About Me Architecture

How does a Project Manager continue to be an Architect?

Architects are creative by nature. How can a growing professional continue to practice architecture while balancing the demands of project management?


Eleven years an architect, and what I can show for my work each day seems unrelated to architecture. Are my young co-workers carrying out the tasks I miss completing myself? I miss drawing, I miss figuring out the details and having the opportunity to draft them with my own attention (bye bye AutoCAD.)

I’ve worked with a couple different firms in the last decade. Time slipped by comfortably when there were many licensed architects in a small-sized firm. The position I held before the one I hold now differed in size and in number of projects. At it’s best, the 6-person firm had two lead architects, an office manager, and three young professionals (at the point of taking license exams). At this size we each filled one another’s gaps easily because we sat in the same room and could listen. (Not that this was always preferred, but…) Our office manager was in charge and knew something about our last-minute-loving, architect-like schedules.

My role has changed since then, and I am part of an 11-person group in Morgantown. (Wheeling has five more.) Being with a larger firm means, overall, that there are more projects and people, of course. I now lead younger designers and many projects, or larger projects at once, instead of focusing on one. I’ve struggled recently with how to maintain the sense of being an architect with the many tasks of coordination that an architect in my position maintains. Some days I feel like I only respond to colleagues questions, answer the phone and check email. As a leader I’d like to share my attraction to architecture with others. Our current Mills Group team is creative and technologically advanced. I’d like to share the part of me that believes in what architecture can do for humanity in the work I do every day. I do believe that no matter what I’m doing, I can be fulfilled and I’d like to share that. I’d love input from others in a project manager position. The best thing I can think to do is the following:

1. Focus on one task at hand. Do this by turning off distractions, and by organizing time with colleagues to discuss questions all at once.

2. Move away from the computer. I set aside 3-4 hours in my day at my stand-up desk. I red-line and review real paper and can draw.

3. Take lunch. Move around, take a walk, read a book. The mind needs to rest to be able to focus for the remaining workday.

4. Encourage drawing. I began a Sketchy Friday event a few weeks ago. We’ve only met once, but I really enjoyed the hour of drawing with my colleague (hopefully more show up next time!). I also encourage being at the location of the project to determine design solutions. Go on site! The best place to draw what will be is to draw where it will be.

Sketchy Friday

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