As part of my graduate education, we had a seminar class on the profession of architecture entitled “On Practice”. The seminar was fantastic, one of the best courses I have ever taken, and most of our sessions were structured as deep philosophical conversations on a variety of topics relevant to our professional development. Early in the semester, we dedicated a session to the discussion of “practice” and what that term implies. There are several professions that practice – lawyers practice law, doctors practice medicine and architects practice architecture. Practice implies that you are continually learning and improving and that there is no real replacement for experience. This notion is further bolstered by a piece of advice a friend passed along to me as I contemplating architecture – the best architects are the old architects. As I embark on my nascent practice, I find that to be truer than ever.
As architects, we generally get to spend a great deal of time looking at only a few projects. The timeline from design inception to construction completion can vary greatly, but a year in duration is usually the minimum. During this time, we hash and rehash layouts, spend hours in consultation with clients and constructors and become intimately familiar with all of the particulars of the project. While this is necessarily the nature of our profession, it does not always lend to the idea of a broad base of experience or practice, so architects must also be great students of the work of others to supplement our practice and avoid stagnation.
I recently had the privilege of serving on the jury for the Texas Association of Builders’ Annual Star Awards. As my practice to this point has largely focused on commercial and institutional architecture, I was excited at the prospect of a total immersion in a different realm. I enjoy larger projects, but have always enjoyed a strong connection with the home as an architectural type. Often neglected, the home is probably the single most significant piece of architecture in our life. Contemplated grandly, I believe that the home should be a place that conforms to the way that we desire to live, not embody a generic ideal of how we think we should live. With this in mind (but not in bias!), I was eager to see what Texas had in store for us!
First, I have to give kudos to the staff of the Texas Association of Builders. They set forth a fairly daunting task (a 3-ring binder arrived at my home a week prior to the actual judging to get a “head start” on several categories) to view, review and judge hundreds of submissions from volume builders, custom builders, remodelers and allied professions. Along with the other three jury members, we were treated like royalty with a steady stream of refreshments, Austin delicacies and a wonderful collegial environment to complete our task. My sincere thanks to everyone who made our stay in Austin such a pleasurable experience.
The work – simply put, amazing. Over the course of two packed days (we worked nearly 12 straight hours the first day) we viewed projects ranging from small bathroom renovations to nothing short of mansions. The assembled jury had a nice mix of experience and backgrounds and I was fortunate to learn a great deal in a very short time about the volume and custom home building industry. I was incredibly impressed at the creativity and design thinking inherent in a vast majority of the homes, with a particular appreciation for the smaller homes. Texas is building some truly fantastic homes of every shape, size, and price. Additionally, we noticed a fantastic trend towards not just making subdivisions, but creating communities with native amenities, not miles of pavement.
As with any undertaking, practice makes perfect. I once heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. Stay tuned to see how our practice continues to develop, as Muhlenberg Greene Architects unveils a little taste of our residential project portfolio!