Question from Marcel: I have been studying the evolution of the architectural world for many years, and I am still convinced that any type of exams is totally useless. The "kids" studies like crazy, which is more like jamming information in their memory, then pass the exam and hope that they have done well. Few months later they have forgotten most of what they have memorized.
Worst of all is that quite a number of these "kids" believe that they are fit to start a practice!
Gang Chen's response:
It takes at least quite a few years after graduation for one to really know the whole picture of architecture.
Taking the ARE exams will actually expedite the process of learning architecture. For example, just by reading the AIA documents, you can learn a lot. So, Studying and passing the exam is not just to get the license, but also a good way to learn about architecture.
Working experience has its own limitations also, especially if you have only worked in big firms: you are doing a very specific type of work. For example, if you are a designer, you are pretty much doing mostly front end stuff, and have very few opportunities to do CD.
Bigger firms will train you a lot on the cutting edge technologies, etc, and make you specialize in what you are doing, but they will limit your exposure to the whole picture of architecture.
If you want to learn architecture from experience, you need to have some experience working in smaller firms to be exposed to all aspects of architecture.
Being able to practice architecture is another story: you need have what it takes and the opportunities. For a firm to be successful, you need to have at least three people: a rainmaker who has the connections and can do good marketing to bring in the project, a project manager who can run the project from A to Z, and a good designer who can really design.
If you are smart enough, you may be able to do all three functions yourself.
At our time, everything is so specialized and competitive, you need to focus on your niche and specialty to be able to get projects.
There is another factor: you need to have thick skin and not afraid of failures. To practice architecture, like anything else, takes failures for you to learn the tricks. Many people give up because they not tough enough to keep trying until they succeed.
Timing and opportunities are also important. If you started in 2008, most clients were cutting architects instead of adding architects, so it would have been almost impossible for you to get any decent projects.
Architects are not like painters, architects need clients to be able to practice architecture.
Gang Chen, Author, Architect, LEED AP BD+C (http://GreenExamEducation.com/)
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