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 me make it better by leaving a critique in the comment section below. Thx you rock! -Steve
A dream is born.
In the May of 2006, I graduated with a Masters of Architecture from the University of Maryland. I was relieved to have finished architecture school and was excited about my future as an architect.
At that time, I had only 2 goals for my architectural career. Goal #1 was to become a design architect. I had been an artist my entire life and the creation of buildings would be a good outlet for my artistic ambitions. It only seemed natural that design architect would be my role.
Goal #2 was to start my own architectural firm.
· Stephen Ramos Architecture
· Ramos Atelier
· Ramos Studios
· Stephen Ramos Building Workshop.
All of those names sounded good. It would be awesome!
Despite my entrepreneurial aspirations, I knew that I would need some practical experience working with a firm before starting my design empire.
My first gig after UMD was working for Michael Graves & Associates in Princeton, New Jersey. Upon arrival at MGA in July of 2006, I was issued a fresh stack of business cards that said, “Stephen Ramos, Designer.
Goal #1 – Become a Design Architect – Complete?
My role at MGA was closer to a draftsman, despite what my business cards claimed. Although I did appreciate the title of designer rather than intern.
At MGA I worked with a small team under the leadership of a design principal named Gary. Gary was a design architect and a damn good one. He would sit at his desk all day and crank out hand sketches of the projects we were working on. And when I say all day, I mean all day!
Gary would hand me a sketch on canary yellow trace paper and I would then draft that sketch in AutoCAD. Once I got to a stopping point, I would print out the CAD drawing for Gary’s review. Gary would put a new piece of canary yellow trace on top of the CAD drawing and sketch revisions. I would then take the sketch back to the computer and incorporate the revisions in AutoCAD. We would repeat this process over and over again.
That’s how the sausage was made.
In hindsight, it sounds rather boring and repetitive but I loved it. This is the secret to good design. Design is an iterative process that takes time. It takes editing and lots of revisions.
I was participating in the design of buildings. I was working on high-rise hotels and condominiums in far-flung places like Egypt, Qatar and Switzerland. Although I did not have much ownership in the design, I was happy to be a role player.
And besides…..what the hell did I know about designing a building?
The Next Chapter
I enjoyed my time at MGA, but decided to make a move in 2008. I enjoyed Princeton, but it was a little too sleepy for me and I wanted to live and work in a city. I also wanted to get a broader professional experience and I felt that the work at MGA was limited to the front-end design process. On most projects, we would hand off the drawings at 50% Design Development to an associate architect. Therefore getting construction document and construction administration experience would be a challenge.
In the spring of 2008, Danielle and I moved to Charleston and I began working at the architecture firm: LS3P. Although Charleston is a small city, it met my requirements for working and living in a city.
When I arrived at LS3P, I was fortunate to work with some folks who gave me great opportunities. One of my friends Brian Wurst, gave me some small design tasks right away. After a few years of being a supporting player, I gradually took on greater responsibilities and eventually worked my way up to a leadership role.
At the time I write this, I have been at LS3P for 9 years. I have been lucky to be a design leader on some awesome projects. The last 5 years have been very fruitful and the future looks very bright. And in 2016, I was promoted to Associate Principal at LS3P.
Although my business card says Associate Principal, I can confidently say that I am a Design Architect.