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Professional Practice Hack: Assert Your Knowledge Base



Nobody likes someone who “talks smart” and I am personally repulsed by it. People who do this overtly are typically covering for other deficiencies but may be in a position of intellectual authority so they feel inclined to state the obvious. My brother calls it “stupid talk” and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. However, it is OK to overemphasize or explain in depth, concepts that show you know what you are talking about. That is, don’t be afraid to flex what you do know. It’s important that people, particularly contractors, understand that you know what you are doing. Do it in the form of a summary lesson to those in a meeting. This educates the design team, engineering team, and the ownership team. This the role of the architect. Here at Ervin Architecture, we love bringing up the drawings on the big screen and walking teams through the design and the project as a whole. It’s a new strategy we’ve developed and hope to do it more in the future. Get everybody in a room and walk them through the job. Don’t just stand around chatting off the cuff about various issues. Use structure, and your knowledge base, to inspire the team and get your design organized in their heads.

No client or contractor or even engineer, knows exactly how complicated your job is as an Architect. They don’t know how much it takes to do what we do. The knowledge base of art, history, design, physics, material science, thermodynamics, building envelope performance, building codes, construction practices, engineering, the understanding of 9 software programs…and the list goes on and on, isn’t well understood. They aren’t going to understand the education required, and what was contained in the curriculum. They aren’t going to understand the shear jaw-dropping amount of knowledge, and then the next-level assimilation of everything to produce a high-performing, programmatically sensible, and artistically pleasing building that is on budget, built on time, and responds to site conditions. And that’s without even mentioning the human variables and high interpersonal IQ that must be required. What top-level successful Architects do is astounding.

And so, don’t be afraid to at least, tease out what you know. It helps to build respect because that which isn’t obvious begins to become recognized. In fact, I almost became a doctor but found that it wasn’t going to be challenging enough. Medicine is an application of a series of singular specialized memorizations of scientific phenomena and that was instantly boring to me. Where was the creativity? Where was the fluid intelligence? Architecture is immensely creative, intellectually expansive, and perpetually sophisticated. Don’t let other professions, clients, or contractors try to make sense of what you do by simplifying or devaluing what the profession represents. Take opportunities, such as construction meetings with drawings, to flex your knowledge base and educate. Your projects will run much better if all parties involved understand the sophistication behind what Architects do every day.

This is part of our Stewardship Series where we give insight into our industry for aspiring professionals and business owners alike.

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