While I always knew I wanted to be an architect, I did not always know I wanted to be a residential architect. My interest in homes began during my first studio class as a grad student. Before that I had dabbled in residential projects in undergrad classes and on co-op internships, but nothing stuck out about them from the commercial or municipal projects for me. However, that quarter we were able to request what studio we would like to take. My first choice was actually the Solar Decathlon studio, which was a lot of people’s first choice too due to sustainability being all the rage so I didn’t get that one.
I did get my second choice of the House and Home studio, which was taught by the same professor that I had during my travel study quarter throughout the Southwestern US. We used the Pattern Language book as inspiration while working with a real client. Mine was one of my classmate’s parents who had some renovations they wanted to do to their house. We even got to present to our clients at the final critique at school.
I think it was seeing the actual person who would use the space and being able to integrate their personality into the space that made me enjoy it so much. The following quarter I had co-op internship at Neal Prince, a firm that did a variety of projects, including residential. They asked me what area I would like to work in, and I was interested to learn more about working on homes.
The experience as part of the Neal Prince residential studio further made me appreciate the smaller scale of those projects, which let me be more involved in the process from the initial creation of the idea to seeing the completed construction. Also Greenville, SC, where the firm was located, had lots of great Craftsman houses that are hard not to love.
A couple of quarters later when I was deciding on a thesis topic, I felt it had to be something residential. I ended up doing a multi-story condo unit. Then after graduating, I knew I had to go back to the firm I had enjoyed working for the most.
Unfortunately, I only got to work for Neal Prince for a year before I got married and moved away. At the next firm I worked for, they focused on restaurants but also had some residential projects as well. It was interesting for me to learn about commercial kitchens, since they are related to a kitchen in a house. However, I always felt most passionate about the residential projects I got to work on from time to time. Over time I realized that the best way for me to get back into focusing on houses would be for me to move on elsewhere.
Residential projects tend to be done by solo architects because the scale of the projects is something they can do on their own. However, sometimes they do need a little help from contract workers. I thought this would be a great way for me to get back to working on homes again, and maybe even have some projects of my own eventually.
There is another way residential project are done, but it is less common. I had seen an example of this at Neal Prince in their team approach. One person might be working on a project by themselves or with a little help. However, anyone could use the collective knowledge of the group to get a second opinion on something they were working on.
I think the team approach creates better results because you are building on each other’s experiences. I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to find the right opportunity for me to join the such a residential team so I figured I would at least try the solo architect route since that opportunity was available.
As things would have it, one of the firms I was freelancing for was looking to grow beyond themselves into having a team. So I took that opportunity, and now I am working in my ideal environment.