Category Archives: general

on ultimate project closeout, exit passageways, and new professional practice

true words at Ace Hotel NYC

true words at Ace Hotel NYC

To say that things have been hugely neglected around here would be an understatement. Once again I’ve found my ARE Life has taken a backseat to real life. It makes me wonder if perhaps I should have taken a few months off, isolated myself like great authors do, studied, and knocked out all seven exams in one swift blow. And yet while that might have been the best academic approach, perhaps this license journey isn’t meant to be that straightforward. Perhaps we’re meant to go though this examination process considering the lessons of life as thoughtfully as the books we dutifully spend our spare moments pouring over. Perhaps the true preparation for this career we seek comes from the life changing events that the pages of Kaplan, Ballast, and the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice could never possibly cover.

Events like helping close a business.

Or like taking the next step to move on.

Over the holidays my firm’s principal became ill and ultimately decided that he could no longer run the company. At the end of January my office officially closed its doors. As many of our clients and friends said, for a firm that was around since the early 1960’s it would be the end of an era. During February, and thanks to the tireless work of my principal’s wife, we worked through the process of wrapping up all of the projects, sending documents off to rightful owners, finishing the accounting (you may recall that a while back I took on the office bookkeeping duties too), and figuring out what to do with the 50+ years of records, equipment, furniture, and stuff that had accumulated. Most of it went to good homes and the rest was either salvaged or simply recycled. As we lugged boxes of old product binders and tattered drawings out to the dumpster on a crisp Saturday morning, one of my mentors jokingly asked which division of the IDP all of this shuffle would fall under. As I thought about it, I realized that this experience was bigger than intern development. This is the real raw deal that (fortunately) most interns would never be subject to. For the first time I truly understood what it meant to run a practice deeply rooted in honesty, ethics, and hard work, and just how critical public relations are in the livelihood of the operation. When the projects go away and the shell of a company remains, how will it rebound or, in our case, be remembered? As I witnessed the number of people willing to lend a helping hand as we closed the doors, everything from expediting paperwork to breaking down bookcases, I saw the compassion for the community my boss and the rest of the principals had extended over the decades returned tenfold. Perhaps that’s the sign of a truly successful practice. While the circumstances of the office closing are truly unfortunate and the final work bittersweet at best, I’m so grateful to have been a small part the firm’s years of success. I’ve found peace in the fact that even though the office is gone, it will continue to live on through the countless thriving spaces it shaped throughout its years.


new job hunt means new business cards

As we closed I also began to wonder what was next for me. The architectural industry in the greater Portland area is still struggling to make a comeback, and many of my friends and classmates have taken alternative careers or moved away in order to find work. Would the same be true for me, and what would become of my roots? My family and Nate are here, and quite frankly I love Portland too much to leave. Moving would not be an option, so the only alternative would be to push myself into firms to get my name out there, and hopefully some interviews. I took to heart the the job seeking tips of Build LLC and Nate and I devised a pretty kick ass mini portfolio concept to send out. I updated my personal logo and brand identity and revised my resume to be more professional than academic. The list of firms I was interested in approaching ranged from small practices to the large companies and grew every day as I read about the local design happenings. I was constantly worried that I’d never get in the door, but excited for the opportunity to get my work out there. There are so many good things going on in this city and I was anxious to be a part of it.

And then the phone rang.

In a serious case of being at the right place in the right time, some local firms heard about our office closing and that a few of us were out looking for a job.  I ended up receiving a couple of requests to come in for an introductory interview….and tried not to say “uh…yes!” too fast.  Both firms were high atop my aforementioned list, so I tailored a portfolio suited to their project types and agonized over cover letters longer than I’d care to admit.  When the time came to sit down with the principals at each office I instantly felt at ease… strangely enough it never felt like an interview but more like a conversation about our backgrounds and what I might be able to bring. I left feeling confident that  either would be a fantastic opportunity and surprised to find myself in a situation where I might have to decide between two employers.  Fun fact: there’s no chapter on that in the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, I looked. Twice.  When I received nearly identical offers a few days later I spent the following evenings talking with my family and Nate and tossing through sleepless nights while I weighed my options.  I ultimately  decided to take the offer from the first firm I had met with. While I know that I would have been happy at either, I felt that I personally fit a little better at the first.  Sometime you just have to go with your gut and I haven’t regretted my decision for a second.

a fine place to call home.

seriously, how can you not love this place?

I’ve settled in at the new office now. Names have been placed with faces and now the challenge of learning a new set of office standards begins. I work primarily in Revit these days, and have tried to get myself up to speed as best I can. The days fly by, and I’m truly enjoying the opportunities that I’ve been given to show what I can do. It’s challenging, yet as I learn this new design approach I realize that so much of the honest value of architecture remains the same regardless of where you work. We’re tasked with creating buildings and spaces that invigorate and ease. That protect and sustain. Yes we need to know the importance of sites, structures, materials, and systems…but it’s critical to understand how all of these meld together to create an overall methodology. I think it’s time and practice that helps us learn and define our own approach to architecture and I know I’m only at the beginning of this enduring process.

This new beginning at work makes me wonder what will be next for AREndurance. With only one exam left, and a retake at that, I realize that I need to start coming up with a plan for what happens here on this site. When the final pass letter arrives do I celebrate and call this the end of an era? Perhaps. Or do I keep writing and tie in my professional experiences with the divisions we study? If this process has taught me anything, it’s that the journey to becoming an architect is longer than the time it takes to prepare for seven exams. As I travel down the exit passageway of the ARE I’m excited to see where the exit takes me. I just hope it’s a place with a few less flashcards.

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On Study Groups

I got a heads-up on twitter this morning about monthly ARE4 study sessions put on by @yafphilly.  Now before you disregard that link because you don’t live anywhere within the greater Philadelphia area, note that you’re able to remotely login to the talk with a quick RSVP before the 2/12/13 date.  Obviously this is awesome news for those with AIA chapters that don’t have ARE programs and are looking for some help.  But could it also mean something more?

"You've just stopped being a study group. You've become something unstoppable. I hereby pronounce you a community"

“You’ve just stopped being a study group. You’ve become something unstoppable. I hereby pronounce you a community”

This tweet got me thinking about ways that we study and how groups will be shaped in the future of ARE preparation.  Do we really have to meet around one large table with books and flashcards anymore?  Are we stuck waiting for lectures to happen in our city?  Given the multiple ways to connect online, skype and google+ instantly come to mind, it would seem that we no longer have to rely on those in our actual location to learn.  Perhaps our study communities are becoming global, and with a standard exam across the country, is there any reason why they shouldn’t be?  I think we’re already heading away from localized learning.  For example, posting vignette attempts on areforum is a way to reach out and get feedback on our process from others almost instantly.  That being said, I’ve never felt the same level of connectivity from forum members when it comes to discussing concepts on the multiple choice portion, so maybe we’re not entirely digital yet, at least on that website.

Personally I’m a solo studier so I’ve never given ARE study sessions a try, digitally or physically.  That being said, in Portland the Center for Architecture has an ARE lecture series underway, and coincidentally this month is on Building Systems.  I’m wondering if I should give it a go, but I’m hesitating based on how I know I learn best.  Study sessions are an opportunity to come together to discuss topics and struggles and it’s exciting to think that the possibilities to connect are limitless for our generation of emerging architects.   Still, at the end of the day it ultimately comes down to how we learn, and the amount or type of actual face to face time or online conversation is meaningless if we don’t process new information in that manner.  I guess I’m still undecided.

So how about you? Do you benefit from study groups or are you a go it alone type?   Have you found any good study sessions that have helped you pass the various divisions of the ARE?


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Merry Christmas from AREndurance!

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, safe travels, and hopes that your favorite festivities take the place of your all too frequent studying…at least for a little while! May these be the only construction documents you see this holiday week.

Cheers – Jenny

PS: Don’t miss these holiday greetings from your favorite architects!

the year of reckoning is upon us!

I hope the section shows a chocolate/raspberry core

Otherwise said… it must be my birthday!  Lucky for me, it is a very happy one.  I’m spending the day with my family and Nate, goofing around during the day and hitting Olympic Provisions later tonight.   (Sidenote: the restaurant makes a cameo appearance in last season’s Portlandia for you fans out there.)   I’m feeling so fortunate in life and with how far I am in the exam process.  Every birthday I take a few moments to reflect on my blessings and give myself a large goal for the upcoming year.  I am so grateful for all of the support from everyone and the encouragement they’ve offered during my exams and transition into true adulthood.  For my 27th year my goal it is to take  steps, and boy do I have a few big ones to take.  Finishing  the IDP, working on the state license requirements, and knocking out the last two exams should be manageable with a bit of a push.  I’m also hoping to come up with a serious plan for home ownership, which is also more terrifying than the ARE at this point! (Maybe I’ll start another blog…)

Today seems like a good time to thank you all for your thoughts and help so far, I’m truly touched by the outreach of support you’ve given me.   When I learned what an architect was 20 years ago it was only a dream job.  I had no idea there would be so many like minded people I would meet and work with as I became one.  7 year old me would likely not have understood blogs, let alone the internet, but I think even she would have recognized that helping friends and having them help you in return is important, no matter where they are.   So from the bottom of my heart thanks and cheers.  🙂

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bon voyage

It’s early. Really early. But I’m sitting here at PDX waiting for my flight to LAX, drinking coffee, gawking at trusses, and wondering who in the hell designs…let alone chooses…carpets for airports.  Vacation has officially begun, and it appears that I won’t be escaping architecture and design while on it…but I suppose you don’t see me complaining.

In my attempt to ignore the internet as best I can for the week I probably won’t have any posts for a few days.  Not that I post daily anyway.   Next Monday I’ll be back refreshed and ready to knock out the last three exams…and God willing, with a little bit of a tan.

Good luck with all your studying this week! Wishing you all much success.


Heads up: temporary/alternative forum!

I got a message on twitter from forum member Coach who has set up a temporary forum for exam help.   Haven’t used it yet myself, it looks like it just went live, but wanted to pass it along to everyone.  I did some detective work (aka typed “areforum” into Google and looked at the preview page that flies out to the right of the search results) and found out that the forum homepage has been updated to say:

Forum Status:
“The fourm’s server has reached full capacity.  We are trying to alleviate the load. This may require upgrade to the forum.  The forum will work intermittently while we solve this problem.”

So sit tight…sounds like it will be back eventually.  In the meantime, hope this alternative resource helps!


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what’s the structural integrity of chocolate?

less is more. unless we're talking about cake. (photo via apartment therapy)

Happy 126th Birthday to one of the architects I admire most, Mies van der Rohe! I ran across a story a few years ago on Apartment Therapy (a design site that I humbly admit to secretly loving) about a New York gallery art/cake exhibition which featured a layer cake with hints of cream, coffee, and liquor, coated in leathery chocolate frosting (om nom nom), and formed in the shape of the iconic Barcelona Couch. I wonder what Mies would have thought of such a spectacle.

As I work through my mound of structures notes, equations, and theories, I can’t help but reflect on the innovation Mies brought to the art of construction. The 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago are one of my favorite works of 20th century architecture, primarily for the honest expression of its structure. The steel grid is articulated from facade to facade, and mullions (which, depending on who you ask, are considered ornamentation and therefore unnecessary in the Less-is-More mentality) form a hierarchical elevation. Floor to ceiling glazing allow for views (and I assume serious $$$ heating/cooling bills). In a world full of buildings trying to “be” something, I truly appreciate the simplicity of the form and how its technique is not concealed, but rather celebrated.

And celebrate we will, today. Could someone pass me a slice of cake?

Edit: A friend posted the following on my Facebook wall and I had to include it here:

“Philip Johnson used to tell a story… He went over to Mies’ place in Chicago and was aghast to find in the middle of the room not a Barcelona couch but, horror of horrors, a Barcalounger. When he asked Mies what in the world was going on and why Mies’ own furniture wasn’t in this wonderful modern space, Mies somewhat sheepishly replied, “Well, it’s just not very comfortable.””


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Happy New Year!

Wherever your celebrations take you this year (I’m once again dreaming of being at taipei 101) may they be safe and joyous. Wishing you all the best, and much ARE success in 2012!

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i don’t know what day it is anymore…

Jenny looks at AREndurance, blows off dust… *Cough* *Cough* *HACK*

There’s really no excuse. After CDS I took a break for a while, and then I got lazy, and then the holidays hit. I didn’t study, and the only time I really talked about the exams was when family asked “so when’s the next one?” I guess my guilt finally got the best of me (it did a bang up job getting me back to the gym, too) and I’ve now signed up for Programming Planning and Practice on February 4th.

You’d think the involuntary urge to hurl would subside after scheduling a few times, but you’d be wrong.

Anyway, I’ve got five weeks to prepare…which I’m hoping will be enough. Just got a 33/40 (83%) on the ARE Exam Guide practice quiz, so I’m feeling somewhat confident at the moment. I think the first step will be to skim through Kaplan and break out the flash cards to see what I know. I just ordered (invested?) in the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice as the office copy is the four volume set from ’94, and I figured a more current, personal copy might be beneficial, not only for the exams, but for my career as well. Also, it looks like ARE forum has plenty of information on their FTP site , so I think I’ll brush up on my history and urban planning knowledge fairly quickly too.

I’d say it’s good to be back, but well…we’ll see.

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in the beginning…

Yesterday I woke up ready.

I can’t explain it…the overwhelming sense of calm confidence…it’s almost as if God himself leaned over and quietly whispered in my ear:

“Hey, take the damn tests already.”

So I am.

The Tests:
Architect Registration Examination (ARE). Seven of them, covering the issues that architects face in professional practice. Important concerns like how design decisions impact the health, safety, and wellbeing of people. Also, contracts…and other legal stuff they never teach you in school. Administered via Prometric as computer based multiple choice and vignette drawing examinations, sweaty palmed test takers can at least rejoice that days of smudging scan-trons are over.

The Intern:
Jenny, age 25, another obsessively creative northwest native who has wanted to be an architect since age 7. Youthful fascination of legos, blocks, and poster board sized drawings (plain 8 1/2×11 paper would never do) paved the way for high school drafting classes, followed by a BS in Architectural Studies degree and a Master in Architecture degree. Summer internships during school and now nearly two years of full time employment with a firm have not deterred her yet. She wants it more than ever.

The Goal:
To be licensed at age 27. 20 years after the initial spark of interest that has since developed into a dream, it’s time to make it happen. Armed with a family and boyfriend who offer a mind-boggling amount of unconditional love and support (and for that do not deserve to be inundated with incessant archi-babble and code speak) this blog hopes to become a place to document the entire process from day one. Good and Bad. WTF’s and Woohoos.

I’ve been halfheartedly studying for this thing for months now. I got the flashcards, the study guides, and have been reading The only thing missing was an official go ahead…the fire under my feet.

I submitted my request for the Authorization to Test from NCARB/Prometric in April. Nearly two months later I began to wonder why I hadn’t heard back. A quick email turned into an hour on the phone chasing things around. Also, a wrong number dialed to a used car lot somewhere in the south. I’ll admit the cherry red Mustang did sound nice. I finally got the authorization I was looking for, took a deep breath and signed up for my first exam.

Exam 1: Construction Documents + Services – July 30.

Here we go.

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