Architecture – Why Me?

by Geoffrey Butler, AIA

I am often asked how I got interested in architecture. What led me to become an architect? The first thing that comes to mind is that my father was an architect, and as a child you always tend to consider following in your parent’s footsteps. However, just because your parent was a professional of some sort does not mean that you can do that, or would even enjoy doing that.

So thinking back, I think that while architecture was something I was familiar with, what really kept me moving that direction was curiosity. I have always been curious about how things are put together, what makes them work and what they are made of. I have to admit that, early on, I was very good at taking things apart to figure out how they were put together, but now so good at putting them back together. I recall several lawnmowers that might have only needed a new spark plug and some fresh gas, but instead they fell prey to my curiosity. Those carcasses ended up in the shed until we finally got rid of them.

Later on there were the “forts” which my brother and I would build to play war in. However, we really lacked the resources to build a descent fort as lumber was scarce and sticks, logs and rocks were not very good for building substantial forts. Moving inside provided many more opportunities to build and create interesting spaces. Couches, chairs, dressers, sheets, and blankets can be configured into all sorts of elaborate spaces. I don’t think that there were many days when my bedroom (shared with my brother) wasn’t in a constant state of change. Add to that my lack of concern about having a clean room, and I wonder how my mother ever kept her sanity.

So, I guess it is safe to say that early childhood experiences can lead you to your career, or at least make you consider realistically what you might want to do with your life.

I was on a jobsite last week doing an inspection and while I was waiting for the general contractor to return from an errand, I took time to reflect on the whole design and construction process. To me, it is a lot of fun to plan a project. Taking our client’s needs and challenges, and turning them into a design for a facility is downright entertaining. Figuring out how the facility needs to work, how people use it and what it can or should look like is all part of the enjoyment. Figuring out what it should be built out of and how all the pieces fit together add to the pleasure.

But the construction process is the culmination of the effort. That is where all of your thought processes are turned into a real building. Watching how the contractor puts the building together is a rewarding experience. Discussing all of the various aspects of the building with the contractor and resolving little conflicts which crop up is a big part of the fun.

At the end of the project, when the client takes possession of the building and begins to use it, I always get a warm fuzzy feeling. This is something that I helped to create and it will serve a purpose for many years. It is the result of a lot of thought and effort. It is all of that and it was fun! For me at least.