Focus on Core Process | ArcWest Mentoring Experience

Todd Staff

Mentoring a high school student as part of his senior experience certainly has no clear association with the business of Commercial Architecture in the Denver area.  Nor does it provide a dash of new income to the company.   This said, it was truly a professionally enriching experience.

When approached to become a Mentor to a student from Westminster High School, a Denver metropolitan school,  it was somewhat unclear what that meant.  Would we just go about our business of Facility Architecture and Planning and allow him to shadow us?  Would we try to educate this senior student in the profession of architecture? Would we tour a selection of Commercial and Residential Architecture projects completed in the Denver Area?  The curriculum provided was unclear and unhelpful.  The direction was to provide experience in the chosen field of study, but left how that was to occur totally up to us … A couple of Architects with little or no experience in the education process.

What we found out is that we had more experience in education than we thought.  We had roughly 20 hours of face time as part of the curriculum.  With in short order of our first hesitant meeting with our young Architect, we started to cover the basics.

We covered the many long sleepless nights ahead for him while working in studio……

We discussed the starving artist nature of our business……

We even covered the bonds that academic hardship would foster and the parties that he might participate in……..

We very quickly moved on to what makes something architecture.  It is not Art.  It is not sculpture.  It is problem solving to create both Art and Sculpture that can be occupied.  Our Mentor grasped this immediately and filled in the rest of the curriculum by asking to be guided through the creation of his first piece of Architecture.  Every architect has contemplated his ideal house.  Few Architects actually design this enigma.  There is never enough money and we can never actually make a final decision on the final product.  By guiding our young Mentee through this process, we were afforded a learning experience ourselves as to what really goes into the design process.  We were not designing for another, we were guiding an uninitiated individual to the design process.

The process is at the core of what an architect is all about.  Some go through the process intuitively, skipping back and forth from phase to phase, without even realizing.  Some step through the process religiously not advancing from one phase to the next without completing the last.  Regardless there is a process and guiding someone through the process, fighting the urge to provide all the answers, illustrated how important the process is.

Our student created his own sketch at the end of the process. It is understandably rough, but was completed after only 7 hours of background discussion 13 hours of numerous iterations.  It represents many of his personal own concepts of the ideal home and was completed using the same planning process used in the architectural profession.

Hopefully our student gained as much from his experience as his Mentor’s did.  In our environment of Commercial Architecture, Residential Design and Facility Planning, along with running the day to day business, sometimes a reminder of the core process is welcome.

– Todd Heirls

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