May 14, 2012 AdminHBA Events, Wisdom (Lessons Learned)

The Practice of Architecture from Three Perspectives

Recently, three of us from HBA had the privilege of speaking to a group of architecture students at Hampton University. Since students often work solo on projects with unlimited budgets, we attempted to bring a heavy dose of reality through the topic “A Day in the Life of an Architect.” The lecture was given from three different perspectives: me, a rookie intern architect, Mike Winner, HBA’s newest Principal, and Mike Molzahn, an HBA Principal with many successful years in the practice. We aimed to provide students with a glimpse into the everyday workings of a medium-sized architecture firm.

As a recent graduate of Virginia Tech’s architecture program, I spoke on the importance of setting oneself apart in today’s competitive job market. I encouraged students to be memorable to potential employers, humble in their daily work, and proactive about planning for the future.

Mike Winner presented the South Norfolk Library, a project currently on the boards at HBA. Throughout its lifespan, this stand-alone library which responded to its site became an interior build-out of an existing building. Mr. Winner used the unique circumstances surrounding this project to demonstrate how one project can go through two completely different design processes, and that the ability to be flexible affords valuable opportunities to learn and grow.

Mike Molzahn finished up by describing the variety of projects he has built throughout his 30+ years in the profession. Although not every building is glamorous, “there are design opportunities in everything you do,” said Molzahn, “You can always make something a little bit better than it otherwise would have been.”

One prevailing theme among our talks was the crucial importance of salesmanship in the profession of architecture. Not only do architects have to sell their ideas to project owners, but in order to get work, firms must effectively market their skills. Client relationships are built on trust and understanding, and take time to develop. We strove to drive home that the sooner these students can begin to intentionally build connections, the better off they will be in the profession of architecture.

As HBA ambassadors we were delighted to have the opportunity to speak with and meet many of the students after the lecture. Perhaps, just like client relationships, this partnership with our neighbors at Hampton University will grow and strengthen over time, with student and professional alike learning and being challenged to make something a little bit better in the practice of architecture.

  Becky Cook


Image source: Kevin Coles’ Flickr photostream and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License