5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known as a Rookie Architect

We spoke to an experienced architect to find out the five things he wishes he had known before his first day on the job.

5 Things I Wish I Would've Known as a Rookie ArchitectKaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

It typically takes four to six years to earn a bachelor’s degree in architecture.While you might think that would be a long enough time to prepare you for all of the architecture industry’s various ins-and-outs, there is really no substitute for the on-the-job experience you’ll gain just in the first few weeks of your first architecture job. To learn more about beginning a career as an architect, we talked to Wynne Yelland, an architect with more than twenty years of industry experience. Here are five things he wishes he would have known on his first day as an architect.

Get hands on in construction

When Wynne and his business partner founded their company fresh out of grad school, they were able to provide both design and construction services to their clients. That was possible because between his years working on his undergrad, Wynne worked a summer job as a carpenter. That experience gave him an understanding of both the building and design process. While Wynne does not get to spend a lot of time working with his hands on his designs any more, he recommends that all rookie architects spend some time in the field learning how things are built.

Identify the problem, find the solution

“Ask yourself, what’s the real problem that has to be solved here?”

According to Wynne, at its core, good design should be about finding a solution to a problem. Before tackling any project, he recommends taking a look at the big picture and identifying the problems you are going to try and solve with your design. Create things that make your clients’ lives easier and you will have happier clients at the end of the day. It’s that simple.

Own essential tools

It’s likely that all of the fancy software and design programs you need will be provided by the company who hired you. Wynne recommends you invest in different set of tools.

“Get the essential construction tools—a compact saw, a welder—and just build things,” Wynne said.

Similar to spending time working on a construction site, building things with your hands is a great way to take a step back from the world of digital design and think about how things come together in the real world.

Don’t worry about “cool”

When you are trying to break into an industry, especially one as varied and diverse as architecture, it could be tempting to go for flashy, more experimental designs in order to stand out. But sometimes standing out is less about gaudy designs and more about delivering on functioning concepts.

“Making something ‘cool’ really means making something that works great for your client,” said Wynne.

Be curious

Wynne’s general advice to architects as they begin their careers is simple, but important: always be curious. The world around you is a great source of inspiration, so do not ignore it. When you see something intriguing and don’t quite understand how it functions or how it was built, try to find out. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your hard-earned degree means that your learning days are over. Being (and staying) curious will allow you to grow and evolve just as the world does around you.

About the expert

Wynne Yelland is the founding principal and frequent doodler at LOCUS Architecture, with over 25 years of experience as lead architect, project manager, carpenter, and developer on both residential and small commercial projects

Next, check out the five things one pro wished he would have know as a rookie plumber.