Lora Teagarden is a practicing architect at RATIO in Indianapolis and the Founder of L2 Design. Her website and blog offers a unqiue insight into professional practice, together with inspiration and tips for aspiring architects.
I got this question via email the other day from someone aged around 50: “Am I too old to be an architect?”
It weighed heavy on me, for a variety of reasons. First, I’m newly licensed myself; do I have the authority to send someone down a new career path? We’ve crawled out of a recession, but I have no idea where we’ll be in six years when this person is done with school. What if life is hard? How do I know if they’ll have the skills to succeed; if they’ll enjoy it?
And then I realized, I just needed to speak from the heart and tell them a bit of what I’ve learned so far.
Am I too old to be an architect?
The short answer is no. Hard stop. Now let me explain …
It won’t be easy.
Depending on what career you’re moving from, this can be an easy or a hard switch. However … no matter what career you’re coming from, you’ll more than likely have to go back to school. If you have an undergraduate degree, you could do a three-year Masters of Architecture program (depending on your location), but make no mistake — this won’t be a cakewalk. If you’re at least a decade removed from school, you may have forgotten about all the study methods and any material that you don’t currently use daily, and you’ve definitely blocked out of your mind the late-night cram sessions. I have news for you …
Take undergraduate architecture school and times it by at least 10. This is a grueling curriculum but only because the hope is to get down to the essence of the designer in you and build you up from that base with a sturdy foundation to last your career.
You are the land. School is trying to dig at you and blast away at you, putting you under immense pressure to get to the precious minerals of your talents and skills that you have to offer the world. And when you, with their help, find that mineral … you’re going to have to work harder than you ever have before to build upon those ideas and skills, to constantly improve them. Over the process of your new career (note: I did not say by the end of school), that mineral may start to shine from the efforts of your labor. Being smelted over the fire has its benefits, but you have to be able to stand the heat to get there.
What’s in a career?
It doesn’t matter what you do if you aren’t doing it with passion. If you have a truly creative personality, you’re already finding outlets for this talent … ways to hone and keep pursuing new ideas. If you’re crunching numbers for a living but daydreaming about the details of a design project, take a minute to assess.
Is it because work is simply burning you out, or is it because you aren’t feeding a passion? Do you enjoy the work you do but just need a mental break, or is the dread of the workday wake-up a feeling so common after months and years gone by that you don’t second-guess it?
If you have the passion for design but aren’t currently in a design field, chances are you’ve got “ants in your pants” and are always searching for new outlets for projects. Heck, I’m in this field and am constantly looking for new creative outlets. The world of design is something that’s all-consuming … and hopefully in the best ways possible. You will have to learn to strike a balance — it’s something I’m still learning — but you won’t regret it for a single minute if you’re living your passion.
We need more passionate, caring people in this world that are working hard to improve the surroundings within which we live. The places we call home are precious, and so are the people we share it with. Architecture has the capability to better both of those things.
Our value is such that we can either make someone very uncomfortable with a bad design, or so comfortable in a space that they don’t realize the effort put into it. All of the details singing in harmony means the user probably doesn’t notice them. But if one detail is out of tune, it throws everything off. You are the creator of ideas into realities, lines into built forms and spaces into memories.
Too old to be an architect? If you’re passionate about architecture, nothing will keep you from it.
Now go build your future.