What are architects like?


The following are answers from The Architect’s Aptitude Test. Doug Patt developed this test. It should not be used as a definitive tool to evaluate the likelihood of success as an architecture student or architect. It is meant to help assess your current inclinations relative to what Doug knows about being an architect. In fact, when Doug first took this quiz his wife scored more likely to be an architect than him. Remember, the best way to know if you’re cut out for the profession is to work in an architects office. Get the most experience you can before spending all that money to study something in college that won’t work out. See the answers below…

Could you be an architect?

People are inspired to become architects through friends, counselors, buildings, architects, books, movies, or chance encounters. Students begin with enthusiasm; however face a challenging reality, a hyper competitive costly college environment. In addition, they may not be emotionally or socially ready. College is an expensive gamble if you’re not prepared. I tell students that internships are the best way to assess suitability, particularly with architecture. Architecture may be inspiring but becoming and being one is vastly different than perceived.

Architects are proficient at five things: drawing, math, language, creativity and hard work. Most architects aren’t good at all five but most are good at some, including a few less tangible traits. Here are some relevant questions to ask when evaluating your career choice.  Remember, everyone matures at a different rate. The following is a reference and not the final word.

Are you introverted or extroverted?

One person is extroverted and energized by others. Another is introverted and prefers working alone. Architects come both ways, however being introverted tends to lend itself to the job. Architects spend lots of time alone sketching, writing, drawing, making models, and thinking. In contradiction, architects have clients, employees, peers and lots of meetings. They train in large open studios and work in offices with lots of commotion. Architects can work toward their job preference, but need to learn the art of independence first.

Do you think then act or act then think?

Architects are problem solvers. They think then act. Good solutions take time because ideas reciprocate and evolve. Success depends on well thought out solutions not shooting from the hip.

Do you like to listen?

Architects are good listeners, and if not, they take notes. Clients pour their hearts out to architects. They share the most intimate habit, details, desire and need so they get what they want. They talk about color, material, form, organization, proximity, dimension, size, and orientation.  They hire architects in search of a custom solution. It’s the architect’s job to listen, take notes and respond with something unique.

Are you creative?

Architects are creative. They explore and invent. They get bored easily and think outside the box. Today ‘s architecture is amazing. Some buildings don’t even look like buildings. That’s because architects are creative, some more than others. Conventional wisdom is that creativity is innate. Contemporary thinking says creativity can be learned. Some children are more creative than others. Some adults choose creative fields and others don’t. Whether creativity is innate or learned is for another book.

If you’re not great at something, do you want to be?

When I was in eleventh grade I almost failed Physics. I had the opportunity to drop the class before it became part of my GPA. I enjoyed physics but wasn’t good at it. In college physics was required coursework. I fortunately had friends that were exceptional students. I studied with them and did well. I also had friends that didn’t care. They didn’t study, failed and had to take physics in the summer. Anyone can be good enough, or even great, if they want.

Do you like to draw?

Architects use computers. Most young architects are proficient in a couple types of software by graduation. However, many architects don’t get out of school with proficiency in hand drawing. Two of the most famous modern architect’s of the 20th century were Walter Gropius & Le Corbusier. Gropius did very little drawing because he couldn’t draw well. He depended on his employees to do it for him. Corbusier drew all the time. His sketches may not have been the most beautiful but the ideas they conveyed were brilliant. You don’t have to be an artist to be an architect, but you do need to convey ideas. Students tend to lean on the computer. Computers are ideal for representing objects that are highly detailed. Unfortunately students use three-dimensional images as a crutch that masks undeveloped ideas. 3D imagery is seductive. It’s easy to draw a line using a computer, but a hand drawn line is more deliberate. Lines on a computer screen can be erased with a click, but hand drawn lines take energy to eliminate. The tedium of sketching and hand drafting teaches thoughtful, deliberate effort.

Do you like math?

A building is defined with drawings, models, words and dimensions. Architects deal in mathematical terms. They dimension buildings. They also use math and physics early in their career. Structural knowledge is a prerequisite for some architecture courses and licensure in the United States. However, the truth is, architects don’t use much in practice. Architects use a few mathematical rules of thumb when designing buildings but rely on the engineer to make sure what he draws works. The architect needs to understand concepts so his design is possible. However, complex calculations are the purview of the architectural engineer.

Are you the engineer or the architect?

A lot of people wonder if they should be an architect or an architectural engineer. Put simply, architects have big ideas and architectural engineers make sure they work. The architectural engineer uses math and physics daily. He uses numbers, equations, variables and physics to make sure the architects design stands. This doesn’t mean engineers aren’t creative or architects don’t know structures. Buckminster Fuller, the creator of the geodesic dome, was more creative than most architects. Santiago Calatrava is an architect and sculptor by trade; he has created some of the most structurally elegant buildings of the 20th century. A simple question to ask is, would you rather dream the impossible, or make sure it’s possible?

Do you like language?

When I was in college no one told me words were important. Architects do a lot of writing and almost as much talking. Architects take meeting minutes, write specifications, work through contracts, describe construction and write thousands of emails. Being thorough and concise is critical. Architects also spend a lot of time talking. They meet with clients, talk about projects and construction, coordinate their work and collaborate in the office. They also sell themselves. Architects don’t tend to be the “door to door” type, but they’ve got to be an effective, genuine communicator.

Can you use a computer?

Architects use a variety of Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, Word, Excel, Photoshop, Illustrator, and other software programs. College is a great place to get acquainted with these but getting started early will make you a quicker study in college.

Can you see an object in your minds eye?

Imagine you’re an architect. You’re on site and a contractor has a problem. He can’t build what you’ve drawn. He takes you to the drawing and describes the challenge. You study the issue for a few moments but don’t understand. It may be that you can’t picture or visualize the issue. Translating two-dimensional drawings into a mental three-dimensional object is not a skill that everyone has. I know a few architects that can’t, but very few. Some people need to sit and sketch something in order to see it. Others can conjure a relatively accurate mental image.

Are you decisive?

Architects make quick decisions on a job site. If they don’t it effects the confidence an owner or contractor have in their abilities. [/private_Architecture for Anybody

Are you conscientious?

College is hard for architects but work is harder. Intern architects make slow gains toward better income and more responsibility. The architect’s exam is seven parts and takes months to complete. The architect is expected to be professional, timely and accurate. He is also at the top of the professional food chain. Missed deadlines and mistakes affect everyone. Huge sums of money hinge on the architect’s accuracy.


Answers to the  The Architect’s Aptitude Test

1. Do you like being around other people?
Architects tend to be more introverted than extroverted. They tend to not mind working by themselves or alone for long periods of time. Introverts may like people, but they don’t particularly care for superficiality. However, like anything, it’s not always the case.
2. Do you mind working in a group, as opposed to individually?
If you want to be an architect you’re going to have to work with other people. People make up teams that work on jobs. You may lead the team but most likely you’ll spend a lot of your early career working as a member of a team. You’ll also have to sit through meetings with other people, listen to them and work well along side them.
3. Do you act then think or think then act?
Architects tend to more contemplative and less impulsive. But again. It’s not always the case. Particularly with me.
4. Do you like to listen or like to talk?
Architects have to be very good listeners. Again. This can be a learned behavior, but it’s not easy to do if you’re the person that likes to express himself with words more so than drawings.
5. Would you consider yourself more practical or a dreamer?
Architects are dreamers. I have met a few, however, that aren’t. These people still make great architects, but they’re more behind the scenes. They tend to be more about the specification and technical aspects of a building.
6. Do you like to learn new things?
Architects tend to be more intuitive. They like learning new skills and tend to get bored easily.
7. Do you look forward to the present or the future?
Architects are more oriented toward what CAN be. Not what IS.
8. Do you like math? (This is not the same question as “are you good in math?”)
The framework for architecture is math. Architects describe a lot with numbers. Enjoying math is a good start.
9. Do you like to draw by hand (pencil, pen, etc…) or on the computer(CAD, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc…) ? (This is not the same question as “are you good at drawing?”)
If you like to draw (or desire to get better at it) you’re ahead of the game.
10. Do you like to write? (This is not the same question as “are you good at writing?”)
Architects do a lot of writing. If you enjoy writing your job will be a little easier.
11. Do you like public speaking? (This is not the same question as “Are you good at public speaking?”)
Let’s face it. No one really likes this, but you can get over your fear if you work at it.
12. Are you good at math? (This is not the same question as “do you like math?”)
My impression is that the number one reason students don’t pursue the field is because their guidance councilor told them not to. In my experience it’s because the student wasn’t good in math. Being good in math is a step in the right direction but not your only consideration. If you desire to be good in math it could be that you will, with work.
13. Are you good at hand drawing?
This is, by no means, as important today. However, there is nothing like a hand drawn sketch to sell a client on talent and ideas!
14. Are you good at using the computer (ex.CAD, Word, Excel, Photoshop, Illustrator)?
You’re ahead of the game if you’ve got some experience with any of these software programs. You certainly don’t have to, but you’ll most likely use almost everyone in your job.
15. Are you a good writer? (This is not the same question as “do you like to write?”)
I was the worlds worst writer but got better with practice. There is a lot of writing as an architect (CYA, contracts, meeting minutes, etc…)
16. Are you good at public speaking? (This is not the same question as “Do you like public speaking?”)
Students give lots of presentations and architects sell themselves to clients, address the office and even speak at events. You can get better at public speaking with practice.
17. Do you like to read?
I was not a reader in college however I became one. There are lots of people out there with great ideas and one of the only ways to learn about them is to read. As an architect you will also do plenty of reading when it comes to Construction Documents and Contracts.
18. Are you generally creative?
If you’re going to be an architect you should probably be creative. Creativity is part of problem solving. You will learn to be a better a problem solver at school, but you should come to it with some degree of creativity.
19. Can you see objects in your mind’s eye?
It’s relatively important to be able to move objects around in your mind. I’ve met a number of architects who could not do this, but it comes in handy to conceptualize ideas.
20. Do you get things done, procrastinate or miss deadlines?
You better be conscientious if you’re an architect. Lots of coordination and hard work.
21. Do you like doing research (looking for things) on the internet?
I hate researching things on the net, but I do it all day long some days.
22. Are you a decisive? Can you make quick decisions?
This is a no brainer. You’ve got to make quick decisions on a job site otherwise you’ll get eaten alive by the contractor. Architects that vacillate don’t get the respect they need on site.
23. Do you like repetitive tasks or variety?
Architects tend to like variety.
24. Do you make “to do” lists or wing it?
Be organized if you want to be an architect!
25. Are you outgoing (i.e. life of the party, out front of everyone, good at sales, etc…)?
You’ve got to be good at selling yourself however architects tend not to be the “salesmen” type.

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