Tag Archives: architecture

Architecture: The Five Collaterals (or, Alphabet Soup)

30 Jun

Disclaimer: The following information is just a rough explanation of the organizations featured. I apologize ahead of time for any faults in explaining these prestigious organizations. I am open to making any clarifications clear to my readers! Thanks!  –Ashley

Alright, I’m warning you now. If you are not part of the design community and are easily bored with architecture you may not enjoy today’s post. However, if you know me and have always wondered why the heck I’m going to school for 6 years and how I’ve planned to become an architect for all these years, you may want to read on. It’ll give you a little insight into the crazy world of architecture. And of course, if you are an architecture student, you’ll enjoy the portion of today’s post that some might consider a “rant.” (Look for BEGIN RANT below.)

This post is sparked by my current time-consuming project. As I type, I also have a window open on the NCARB (National Council for Architecture Registration Boards) website. Through NCARB, architecture students are given the opportunity to become Licensed Architects. (So just because I’m going to architecture school doesn’t mean I can legally call myself an architect; not yet anyway.) The entity charged with making sure we students actually have the experience in the architecture world before we try to design real buildings is called the Internship Development Program, or IDP. Essentially, IDP is a portion of NCARB (and was jointly started by NCARB and the American Institute of Architects) that keeps track of emerging professionals’ hours upon hours of work in real architecture offices. Then, once said emerging professionals complete their 5,600 hours/units of training, they can sit for the Architect Registration Examination (ARE). The ARE is basically seven divisions of tests one must pass in order to receive a license to practice architecture. Each division is taken separately and each one (currently) costs $210. If you fail one, you don’t get your money back and you have to wait six months before you retake the test you failed. You can, however, take other divisions during that time frame.

Okay, everyone still with me? Alright!

So architects/architecture students/emerging professionals have some serious procrastination issues (see Mom, it’s not just me!). In fact, we’re so bad at recording our work experience at firms (for example, waiting 2-3 years before recording hours at a particular firm) that NCARB said, “Enough!” As of July 1, 2010, (as in, tomorrow!!!)  emerging professionals with IDP records of their hours must submit work they completed no more than six months previous. So today, I’m attempting to make sure the hours I worked at The Estopinal Group during the summer of 2008 count towards the possibility of one day being “Ashley the Architect.” BEGIN RANT–But let me tell you, the IDP process is not fool-proof. And electronic Experience Verification Reporting (or e-EVR) is not as friendly as it sounds. And with all of these pesky procrastinating architecture students attempting to save their butts–and fast!–the system is super overloaded. So as I type, I listen for the lovely sound of the windows message letting me know the page I need to access has timed out and to try again. So I try–again, and again, and again, and again…–END RANT

But never fear! I’ll pull this off. I know I will!

So the title; The Five Collaterals. If you weren’t already confused enough by the alphabet soup we’ve started to mix up, there’s more to the process of becoming and being an architect.

So let’s start with schools. Just because a student goes to a school that has an “architecture program” doesn’t mean that student will one day be able to sit for their architecture exams and become licensed. To even have an IDP account with NCARB, one has to be enrolled in or have graduated from an accredited architecture program. Architecture programs receive accreditation much like medical schools or law schools do; through an accreditation board. The world of architecture has the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). The rough break down of NAAB’s accrediting process: Every 6 years (in some situations less), NAAB sends a team of individuals to observe student work that a university’s architecture program is producing and make sure the work is still in compliance with the current NAAB Conditions. The Visiting Team consists of members from the profession (and particularly the other collaterals) and always includes a student. (This process is one of the most unique of its kind due to the fact that a student is a voting team member on the Visiting Team!) I won’t delve any further into the process except to say that the conditions also include several other factors (such as the facilities for the program, the faculty, diversity, etc, etc) and that the Visiting Team submits a Report to NAAB and NAAB makes the ultimate decision regarding accreditation standing! So if you want to be an architect one day, make sure you go to a NAAB accredited program!

Those schools that offer NAAB accredited degree Programs are all part of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). Membership with the ACSA promotes a forum for new architectural ideas to be presented in accredited degree programs across the country. Essentially the ACSA is a non-profit organization for faculty and educators to foster growth in the field of architectural education. Not enough information for you? Go here for more about the ACSA!

If you’re a student and you’re currently enrolled in an architecture program, it’s likely that your school has a chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) that you can join. AIAS is also a non-profit organization and is an organization very dear to my heart. It is a student-run organization that fosters dialogue and promotes architectural student communities across the country. AIAS is the voice of architecture students. Through this professional organization, students gain the ability to attend conferences with other students and professionals from across the country and develop a strong network of connections within the design field. Never fear! You do not have to be an architecture student to be a member of AIAS! You just have to have a love for design and an interest in architectural excellence. I could talk about AIAS all day. This is just an abbreviated version. But you must check out Freedom by Design before you read on!!!

Alright, soup’s a’ boilin’! Last one–AIA (American Institute of Architects) is the professional organization for “licensed architects, emerging professionals, and allied partners” within the design profession. Through AIA, industry standards are set through contract documents for construction projects. AIA also hosts conferences around the country for design professionals to attend and gain professional knowledge in the industry and also continue developing their professional network. They also produce lots and lots of architectural publications and present lots and lots of design awards. You can learn more about the AIA here. But really you should just know that they’re the unofficial “big dog” of the collaterals.

Okay, soup’s done! Whew! Exhausting, I know. What’s sad is lots of schools don’t even really make this clear to students. It’s unfortunate. My basic knowledge of the collaterals and how they work together to promote architectural excellence and service to society comes from my experience with AIAS and then later, NAAB. I’m so thankful for my experience with these organizations! It has definitely prepared me to actively participate in and improve the professional world of design.

So here they are making their final appearance in today’s post! The Five Collateral organizations of the Architecture Profession!!!

AIA, AIAS, NAAB, NCARB, ACSA

(Maybe with some positive feedback I’ll consider featuring each collateral in their own post one day. I’m sure you’d all enjoy that, right?!? =) In the meantime, go do something that doesn’t involve thinking, like, right now. You’re brain needs it after reading all of that…So does mine…)

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CNN Got My Gears Turning

16 Jun

Yesterday I got sucked into the world of CNN. Nick pointed me in the direction of a featured article on their homepage. “‘Masterpieces’ on hold, waiting for better times,” was the article’s title. I think the writer was slightly confused about the way he was portraying his story. The top of the article featured ten ‘masterpieces’ of architecture…all of which are already built, with construction having started probably five-plus years ago. None of the featured structures are “on hold.” The text of the article was focused on the (upsetting) state of the design and construction industries. (Hop on over to CNN to read the full article!)

My interest yesterday stemmed mostly from the comments from CNN readers at the bottom of the article. Members of the general public were bashing the featured “masterpieces,” calling them funky, pieces of junk, and dated. It seemed as though everyone had missed the point of the actual article. Maybe our society is too caught up in flash movies, slide shows and pretty pictures to actually read. Regardless, here’s what I had to say about the situation:

“As a current student pursuing a Master’s degree in Architecture, I think a lot of people missed the point in this article. Did everyone just flip through the slides, or did they actually read the article? This article is about the state of the design/construction industry. Are we going to ‘lose a generation’ of architects? Maybe so. Architecture students are currently using their creative nature and education in other areas of design where they previously would not have sought employment and other opportunities. We’re finding new ‘niches,’ if you will. And even worse, some are being forced to ignore their degree choice and areas of passion and interest by seeking opportunities for cash flow ‘flipping burgers,’ and such. I suppose in such situations, our degrees, in fact, seem irrelevant. As far as the ‘masterpieces’ presented in the article; any educated architect would note that design is incredibly subjective. Students will note this in the grading process of studio design projects. And registered architects will note this in reviews (such as the ones in the comments of this article) by members of society. To each his own. Most designers, if they maintain their integrity despite issues such as economic hardships, etc., are simply seeking to create good design for the betterment of society and building users.”

I received a positive response on the comment. (It was the most “liked” comment of all those posted!) The whole article really got my gears to turning. While I have never claimed to be a world-class designer, I love architecture and design. They are truly the areas I am most passionate about. I could talk about architecture all day, and nothing is more exciting to me than walking around Minneapolis lavishing in all the various architecture the city life has to offer. (You can’t really do much of that in the ‘burbs of Indiana, or Muncie, for that matter.) After I posted the comment yesterday, I realized how much I care about this field I’ve chosen to be a part of. I know in recent months I’ve been really confused about where I fit in to the big picture. Slowly but surely, my comfort level in the aspects I am actually good at is improving. I am determined to fit into the field of design where I feel most comfortable–as a communicator. I don’t know exactly what the means about my career choice exactly, but I’ll figure that out in due time.

As I’m frantically trying to work with NCARB (National Council for Architectural Registration Boards) attempting to get my IDP (Internship Development Program) credits from my summer at TEG in 2008 (I’m a huge procrastinator…it tends to be a problem), I’m realizing how much I enjoy the possibility of one day being a registered architect. While the process may not happen in the same means in which I once thought it would (ya know, undergrad, grad school, 3 years work, sit for exams, BAM! Registered architect!), I think I like playing with the idea of completing this process in the way I so choose. After all, why can’t I help design my future the way we design studio projects?

I know that this crazy subjective field of art which I’ve chosen to pour so much of my time, sweat, tears and money into is where I will spend my profession. (So yes, Dad, my degrees will not be a waste! =) ) Whether I decide to work in a design team (uh…), work in marketing, write architecture reviews, lead a business team, or improve the field through work with the five collaterals, I know I’ll be working with other design professionals to achieve that same goal I mentioned in my comment on the CNN article; “…simply seeking to create good design for the betterment of society and building users.” I’m a huge advocate for people in design. I mean forget all your ghosted entourage in your renderings! That thing you designed that you call a building is for REAL PEOPLE, not ghosts of Christmas past…

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic, especially if you read the article! Let me know you stopped by! Leave a comment, start a discussion!