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Life of an Architect

English, Architecture, 2024 seasons, 148 episodes, 6 days, 14 hours, 1 minute
About
A gifted storyteller communicating the role and value of architecture to a new audience, host Bob Borson uses the experiences acquired over a 25-year career to inform his podcast. A small firm owner, architect, and college design instructor, co-host Andrew Hawkins brings his insight from his 20 years in various roles within the profession. It responds to the public curiosity and common misunderstanding about what architects do and how it is relevant to people’s lives, engaging a wide demographic of people in a meaningful way without requiring an understanding of the jargon or knowledge of the history of the profession. With a creative mix of humor and practicality, Borson’s stories are informative, engaging, and approachable, using first-person narratives and anecdotes that have introduced transparency into what it really means to be a practicing architect. To learn more about Bob, Andrew, and what life is like as an architect, please visit Lifeofanarchitect.com
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Starting Architecture School Part 2

You have made the decision where to study architecture. You've chosen the architecture school and your degree path. So now what? How much work is this going to be? How much will this cost? We covered some issues in Part 1, and now we will finish the monumental task of summarizing what it's like to start architecture school.
8/20/20231 hour, 20 minutes, 11 seconds
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EP 94: Ask the Show – 2022 Spring Edition

Bob Borson and Andrew Hawkins from Life of an Architect answer the most commonly asked questions about being an architect
2/20/20221 hour, 6 minutes, 42 seconds
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042: Mentorship

Finding the right sort of person who can help guide you through the various stages of your career can be incredibly valuable and beneficial. Today, Andrew and I are talking about mentorship and what that means, what can make it great, why it doesn’t necessarily work, what you can do so that you might actually benefit from the experience, and what sort of relationship can make a mentor a great fit for you. That's a fairly tall order of things to accomplish but we are going to give it a go. [Note: If you are reading this via email, click here to access the on-site audio player]  googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1562005974350-0'); }); Mentorship is intended to be a mutually beneficial arrangement between two interested individuals, but it can really only be instigated by the younger party. I often hear that the entire Life of an Architect site is a form of mentorship … sort of a “mentorship by proxy”, but I couldn’t disagree more. At best, my website is full of unsolicited advice made available to people who are looking for some sort of information or guidance, but without the give-and-take of a meaningful dialog over an extended period of time, it is lacking at its core the real value that mentorship provides. Mentors are more than advisers, they are interested in your professional development and career advancement.  Mentors are those individuals or research teams who are excited, willing and able to share their experience and expertise. At the end of 2019, Andrew and I got together to work on a topics list for what we might want to discuss on our 2020 because surprise surprise, these episodes take some planning and preparation. Based on the emails I receive, one of the topics we knew that we would include was on "Mentorship" and we penciled this is as today's topic for discussion. About a week before we recorded today's episode, I received an email from Max Underwood, AIA who teaches at Arizona State University, and in his email, he suggested that we have an episode on this very topic. In his effort to be helpful, Max included some information from a University-wide grad-mentoree workshop and Andrew and I ended up using part of this information as the basis for today's conversation. Ten Essential qualities that should be sought or cultivated in your mentor are: 1)    Enthusiasm for our discipline, field, and profession [20:24 mark] 2)    Experience and insight into what works and what does not [20:59 mark] 3)    High standards and expectations for oneself [23:30 mark] 4)    An open mind with regard both to complex issues such as definitions of success and to the changing nature of our field and its support structures [24:44 mark] 5)    Inquisitiveness, to be able to help identify and evaluate underlying assumptions [31:20 mark] 6)    Empathetic, the ability to articulate and address sensitive issues is helpful in dealing with the realities and needs of relationships. [32:53 mark] 7)    Excellent communicator, the capacity to be both a good questioner and a good listener [35:43 mark] 8)    Clear decision maker, to be able to help examine difficult situations and/or choices [41:41 mark] 9)    A willingness to expend time and effort to provide relevant mentorship [42:31 mark] 10) An appreciation of diversity in perspective and worldview.  A belief of what individuals can and should be in our discipline, field, and profession regardless of gender or ethnicity. [43:42 mark] One item that we would have like to have spent more time on is that you should not confuse someone who is giving out advice for someone in the role of mentor. The main distinction between these two is that someone giving advice can simply pop onto the scene, drop some possibly poorly considered advice bomb on you, and then enjoy the luxury of not necessarily being around to pick up the pieces or deal with the consequences. A real mentor is someone who evolves with you,
2/2/202059 minutes, 29 seconds
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041: Talking Shop with Omar Gandhi

Today is a special episode because we are sitting down with my very close and personal friend, even though we have never actually met, Canadian architectural rock star Omar Gandhi. This is the first in a series of posts we are rolling out for the 2020 podcast season titled “Talking Shop with __________.” We anticipate doing around four of these specialty episodes this year and we decided to come out the gate strong with our first guest - Canadian Architect and Emerging Voice in the architectural community - as well as my friend - Omar Gandhi. [Note: If you are reading this via email, click here to access the on-site audio player]  Before we get into all the pretty photography, drawings and models, here is a professional bio from Omar that should help you understand who we are talking with today. [l-r: Canadian Architect Omar Gandhi; the letter from Omar to Bob Borson ... to hear how this letter came to be, listen at the 16:26 mark]Omar Gandhi is a Canadian architect currently practicing and residing in both Halifax, Nova Scotia and Toronto, Ontario. After studying in the Regional Arts program at Mayfield Secondary School (Caledon) and then the inaugural Architectural Studies Program at the University of Toronto Omar moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia where he received his Master’s degree in 2005 at Dalhousie University. After graduation, Omar worked for Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects, Young + Wright Architects, and finally MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects upon his return to Halifax. Gandhi started his own design studio in 2010 and became a registered architectural practice in 2012. Omar is the recipient of the 2014 Canada Council for the Arts Professional Prix de Rome and was listed in Wallpaper* Magazine’s 2014 Architects Directory – their list of the top 20 Young Architects in the World. Omar was named one of the Architectural League of New York’s ‘Emerging Voices’ of 2016, one of Monocle Magazine’s 20 most influential Canadians, and was named one of Architectural Record Magazine’s Design Vanguard for 2018. Most recently the studio was the recipient of the 2018 Governor General’s Medal in Architecture for the cabin at Rabbit Snare Gorge – Canada’s highest honor for built projects. Omar was appointed as the Louis I. Kahn Visiting Assistant Professor in Architectural Design at the Yale School of Architecture for the Fall semester of the 2018-19 academic year. Just to help you understand the context and talent of who we are speaking with today on the podcast, we decided to isolate a single project and put it on display so you could see the finished product, the rigor associated with the floor plans, and the creative process which includes model-making as well a hand-drawn concept sketch. The project we are focusing on today is The Lookout at Broad Cove Marsh located in Inverness, Nova Scotia. While I have included several images here, I did not include all that are available - not that you need an additional reason to visit Omar's website but go here to see more images, including several from the interior of the project.  This is a beautiful project and we promised Omar that we would recognize the individuals who contributed to its creation. Architect Omar Gandhi, Jeff Shaw, Peter Kolodziej, Amber Kilborn Engineer Andrea Doncaster Engineering Structural model Ben Angus Contractor Joseph ‘MacGee’ MacFarlane Photography Doublespace Photography Okay, time for the hypothetical question – which is really the only reason why the first part of this podcast exists … it’s all just leading up to this moment. As it turns out, Omar is familiar with how this works except I had to clarify that either Omar or Andrew could answer first, but no matter what order, I will go last so I can change the rules and make fun of everybody's answers. Andrew is very familiar with how this works! [46:00 mark] Would you rather only age from the neck up or the neck down?
1/19/202057 minutes, 50 seconds
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040: Changing Jobs

Changing jobs is exciting and terrifying at the same time – particularly if you are making a drastic change wither in the type of work or the size of the firm. Today we are talking about “Changing Jobs” a topic that seems somewhat fitting given that it is the first podcast episode of 2020 and both Andrew and me have changed jobs.
1/5/202056 minutes, 43 seconds
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039: The Hypothetical Show

Andrew and I really enjoy answering hypothetical questions as part of each Life of an Architect podcast episode. In our final recording of the year, we are happy to present to you the "Director's Cut" on three of our most favorite Hypothetical questions from 2019, as well as two new questions as our way of saying thanks for listening to the show this year.
12/8/20191 hour, 41 minutes, 23 seconds
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038: What to Get an Architect for Christmas [2019]

Buying gifts for Architects can be tough for some people because architects are very specific about the sorts of things they want. This is the 10th consecutive year of "What to Get an Architect for Christmas" and there is something here for every sort of architect.
11/24/20191 hour, 1 minute, 26 seconds
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037: Ask the Show

What music do you listen to? What’s your design process? What is your favorite building and why? What do you eat for breakfast? All this and more today as architects Andrew Hawkins and Bob Borson answer your burning questions where almost no topic is off-limits.
11/10/20191 hour, 2 minutes, 45 seconds
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036: Labor is Cheap, Skill is Not

Architecture and skilled craft go hand in hand, but you may not be aware that the number of skilled individuals that are required to bring an architect’s ideas to reality and in today's episode, Andrew and I are talking about the state of skilled labor in the construction industry. 
10/27/20191 hour, 1 minute, 56 seconds
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035: Architecture and Math

If you ever thought about being an architect but thought you couldn’t handle the math, you aren’t alone. At parties across the land, as soon as someone finds out there is an architect in the crowd, there is a story being told about how they wanted to be an architect but since they couldn’t draw or weren’t very good at math, they decided to do something else.
10/13/201954 minutes, 35 seconds
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034: Let’s Get Physical

Architectural models are clearly within the architect's domain but are you within the "physical models are better" or "digital models are better" camp? Physical models have a bigger impact on the space when people can interact with them, but digital models are a more powerful tool for the act of creating architecture.
9/29/201959 minutes, 39 seconds
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033: Taking the Architectural Registration Exam

Taking the architectural registration exam is a crucial step in the process of becoming an architect. The test is long, difficult, and stressful, but it is an absolute necessity if you want to be an architect.
9/16/20191 hour, 7 minutes, 37 seconds
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032: Projects in Architecture School are Silly

Your college architecture projects will be silly because they are designed to make you think outside what you already know. They are also supposed to force you to evaluate your own belief system, your own understanding of how spaces work, and the things that shape your ideas.
9/2/201956 minutes, 37 seconds
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031: Obsession

Do Architects have obsessive personalities? I tend to think so, and only partially based on my own behavior. I should throw out the caveat that I don’t think you should have to explain why you obsess over something. Isn’t that the nature of any obsession – that there is some level of irrationality associated behind it? Of course, people seem to typically feel that their logic is flawless and that they are completely justified in their behavior and if you can’t see the wisdom in their position, the fault lies with you.
8/18/201959 minutes, 28 seconds
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030: Starting Your Own Architecture Firm

Is It the dream of every architect to start their own architecture firm? Most architects think about it at one point or another and Austin Architect Michael Hsu sits down to talk about how he started his own firm.
8/4/201958 minutes, 38 seconds
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029: Architects Should Work Construction

If I have one regret during my college education is that I never worked on a construction site. Once I graduated from college, I went straight to work in an architectural office, drawing up all sorts of stuff that I had literally never seen before in my life. I managed to get along but I was acutely aware of my lack of practical knowledge and I have been trying to make up for it over the last 20+ years. [Note: If you are reading this via email, click here to access the on-site audio player]  googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1562005974350-0'); }); We'd like to thank today's guest, Nicholas Renard, the owner, architect and registered residential contractor of Dig-Architecture, an architect-led design-build firm in Jacksonville, Florida. We recorded today's episode live in Las Vegas from the Expo floor of the 2019 AIA Conference on Architecture as special guests of Huber Engineered Woods.  a small portion of Bob's tool collection My practical experience, and I suppose formal construction education, really didn’t start until I bought my first house and didn’t have the money to pay someone else to do the work. My wife had a job that required an extensive amount of traveling and since I am not a “go out to the bar” kind of dude (despite what others might think) I would stay home in the evenings and work on projects around the house. It was during this time that I started building up my tool collection. Did either of you work construction when you were in architecture school? [2:30 mark] Both Bob and Nick worked on projects with their father around the house and this gave them their initial exposure to the basics of the construction process. They spent time either watching or helping their fathers around the house as they took on projects of various scales. But of the three, Andrew is the only one who has ever actually worked in the construction industry during their architectural education.  Andrew worked in construction during the summers as a high school student. Then, while in grad school, he worked in a cabinetry shop construction custom cabinetry in a small shop in Oregon. Apparently, the common thread among the three of us is having built a deck in our backyards at some point in our lives. How do you think working in construction would benefit an architect? [10:17 mark] The translation from the drawing environment to the built environment typically takes time for a new professional in architecture. The knowledge of the process of construction, the tolerances involved, the order of operations and other physical activities all have an impact on the design and final product. So being able to understand all of these aspects of the downstream portions of your design is very beneficial and can impact your ability as a designer to impact the final result, the budget, and the overall process. Being able to understand and apply this to your projects is a valuable skill for any architect. Understanding the differences between the exactness of the drawing environment versus the built environment.  [14:30 mark] The system of education tends to push you as an architecture student to strive for perfection in your processes. This seems to translate over into your career and the way you design or draw digitally. The reality of the construction site is that there is not a possibility for perfection. Part of being on a construction site allows you to understand the tolerances of this process. Every part of the assemblies on a job site has built-in tolerances. And as they are assembled, those tolerances compound and create project dimensions that cannot be held to the digital perfection. Understanding this concept and how it affects your design is something that takes time as a young professional. One of the benefits of being on construction sites early in your education or career is that it reduces this time frame and allows you to grasp that concept quicker,
7/21/201954 minutes, 41 seconds
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028: Social Media for Architects

In order for social media to have an impact, you first have to decide on what you want to achieve and from there, you actually have to put yourself out there as an individual because social media only functions when you are social - which means there has to be a 1st person narrative. I should point out that this doesn't necessarily mean talking about yourself, it means talking about things from your perspective.
7/7/201956 minutes, 33 seconds
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027: Is That Even Legal?

How much time have you spent thinking about the legal side of architecture?  If you are like most architects, you probably haven't spent enough time thinking about it. While it may not be the sexiest part of the architectural profession,  it is something that every licensed architect must consider on every single project.
6/23/201954 minutes, 12 seconds
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026: First Jobs

“Your first architectural job is important.” I’m not talking about summer jobs or internships … those don’t really count because they have a known shelf-life associated with them. I’m talking about the first job a person takes once they’ve graduated from college – the job that signals the beginning of their professional career.
6/9/201959 minutes, 44 seconds
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025: Architectural Bucket List

Today we are talking about Architectural Bucket lists. Everyone knows what a bucket list is – things you want to do or achieve in your life. For an architect, this could be visiting Therme Vals in Switzerland by Peter Zumthor, or if this was prior to 1969, maybe it would be smoking cigars with Mies van der Rohe. [Note: If you are reading this via email, you will have to click here to access the on-site audio player]  Items that an architect would put on their Architectural Bucket list could cover a lot of ground, but that’s what we are going to be talking about today. Preparing for this show was actually agony for me because I tend to not identify with favorites. There is an ebb and flow to my interests and while I might really like something today, chances are better than good that I will replace this current object of my fascination with something else before too long. Never the less, let's see where our current interest lies as of today. Person Who would you like to have as an ideal "Architect" buddy for your life/practice? I would assume that this would be a famous architect but it doesn’t have to be. But let’s put the caveat on here that they have to be living? Photo of Renzo Piano Photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP/AFP/Getty Images  Photo of the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre Photo: Sergio Grazia/ADCK/Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre/RPBW Andrew I chose Renzo Piano. While there may be a language issue, as pointed out by Bob, I went a more professional route and chose him based on my appreciation for his work and the impact his friendship might have on my own work. So for this one, it would be a true "architecture buddy". I think Renzo is thoughtful in his work and he has a fantastic sense of detail and creativity. He has long been an architect that I admire, so therefore I would want him for my practice side of life.  As noted in our conversations, I chose a different direction of thought than Borson on this one. Photo of Tom Kundig: Juliana Sohn for The Wall Street Journal.Photo of the Delta Shelter: Tim Bies/Olson Kundig Architects. Bob This was a tough one for me because most of the architects who I admire are probably too mature to actually enjoy spending time with me. Answering this question came down to narrowing a few perceived character traits. Do they like to party? Could we talk about something other than architecture? And for what traits have I selected them? Design? Technical prowess? Business acumen? Originality in their thinking? How about all of these items? For that reason, I went with Tom Kundig. On one hand, this seems like it would be a popular choice, the non-architect’s choice, but I chose Tom because I like the technical nature in which he designs appeals to my own process. I would live in every house he has ever designed, he looks like he enjoys what he does and despite the ability to change the scale of the projects he tackles he has continued to accept and design single-family residential works. I almost went with Omar Ghandi but he seems either so cool as to appear disinterested in everything or maybe he’s mean. Every project of his I love but whenever I see pictures of him, he seems too intense to be my friend ... but maybe I'm wrong about that. Place This would be a location you would like to visit. It could be a broad point and/or a very specific one … I’m not even sure that it has to be “architectural”. A riverside view in Bavaria, Bamberg, Germanyphoto credit FOROLIA/AP Andrew I chose a region of a country for this one. Bavaria Germany was my choice as a "place". I have never been to this area so it holds a romantic mystique for me. I feel drawn by my ideas of the mixture of landscape, history, architecture, food, and drink. I believe I would enjoy this area for all of those reasons and more. While I am a "modernist" at heart, the idea of traveling through medieval towns and visiting castles while enjoying great food and beer sounds like the best experience imaginable.
5/27/201959 minutes, 47 seconds
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024: Presentation Skills, Tips and Techniques

Unlike most professions, architects are fairly accustomed to standing up in front of a group of people and public speaking ... but that doesn't mean they like it (or even worse)  - that they are any good at doing it. The concern going through almost everyone's head before they get up in front of a group is that they will look stupid, sound stupid, or generally come across as someone who shouldn't be talking about whatever it is they are talking about. If that's you, the good news is that you are not alone.
5/12/201947 minutes, 45 seconds
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023: The Fun Show

Sometimes bad things happen, and it impacts you in a way that you weren’t anticipating – takes you out of your normal head space. Since I don’t like feeling bad, we’re going to do something about it. Welcome to "The Fun Show". [Note: If you are reading this via email, you will have to click here to access the on-site audio player]  Just like the occasional blog post, the podcast (and blog post) today will be a "life" day because we are talking about, well, whatever we want to a certain extent. As of this writing, Notre Dame Cathedral suffered a tragic fire this last week and it put Andrew and me in a somber mood … but I’m ready to have some fun so today is a bit of a course correction and we are going to have a good time. For almost a year now I have wanted to record a podcast episode that was centered around a more "life" centric theme. I don't know if you are a regular visitor on the site or not but the last few podcast topics have been: Episode 19 - Architectural Fees Architectural Fees are a mystery to most people and there is no shortage of methods that architects charge for their services. How do you make sense of which method works best for you and your clients? Episode 20 - The Construction Bid Process Every client wants to know what their project is going to cost and who’s going to build it. That means sending the drawings out and getting contractors involved. Episode 21 - Making an Architect Becoming an architect is the dream of many people, but it is rare that these individuals learn enough about themselves and what it means to be an architect prior to finding themselves in a position to have to make the decision to actually become an architect. Episode 22 - Residential Construction Costs Architects and General Contractors typically use certain rules of thumb to determine residential construction costs at various stages of development. Here is a guide of approximately what you get per square foot when building a new home. While I think all of these are important topics to cover, they are really focused on some very technical aspects of the profession and according to some of the feedback we received, pretty technical in nature. Andrew and I did not take this feedback as critical, we actually appreciate when people take the time to give us feedback on the show, we did take as the opportunity I've been looking for to do a "life" episode. Well, that and the whole Notre Dame Cathedral burning thing I mentioned earlier. To get our heads right, this episode is really Andrew and I sitting around the proverbial campfire (otherwise known as my bedroom) and telling adventure stories from some of the trips we've taken in our life. As in the image above [11:02-minute mark] when Mike Buesing, one of my friends from architecture school, and I decided to take a trip through the great Southwest visiting destinations like Chaco Canyon and Monument Valley which is where this picture was taken. This was 1992 and there aren't many pictures from this time in my life. I captured the image above by balancing my 35mm Nikon SLR on a boulder with some smaller rocks in my attempt to level the image. I set the timer and depressed the photo button and ran like mad to try to get back to this spot before the photo was taken. While I almost fell off a Mesa taking this picture, I almost died climbing up to this spot with lawn furniture around my neck. This entire trip was amazing for me since I had never visited this part of the country before but as I think back to this trip, just about all of the memories I have, start with the moment when things start to go sideways on us. Even when I scheduled trips that I believed were basically architectural vacations, just with my family in tow, turned out to be something completely different. The now infamous "Borson-Paris" trip of 2010 was the moment when I realized that while vacations and trips are great for opening your mind to different cul...
4/28/201958 minutes, 15 seconds
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022: Residential Construction Costs

Residential construction costs are not that complicated unless you really want to make them that way. There are some general broad stroke pieces of information that if you know them, you will not be surprised when it comes time to plan your budget.
4/14/201955 minutes, 48 seconds
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021: Making an Architect

Becoming an architect is the dream of many people, but it is rare that these individuals learn enough about themselves and what it means to be an architect prior to finding themselves in a position to have to make the decision to actually become an architect.
3/31/201958 minutes, 37 seconds
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020: The Construction Bid Process

Every client wants to know what their project is going to cost and who’s going to build it. That means sending the drawings out and getting contractors involved … Let’s get ready to rumble because “The Construction Bid Process ” is today’s topic. [Note: If you are reading this via email, you will have to click here to access the on-site audio player]  For those of you who might not know, a construction bid is the process in which the contractor takes the drawings and specifications as prepared by the architect and their consultants, reviews them for materials, quantities, and submits a price in which to undertake the scope of work as defined in those construction documents. This should all sound pretty normal because this is what happens for any professional scope of service. I tell you what I want, you tell me what it’s going to take to give it to me, and I either agree or disagree to pay this price. In the construction world, it basically works the exact same way but there are some nuances and subtleties to discuss. Let’s get into it and let’s start by discussing how projects are bid. I am going to start by stating that there is a difference between how public and private projects are bid but the basics are the same but there is a lot less formality and procedures for residential projects. The bid process has several steps that are typically standard no matter what “delivery method” you are utilizing for your project. (We will get to those "delivery methods" in a future episode). So the basics of the bid process are as follows: Step 1: Construction Docs Completed The Architect and their team have completed a full set of construction documents that should include all of the important information required for contractors to provide a price to build the project. Step 2: Advertise the Project (at large or to invited bidders) During this period, the construction documents are provided to contractors and tradesmen to review, question, and price. This process can be handled in several ways depending (once again) on the delivery method. These days the majority of this process occurs electronically, though some forms of paper distribution still take place. The future for this step will be completely electronic at some point and may not even involve drawings. Step 3: Bidding Q&A Period During this step a set period of time is established, typically 3-4 weeks, that the documents are reviewed and such by anyone who hopes to provide a price to construct the work. This is directly tied to Step Two. The contractors can ask for clarifications or product substitutions or additional information within this set number of days. Also during this period it is the architect’s job to continue to distribute information to all those contractors who are bidding the work. This is always a set period of time, that once it ends, the pricing is due… the bid. Step 4: Reception of Bids So this is the step, usually an exact day and time, when everyone is required to provide their bid. Many times this is a frantic race to the end with bids coming in at the very last minute. The general contractor or construction manager assemble all of the trade bids they receive into a single number that is considered the price to build the project. Step 5: Evaluation and Selection This step involves reviewing all the bids and requirements of the bid documents by the owner, architect and other involved stakeholders if any. The goal here is typically to identify the best value for the project; this is not always the lowest bid. This review process is also ensures that the bidders meet all the requirements put forth in the request. It can also give time to get some clarifications on the bid number from the contractors. This part of the process varies again based on delivery method and the number of stakeholders in the project. Step 6: Contract Negotiations & Start This is the last one. At this point, bids have been evaluated and the contractor that is going t...
3/17/201959 minutes, 28 seconds
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019: Architectural Fees

Architectural Fees are a mystery to most people and there is no shortage of methods that architects charge for their services. How do you make sense of the options, which method works best for you, and how do you provide a method that suits the needs of both the architect and their clients.
3/4/201954 minutes, 48 seconds
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018: Architectural Photography

For today's episode, Andrew and I sit down with photographer Poul Ober to discuss the role photography plays in telling an architectural story, as well as the evolving impact photography is having on popular culture.
2/18/201954 minutes, 1 second
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017: Quitting Your Job

It happens to almost all of us eventually, and for pretty much everybody, the experience ranges from unpleasant to downright panic-inducing … so get your moving box ready because “Quitting Your Job” is today’s topic, something that I, unfortunately, know a lot about.
2/4/201958 minutes, 55 seconds
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016: Architecture in the Real World

What is it like to be an architect? Architecture in the real world is a lot different than people think. Does school prepare you for being an architect?
1/21/201948 minutes, 25 seconds
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015: Tools of an Architect

All industries have specific tools that make their business work - and architects are no different in this regard. Today, we will be discussing virtual reality, 3D printers, drafting software and many more modern day tools for architects.
1/7/201956 minutes, 14 seconds
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014: Being an Architect is Hell

As an architect, every space I walk in to, I look at … intensely. I scrutinize, evaluate, process, and redesign. Every. Single. Space.
12/10/201848 minutes, 56 seconds
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013: What to Get an Architect for Christmas [2018]

For the 9th year in a row, Life of an Architect presents its "What to buy an architect for Christmas" - gift ideas that will please even the most particular and demanding of architects.
11/25/20181 hour, 3 minutes, 43 seconds
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012: A Day in the Life of an Architect

What does a day in the Life of an Architect look like? There are a lot of different answers to that question and even if I look at what my day looks like, it has varied over the years as I move through my career and took on different roles and responsibilities.
11/12/201855 minutes, 19 seconds
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011: An Architect’s Salary

So how much money do architects make? They're all rich, right? Well, that's the topic today and we are going to take a look at how best to answer that question.
10/28/20181 hour, 11 minutes, 58 seconds
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010: What Makes You a Designer

There are many things I do during a typical day – designing “stuff” is just one very small portion – but I still consider myself a designer more so than a project architect. Since I work at a smallish firm, everyone wears many hats and nobody has just one task or label. To be considered a designer just means you need to think about the design of everything – and I mean everything. Not everything I do is BIG picture design – compared with the overall time spent, very little of it is – but I consider the creation and coordination of the details of every project integral to the process that yields a successful design. [Note: If you are reading this via email, you will have to click here to access the on-site audio player]  How do you define Designer? [0:45 mark] This is a pretty generic definition and fails to recognize allied design professionals. Where does Creativity fit in? [2:00 mark] I started thinking that creativity has more to do with how a person thinks, views, and processes information rather than their ability to draw or paint well. As a result, I think some of the most creative people are scientists – people who don’t generally come to mind when the topic of creativity comes up. But you don’t have to be a genius level intellect to demonstrate creativity. Sometimes it’s about being clever and noticing what’s around you and realizing that you can do something with what you see. If you don't see yourself as a designer when you're doing construction drawings - you're not in the right job. [10:40 mark] "You don't just design buildings, you design details, you design execution ... you design the entire process".  There are many skills a designer must demonstrate, but in my opinion, here are the 6 most important: Observation [14:17 mark] If you consider yourself a designer, you make it a point to notice your surroundings. As a characteristic, designers are curious and they take notice and make notes of things others overlook. Communicators [19:44 mark]  Designers need to be able to articulate their ideas in a way that builds consensus and fosters an atmosphere of confidence. Integration [26:18 mark] And by this I mean they are able to take their ideas and put them into play. Evaluate [29:18 mark] Designers need to be able to look at their own work critically and keep the good bits and get rid of the parts that don’t work. Context [33:18 mark] Designers are great at understanding context, and context is what enables us to make sense of things and put some sense of order to the task at hand. Context is the bit that allows us to decide if something is relevant ... and determining if something is relevant is crucial when designing because if you design a solution to a problem that isn't relevant in a given context it’s worthless. Forge Their Own Path [37:39 mark] Rather than forming a belief of what a solution can or can’t be, designers tend to look at the process and ask themselves "What if?" and "Why not?" Designers often see rules as guidelines and will work along the edges and as a result generally feel unbound by rules that others follow.  We have decided to introduce a new segment to the podcast. We have been ending each episode with a segment meant to humanize us as individuals while taking a few minutes to talk about what we are doing in our spare time - a segment aptly titled "In My Spare Time". However, and after some reflection, since there are times when I don't really seem to have any spare time, I felt like I was forcing the issue and trying to come up with something to talk about (and if you really knew me, you'd know that this is not normally a problem). So after talking with Landon, I decided that in these moments we will cut the IMST segment and add in this new segment that I am going to call "Hypotheticals". If you are not familiar with the concept of a hypothetical, let me take a minute and explain it. I will present an imaginary situation or concept (that will almost always ...
10/14/201853 minutes, 39 seconds
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009: The “Low Cost Modern House”

With their clarity often confused with simplicity, modern houses require a far greater attention to execution and as a result, seem to surprise everyone with how expensive modern houses actually cost.
9/30/201855 minutes, 29 seconds
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008: Top Ten Reasons to be an Architect

If you are interested in becoming an architect, what are the best reasons to pursue your dream? The field of architecture can be extremely rewarding and today we discuss a few of the reasons why.
9/20/201853 minutes, 40 seconds
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007: A Survivor’s Guide to Architecture School

Fall is just around the corner and that means it's time for students around the country to return to their desk at architecture school. For most, this time is a mixture of excitement and enthusiasm while for others, it's a mixture of anxiety and sleepless nights ...
9/3/201856 minutes, 37 seconds
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006: Inside an Architect’s Office

Architectural offices do a lot more than simply provide a space in which the occupants do their job ... they represent the culture of the office and provide a context in which people imagine what they are capable of doing.
8/19/201854 minutes, 33 seconds
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005: Architects and Chefs

In this fifth episode of the Life of an Architect podcast, Landon and I take on the topic of Architects and cooking and how those two things come together in a way that could be unique.
8/5/201849 minutes, 17 seconds
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004: Architects and Traveling

Architects like to travel, at least that's what all my friends who are architects would like you to believe. While I will agree that this is a true statement, I think it's a fairly generic statement because don't all people like to travel? In this fourth episode of the Life of an Architect podcast, Landon and I take on the topic of traveling - or at least we start a conversation about traveling. When we sat down to prepare our show notes, it quickly became apparent that this was a topic worthy of several episodes. So to that end, we start with some of the up-front bits of traveling - traveling as a young person compared to a more "mature" person, traveling with children, packing, architectural bucket lists, and traveling for work. So much good stuff - so check out the podcast and be sure to stick around to the very end ... the last two minutes are quite memorable. [Note: If you are reading this via email, you will have to click here to access the on-site audio player]  Hard to believe that this is what I used to look like ... young. Traveling in Europe as a Student (6:10 mark) 27 years ago, as a fourth-year architecture student, I spent the Fall semester traveling around Western Europe soaking in all the architectural wonders I could find. I was 22 years old and had done very little traveling of any kind … through the good graces of my parents, The University of Texas School of Architecture, and Virginia Tech, I was able to travel extensively at an age when I was barely prepared to do much of anything in the real world. Most of what I learned from that time didn’t have as much to do with architecture as I anticipated … I grew up. Since my college trip to Europe predates the widespread use of the internet, the only way to really communicate with people back home was through letters and postcards. I will admit that my parents kept every postcard and letter I sent home and gave them to me once I got back ... and I have kept all of them to this day. Kate Borson riding a go-cart in a park in Paris Traveling with Children (8:20 mark) During a trip to the Museé d'Orsay, I was reminded of how to look at something by my 5-year-old daughter. Sometimes you have to slow down in order to see what you are looking at - a lesson that I didn't learn until I was forced to learn it when my wife and I took our daughter to Paris. Little kids are great at doing lots of things but walking around fancy museums for hours on end is not one of them. As expected, after about 30 minutes my daughter said she was bored and I wasn't ready to leave. In an effort to extend our stay, I picked her up and started carrying her around with me as we looked at the paintings. Distraction tactics commenced. Au Café dit L'Absinthe by Degas, Museé d'Orsay, Paris, France Sad Woman in a Bar (10:30 mark) This painting in particular, by Edgar Degas, captured the imagination of my daughter and she spent the better part of 15 minutes coming up with a narrative on why this woman looked so sad. Kids are funny that way, their impatience or intolerance with a thing typically comes from not understanding it or from being disinterested in the current activity. The slightest of changes will impact the way they see something, and as a result, their behavior will change your behavior. Bring your kids to museums. Packing (24:40 mark) I am a packing master - and this is the weekend bag that I use as often as I can. I will readily acknowledge that roller-bags are easier to move around but the old-school version of me thinks this is more manly. I have already taken about a dozen trips through the first seven months of the year, and have another Five taking place within the next two months - somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 miles - and my average trip lasts no more than 3 days. Unless I am packing 3" D-ring binders and stone samples, I prefer to carry a bag with some style. Favorite Building in Paris and "The Herd" (21:14 mark)
7/23/201850 minutes, 42 seconds
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003: Sketching

Sketching is a hot topic regardless of the people having the discussion, but I have learned over the last nine years of writing this site that sketching is one of the more hotly contested topics. While few architects would dispute the value in sketching, HOW that sketch is generated seems to fall into camps of individuals: Team Analog versus Team Digital and I don't think anyone would be surprised to learn that the age of the individual seems to decide (more times than not, but not a guarantee) which camp an individual belongs. These are the show notes to accompany the 3rd Life of an Architect podcast, and I hope that these notes will help bridge the gap between a pure blog post and a pure podcast. Unlike some other podcast show notes, my goal - at least for the foreseeable future, is going to include as many graphics as possible to support the podcast content, so that even if you don't listen to the podcast, there is something here that is of value. I will also concede that after several lengthy conversations with my wife, I have finally conceded to her point that I should include links to the items I mention or reference so that you don't have to go hunt them down yourself. This was a practice that I have generally avoided since I started writing this blog, but hopefully, this is also of some value. So let's get to it! [Note: If you are reading this via email, you will have to click here to access the on-site audio player]  Architectural Sketching - or - How to Sketch like Bob Borson (6:40 mark) Without trying to present you with false modesty, I am fairly comfortable with my ability to sketch ... but this was not always the case. A friend of mine gave me a handful of tips that made a fundamental change to how my sketches appeared. While I don't typically draw perspectives or try to capture the mood of a space, I have been sketching almost daily to create the sorts of sketches I do produce. Sketchbook - (36:04 mark) My business partner Michael Malone is many things, and right at the very top of traits I would assign him is prolific sketcher. He literally is at it every single day and his sketches are rather amazing and absolutely recognizable in their style. I have no doubt that I could pick one of his sketches out amongst thousands of other sketches. The image above is a cabinet in Michael's office and you can see that lining a few of the shelves are loads and loads of sketchbooks. Towards the top are fairly simple, hardback covered volumes, whereas on the bottom are these incredibly nice leather-bound volumes - all of which represent decades worth of ideas and thoughts. Almost 4 years ago I wrote a post on sketchbooks and Michael's handiwork is on full display in this post - Architectural Sketchbooks. These leather-bound sketchbooks are ridiculously nice - almost too nice for me - but Michael uses these types of books to record meeting notes and other "this is what's going on in my life" sort of items. He has been buying these 8.75" x 11" leather journals from Graphic Image for decades - and they certainly have an archival feel to them. The pages are lined and while Michael does produce sketches in them, they are primarily used for record notes and for keeping track of other items ... Like parking passes, museum receipts ... even stickers from jeans. While it might sound a bit random, when taken in as a whole, they are ridiculously cool. And then there are the "regular" sketchbooks that both Michael and I use - they aren't anything fancy ... See? Nothing fancy and if I'm being honest, while they take a fair amount of abuse, they aren't indestructible. I have a few that are in fine working order that dates back to 1990 ... but they sorta look like they date back to 1990. Almost all of mine are 8.5" x 11" hardback books from Strathmore but Michael said he also buys Canson sketchbooks as well. In addition to design concept sketches, Michael will put anything that motivates him in these ske...
7/9/201850 minutes, 13 seconds
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002: The College Years

Life of an Architect podcast discusses the College years in this second episode. How do you pick the right architecture school? Is there a portfolio requirement? What sort of classes should I take? This and more are discussed.
6/27/201853 minutes, 50 seconds
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001: Character Development

Life of an Architect has finally entered the podcasting world! In the first episode, Bob Borson and Landon Williams discuss why they decided to start a podcast, their objectives for the podcast, as well as possible future topics.
6/14/201841 minutes, 8 seconds