Clients, building owners come to us to help them realize dreams. They'll come to us with an office building design to help them make their business grow, and we'll work with them to design that building or church or sports complex, that fulfills those needs that they set out from the beginning.
I've probably designed maybe 75 to 100 buildings in the last ten or fifteen years. There's not usually a huge quantity, unless you're doing houses or something small like that. Most architectural firms in the state of Iowa are doing commercial projects and collegiate work and large retirement centers and things like that.
It might take a year to design it and draw it, and then it might take another two or three years to build it. So the number of projects you actually do can be somewhat limited. You might work on one or two projects over a three- or four-year period.
This is Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines. This is their existing facility -- about 12,500 square feet of space. They're entering into a major facility expansion on a new site of about 40,000 square feet of building space. This is the current design and I'm going in to present to the staff of this church the status of the current design to get their feedback on the design.
The first step in creating a building is having an initial meeting with the owner or user group. Sometimes it's a committee; sometimes it's one individual. In the case of a residence, it's usually a husband and wife designing a home. The initial meeting is finding out what their needs are, finding out what they want to achieve in a project, setting the project goals.
The first task after finding out what it is that they want from the project is doing a schematic design. A schematic design is a rough free-hand sketch drawing or maybe some computer 3-d sketches. It's the first design shot at solving their needs.
The step after that, once they like the schematic design, is design development. Design development is just further refinement of that schematic design... Beginning to think about the structural systems and the mechanical systems and the electrical systems and the materials in the building.
In the majority of our work, one of the final steps is, then, construction documents, which is where we fully detail out, using AutoCAD on a computer, all of the details: window details, door details, schedules for the building, all of the things the contractor needs to make that building.
After a process of bidding with a series of contractors or negotiating with one contractor, then the final phase is seeing through the building of the building. Architects don't build buildings, we design them, and then we administer the contract for the owner during construction. So we make sure the building is built the way we designed it and specified.
After you graduate from a college in the state of Iowa and in many other states, you need to have first a professional degree from a university and then about a three-year internship before you take a five-day long architectural exam to become a registered licensed architect. Then you are responsible for your own actions. You can have your own firm. You're authorized to practice architecture. It's very similar to the medical profession.
As a high school student or a grade school student, what I would be doing is trying to look at architecture wherever you go. In any city that you go to, any town that you go to, study the buildings. Even the vernacular architecture, which means the architecture that people just build without any higher architectural education. Just look at buildings and try to see how things were done and question why they were done that way.
Secondly, I would try to take a lot of the classes that architecture deals with, like the sciences, the industrial arts, the mathematics, the arts, all of those things, along with speech classes, debate classes. You need to be able to stand up in front of groups and be able to speak well and be convincing. You might be talking to a city council. You might be talking to a committee of five people. You might be talking to a group of 400 at a lecture. You need to be able to do those things.
Architecture has been said to be the mother of the arts, and it truly is the coming together of many different disciplines to create a building.