knowledge is not experience: #architalks

College was an incredible experience for me. I was incredibly fortunate to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia where I spent 5 years learning everything I could about Architecture and Design. Our professors nearly all with a Masters or PHD in their field, and a practicing Architect with years worth of experience in professional practice poured themselves into us and helped shape us into the architects we would all become. To be frank, I could not have wished for a better education. But even with this vast wealth of knowledge being poured into me during my tenure at SCAD, there is one thing that Academia does not offer:

Experience - practical hands on application of knowledge in the field of architecture.

When I graduated college I spent just over 6 months vying for my first internship. I was, again, fortunate to have landed at Kemp Bunch and Jackson Architects (KBJ Architects) in Jacksonville, Florida. What I didn't know at the time was that KBJ was the second oldest architectural firm in the state, but the first architectural firm to receive a corporate architectural license. The firm was also a Beta test site for Autodesk which meant we always had the latest edition of the software to test in the field. All of these facts came together to make for a feeling of extreme inadequacy for me. And I quickly realized that the quantity and quality of the things that I DID NOT know was far more impressive than the quantity and quality of the things that I DID know. 

In short - college, unfortunately, prepared me for nothing in the practical practice of architecture. And not only was I unprepared for the practice of architecture, but I DID NOT KNOW how unprepared I was. My first few months as an intern made me think that the last 5 years I had spent in college were all but worthless. I was starting from scratch, nil, zilch, ground zero, the proverbial tabula rasa. 

And so, instead of simply hanging my head and pushing through the meager menial tasks that someone of my vast lack of experience should have been entrusted with, I eagerly dove into my role as an intern and endeavored to learn everything that anyone at that office would teach me. You see, I had no other goal in life but to be an architect. College was a wonderful experience. I was taught to think through the design process, to think about architecture in purely theoretical and esoteric formulae, as a construct of larger solutions to societal and ecological issues. But the specifics of the business of architecture were completely lost on me. There was really only one thing I learned in those 5 years that gave me a foundation with which to build on in my professional career:

The ability to solve problems through design.

This may sound trivial, but believe me it was and is not. To this day the one learned skill that I fall back on time and time again in my daily life as an architect is my ability to look at a particular problem, consider a number of alternative solutions and arrive at a design that best fits the program. And through the years this skill has only improved as I have added more experience to my resume, as I have stretched this particular muscle, and learned new solutions to every day design challenges. Knowledge, without experience to filter its application, is useless.

For more words of wisdom on this topic, check out these other archibloggers.

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
That's Experience -- A Wise Investment

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
The GC Experience

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)

Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
experience comes from experiences

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Gaining Experience As A Young Architect

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
You need it to get it

Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Channeling Experience: Storytelling in the Spaces We Design

Leah Alissa Bayer - Stoytelling LAB (@leahalissa)
Four Years In: All Experiences Are Not Created Equal (Nor Should They Be)