Sharing the business of architecture with high school students

Last week I had the opportunity to speak to students at Burlingame High School who are taking beginning and advanced architecture classes.  They have a nice design studio with up-to-date computers and design software.  Their teacher has an architectural degree and is teaching them not only how to use the tools to design buildings and interior spaces, but also having them participate in charrettes and competitions.  It was exciting to see this level of instruction available to high school students as early as 9th grade.

My presentation started out with photos of architectural bloopers, flubs and fails, (photos pulled off the internet) which made them laugh and got their attention for my more serious points about how important it is for architects to have knowledge, skill, experience and creativity gained in the many years spent obtaining a professional license.  We went over examples of actual projects done by The Kastrop Group.  I made the point that life safety concerns were of utmost importance.  We talked about “Designing for Your Reality” and how every client has a budget and specific goals in mind for their project.  Our job is to make the client’s project come into existence at the intersection of dreams, resources, code requirements, architecture and engineering, time and materials available, and the builder’s skills.

A rendering, one of many, done by Mike Kastrop in 2006.

A rendering done by our firm Principal, Mike Kastrop, in 2006.

The students helped me write down a list of the attributes it takes to be a successful architect.  I pointed out that, maybe surprisingly, most of those attributes could lead to success in any career they might pursue.  We talked about valuing their time, and how their ideas and their time are precious resources that should not be wasted.  We talked about organizational skills.  We even talked about 3D visualization, sustainable design, biophilic design and other trends in the industry.  We covered a lot of ground.

I was impressed by their intelligent questions, and their eagerness to hear stories about my many years of working in an office with creative architects, designers and drafters, while managing the “business” side of the firm to see that it stayed financially healthy.  I hope I gave them a realistic peek at what daily life in an architectural firm is like.

A few days later their teacher emailed me a collection of thank you letters from the students.  I got a kick out of reading the letters and finding out the parts of the presentation that the students enjoyed and the concepts that resonated the most with them.  The letters will help me the next time I prepare a presentation.  I hope to be invited back next year.

I’d like to encourage all people who have careers in design and construction to share their knowledge and experience with students at all levels of the educational spectrum.  Let’s help young people understand that the built environment is constantly evolving.  It needs their new ideas and energy to keep improving our world.  Let’s encourage them to follow in our footsteps and beyond.

Thank you for reading and as always, we are “Designing for Your Reality”.

By Lorianna Kastrop, Vice President, The Kastrop Group, Architects

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