I believe this to be bull-shit. If you want to learn to draw than you just need some motivation and lots of practice. Like any skill, it takes time.
Architecture is heavily reliant on communication and the ability to speak well is a skill that will make you shine. In many aspects, being an architect is like being in sales.
- You will sell your ideas to your colleagues on a day-to-day basis.
- You will sell your firm to potential clients.
- You will sell your design to your clients during design reviews.
- You will sell your projects to local neighborhoods and design review boards.
Making a kick-ass drawing will only get you so far. You will ultimately need to sell your ideas via words from mouth. Those that are effective speakers are indispensable. See Chapter 26 for more on speaking.
Mad Computer Rendering Skills
The ability to create high quality computer renderings is a skill that can make you a hot-commodity in an architecture office. A powerful rendering can be the difference maker that sells a design. There are many different rendering programs available and some of the most popular are:
- Autodesk Revit
- Autodesk 3ds Max
My advice would be to master the program that is preferred in your office. Some firms may not have a preferred rendering program or they may be using something that is sub-standard. Do some research. Find out which program would be best and present the idea to the folks in charge. This is an opportunity for you to show you are a leader.
Virtual reality is the next big thing in architecture. Imagine how powerful it would be to allow your client to virtually walk through their new beachfront cottage before it is every constructed. This is virtual reality.
Unfortunately I am way behind in my knowledge of VR. I will be bulking up on my VR knowledge and will haveknowledge and will have it properly documented for the final draft of this book. In the meantime, here is a helpful article on ArchDaily: 4 Tips to Get Started With Virtual Reality in Architecture http://www.archdaily.com/802035/4-tips-to-get-started-with-virtual-reality-in-architecture
What tools do you use?
I would love to hear about tools that you use that could be added to this list. Please share your tools in the comment section below.