Career In Architecture
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The architect of today is recognized as a man of the greatest importance in the community, which at the same time is being served and beautified by him. His profession is that of building, and he not only builds structures of practical use, but he attempts also to produce buildings of artistic appearance, which add to the general beauty of their surroundings. The architect thus has a great responsibility, for not only does he, by his work, express the ideals of beauty and comfort of his time, but he also has a wonderful opportunity to guide the taste of the public along the lines of good design and artistic expression.
At present especially, there is great opportunity for the architect to prove his worth and his importance. Everyone realizes that small residences are coming to be more and more in demand, and the man who can design practical and artistic little houses for the ordinary middle class worker will be of the greatest service to his time and country.
But architecture does not only mean the designing of structures. It is a very complex art, and the ideal architect should be a sort of combination of artist, scientist and business man, for his duties lie in several fields. First of all, he designs the structure and, for this, artistic and creative abilities are necessary. In addition to drafting the working drawings, writing out in detail all the specifications for its construction and deciding what materials are to be used, the architect plans the general decoration and equipment of the building. He also supervises the actual construction work and, in order to do so successfully, he must be able to handle men, and he must, in addition, have a fundamental knowledge of the various trades connected with building. It is in this phase of his work that the architect turns scientist, for he should have at least a practical understanding, if not a thorough knowledge, of engineering—structural, civil and domestic. By "structural engineering" is meant the science of the use of iron and other materials in construction. Civil engineering concerns surveying, mapping and public works, and domestic engineering includes such matters as plumbing, heating, ventilating, lighting and wiring. The architect with some knowledge of all these occupations is likely to get far better results than the one without, for it is always preferable to be able to supervise the actual work of construction personally. Not only can the architect thus put into his work a certain personal touch, which usually improves the structure, but he can also exercise his ability as a business man. He is quite often entrusted by the owner with the financial end of the building operations and, in addition, he is a sort of arbitrator on occasion—the man who decides any differences which may arise between the owner and the contractor who carries out the work.
Whether one is a general, naval or landscape architect, the same sort of qualities and training are necessary. The general architect designs buildings and monuments of all sorts. The naval architect concerns himself with shipbuilding. Very often, especially in the case of the huge, modern ocean liners, the ship itself is designed, and its construction supervised, by a "naval designer," who has been specially trained for this type of work. Architects of general training are, however, quite often employed to design ships. During the late war they proved themselves so efficient at this type of work that their services were in great demand. But most often they undertake the planning of the interior of the liner designing the various rooms and spaces, the furnishings and decoration, and supervising the plumbing, heating and ventilating arrangements.
The landscape architect usually undertakes the work of grading, planting and decorating the grounds of public or private buildings. He tries to harmonize the architectural and natural factors so that they will produce a generally pleasing and artistic effect. He does not, as the name implies, plan gardens only, but he is frequently employed to lay out entire residential districts and towns. In fact, town and city planning is being recognized as a distinct division of architecture. It is a branch of the profession which is newer and more promising than perhaps any other. Before this, towns and cities have sprung up without any definite plan, but nowadays people are beginning to realize that they can have safer and more beautiful towns if they will allow competent architects to lay them out in every detail.
In addition to laying out towns, landscape architects are especially active in planning and developing parks and national forests, and in finding new ways to utilize their recreational possibilities. One of the latest developments along this line is the planning of automobile camping grounds for tourists, and this work has been undertaken largely by landscape architects. The United States Forest Service has recently created a new office, that of "Recreational Landscape Engineer," whose duties are to preserve and develop the national parks. The first man appointed to this office was a graduate of the School of Landscape Architecture of Harvard University.
A profession as complex as architecture, which involves a knowledge of art, engineering and business, of course requires a very thorough training. The boy who wishes to enter this profession should have considerable artistic ability and, above all, imagination, for without this, even though he work conscientiously, he will never accomplish anything worth while in architecture. He must always remember that architecture is not just building—which any carpenter or contractor is capable of doing—but it is building which is artistic and which at the same time, with perfect safety and the greatest economy, best meets the needs of the client. Besides imagination and artistic feeling, the future architect should have constructive ability. It is true that sometimes one man of marked artistic ability takes charge of the designing end, and another, more scientifically inclined, attends to the construction details, but it is more desirable for the architect to feel at home in both branches, unless he goes into very specialized work.
It is best for the prospective architect to have a thorough academic training, which will broaden his outlook, acquaint him with the culture of many different countries and give him a solid basis on which to found his technical studies. For this reason it is generally considered preferable for the student to take a college course either before or in connection with his architectural studies, or at least to have had a very thorough preparation in mathematics and French while in high school. In addition to school work, apprenticeship in the office of a practicing architect is excellent training. Here the student comes in contact with actual problems of architectural design and construction and, besides this, he gains much from the experience of the older men about him. Some students, who cannot afford to attend a college or technical school regularly, work in an office during the day and take their courses in the evening, either at some technical or vocational school or in the Extension Teaching Department of some university. Practically every large university in the United States has a school of architecture.
The cost of an architectural education varies greatly. If the student attends one of the university schools of architecture, his tuition fees may range from about $200 to $800 a year, the entire course lasting over a period of from three to five years. But there are courses at technical and evening schools which can be followed at a much lower cost. Numerous scholarships and prizes are annually awarded in most of these schools and by architectural societies, and by means of these many young men are enabled to study without charge, and some even gain the privilege of travel and study abroad, at no expense to them-selves. Further information as to schools and the cost of courses may be obtained from the American Institute of Architects, which has a chapter in every large city of the United States.
Boys who work in an architect's office while studying do not receive much pay. Student draftsmen may earn from $5 to $9, or sometimes even $12 a week. Draftsmen and designers earn from $900 to $3,000 a year, though some head draftsmen earn as much as $75 a week, and an architect in charge of an office may receive as much as $8,000 a year. The majority, however, remain draftsmen at a much lower salary. But the advantages of the profession are many. The work is carried on under excellent physical conditions, giving opportunity for both indoor and outdoor activity. As to opportunity for success, there is plenty of it, for the profession offers a wide range for men of different types of ability. Besides this, the profession is one of very high standing, and the man who succeeds in making him-self known has much chance for both fame and fortune. Practicing architects who are well known and who are entrusted with very important commissions receive fees amounting to from 5 to 7 per cent of the cost of the structure, which often reaches an exceedingly large sum.
There are other rewards besides financial ones, however. Architects are looked up to as artists and professional men, and their opinion is frequently consulted in matters only remotely connected with architecture. Thus they can, and often do, have a very beneficial effect upon the community. It is in a large measure due to their influence that housing conditions are steadily improving, that slums are disappearing and that safe, sanitary and beautiful houses are coming to be more and more frequently erected. The true architect is never satisfied with his work unless he feels that it will give its owner a maxi-mum of service and pleasure; thus he sets a high example of usefulness to his fellow men, and does his share towards promoting the general welfare.
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