Architects Do More Than Draw

One of the things architect’s often hear is a variation on the idea that what we do is draw buildings.

We do, of course, draw buildings. It is not, however, the only thing we do, and, probably is not the majority of what we do, if by drawing buildings the speaker means making pretty pictures.

If truth be told, it was the prospect of making beautify drawings of buildings that drew me to architecture when I was 5 years old. My best friend’s dad had a special table for drawing and the biggest collection of colored pencils I had ever seen. He got to draw buildings for a living.

That sounded awesome to me. I wanted to do what Mark’s dad did even before I knew the word “architect”.

The reality of being an architect is something else altogether. After getting a 5 year professional degree in architecture, a graduate degree in architectural history, serving a mandatory minimum 3 year apprenticeship, passing a rigorous 10 part licensing exam, and working in the field for myself and others for over 30 years, making pretty drawings of buildings is only a tiny fraction of what I do on a daily basis.

This comes up because I have spent the last few days writing. I wrote two proposals for my Reality Check feasibility service. I wrote two sets of meeting notes for meetings I had with San Francisco building, planning, and fire department officials. I wrote a response to comments from a planning department on my design for a project.

I’ve also spent hours in the last few weeks doing research: talking to planners about what my clients want to do and what aspects of the planning codes will apply to those projects. I’ve also spoken with building officials about how the rules of one city program are going to be applied to another client’s project.

I have also spent a few hours planning out the construction drawings for a project I’m starting so I can estimate the hours required to produce those drawings. I have to estimate my hours and my drafter’s hours.

In the past week, I haven’t made any drawings. I have marked up changes to drawings already started so that my drafter can make the changes. I have planned sets of drawings. But I haven’t even sketched a construction detail, or put a pen to paper, or stylus to device to make a pretty drawing of anything.

Design sketches I sent to my drafter.

I’ve written countless emails to clients, contractors, consultants, and prospective clients. I’ve spoken on the phone to clients, and consultants. I’ve written out a (daunting) to do list of all of the tasks I need to do in the next week to keep the projects in my studio moving forward.

All of these non-drawing tasks are essential and are part of the service that any architect provides to their clients. And there are so many more non-drawing services that are required to ensure that a client’s project moves from idea in my client’s head to finished project with a minimum of stress.

These services are generally lumped into the category of “project management” and are critical aspects of what we do.

Maneuvering a project from concept to construction to completion is a complex task for even the smallest projects. Your architect does far more than put lines on paper, or make pretty drawings.

But we surely love it when we get the chance! It is what drew us to the profession in the beginning.

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