The cafeteria at Frontier School of Innovation began to fill with the nervous chatter of 8th, 9th, and 10th graders at 9 AM on the first Friday of March. As 160 students quickly shuffled in, Patrick Franke, a fellow Gould Evans associate, and I did our best to look like really nice friendly young creatives. While some students were afraid to make eye contact, some boldly approached our table.
Note to self – free things make you instantly more interesting at career fairs.
We didn’t have free things. No pens, no mints. We did, however, have other materials to entice the young career enthusiast. We had sets of drawings, images of our office, beautiful project renderings and photography. We even had a laptop with Sketchup and Revit models to explore.
As expected, the students had excellent questions. Some even probed our reasoning as to why we wake up to go to work every day. Nothing could have prepared us for the full-court press psycho-analysis, or the following days of self-reflection that took us some time to recover from. But nonetheless, they had great questions!
They wanted to know what architectural education was required. What are the degree requirements? What are the best universities to attend? What’s the job availability? Is there competition in the field? What are salary ranges like? It quickly became apparent that there was way too much to cover than our allotted five minute conversations allowed. So, we began to engage the students’ interest on a technical-creative spectrum and then described the profession from one end of the spectrum or the other.
As we talked with the students, the conversations shifted to our process. They were curious about how we work. They wanted to know if we’re required to collaborate in groups or focus on projects by ourselves and if we can work from home or coffee shops. They seemed surprised to learn how 5-10 people work together on a project – with each team member taking on specific tasks to work toward deadlines and goals. We shared a photo of a charrette wall in our office that helped them understand how we express and communicate ideas in group settings; and explained that the best ideas come from collaborative teamwork.
As groups of students cycled by our table, one particular group of boys were lured in by our construction drawings. They studied the plans of a project and paid close attention to the structural details. They got excited by a Sketchup model as they panned around in it. Their questions were very mature and career-focused.
Then one boy smirked shyly and asked, “Can you build a house out of solid gold and diamonds?”
“Well… I suppose you could. It would be very expensive…,” we said. “But good question!”
The conversation shifted to the video game Minecraft, where players can construct entire virtual worlds in 3D. They confidently identified themselves as a generation of virtual builders as they described how computer games easily make it possible to design and construct a cathedral or fort or anything you can dream up. The game had taught them how to create and build in a way that incorporates the architectural process (however interesting or unrealistic the building materials).
Another boy asked, “Do you design yachts?”
We explained that while it isn’t common for architects to design boats, it is a type of specialized architecture. Patrick proceeded to show them photography of Zaha Hadid’s design for the Superyacht. They were quite impressed.
“Could you build your own house?”
“Of course!” we said while describing the design and building processes. We also enforced what it takes to become a licensed architect and the importance of understanding construction in order to design anything.
One of the boys nonchalantly shared his plans to build his own treehouse. We encouraged them to download a free trial version of 3D software and start building more articulate virtual models of their ideas in order to better understand what it takes to realize their visions.
At the end of the day, the students thanked us and began to walk away. One of the students looked at us and said, “Now I really do want to be an architect.” A couple of the boys nodded and asked for our firm’s website.
A good morning at Career Day, we think.