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Career Conversations: Discussion between YA Librarian Llyr Heller and Architects Lizbeth Bárcena, Omar Bárcena, and Paul Locke.
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): So we're going to start recording the podcast. So welcome everyone, and when you all have questions for our speakers we'll repeat the questions so that the podcast picks it up. So please help me welcome Omar Bárcena from KMD, Lizbeth Bárcena from Gehry Partners, as well as Paul Locke from Gehry Partners. And thank you so much. We'll just get started, if you have questions throughout, just raise your hand and we’ll call on you. So just the first thing is, describe what you each do, and in terms of schooling what do you recommend for your various careers?
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): Hi I'm Lizbeth, thank you for having me here. What I do and it changes based on where the phase of the project is, but right now I'm drawing I'm on the computer, and I draw details, of you know, the exterior or the foundation or the roof. So various elements of the of the building I draw into 2d, and we're actually working on a program that draws 3d and 2d at the same time, so everything you draw turns into a 3d element. And other things that I do on a day to day basis is, you know, it's kind of the email, answering emails, or responding to emails, or responding to, you know, questions from around the team or a meeting with the team. And that's just kind of just the phase that we're in right now which is documenting and kind of understanding the problems that the project has, and just kind of a documentation phase. In terms of schooling I can tell you what I did. I went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Polytechnic. It’s basically a, it's a Polytechnic school, so you have to kind of declare yourself when you graduate. You declare the major you want to get into, and I got really good advice from a high school counselor who I told him I was interested in doing an architecture, or I was interested in art science and something, and he kind of pushed me towards the architecture profession, and he recommended that I volunteer over the summer with a local architect, and he gave me their contact information. I think that was kind of a good segue way into, you know, the profession. And then once I got into school…Cal Poly is an accredited school, so you just go through the five years or six years, and you can graduate and start working. That was kind of the path that I took, and there's different paths that a lot of people take, but that's my kind of history on that. Um, I guess pass it on to the next person.
SPEAKER 3 (OMAR): Okay. Hi my name is Omar. I also went to Cal Poly, and my path was a little different. I declared my major first as Landscape Architecture, then I switched to construction management, and then I switched into architecture after flirting with graphic design, modern languages, and literature, and graphic communications. I ended up in architecture by default through the various courses that I took and I mean I left my education, all three of us are from Cal Poly, so you know, as Lizbeth mentioned, which is accredited, which is good. So if you're looking to go to school, you look for an accredited, preferably public I would say, because it's a cheaper school. And what I do, day to day, is mainly crisis management. I'm in charge of a team. We're currently working in a hospital in Hollywood. It's a hospital expansion, and I'm orchestrating all of the work that happens. You know, all the employees...everyone's in charge of a particular task… you know from foundations, to waterproofing, to what they call medical planning, which is the furniture inside the hospital…the equipment. There's you know anything you can imagine that goes into building… lighting, carpet, wall coverings, clocks. Just anything, and so I need to make sure that everything keeps going every day, and it's a lot of work.
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): Hi I’m Paul. I went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with these two. That's where we met actually, and just randomly bumped into each other back in Los Angeles. When I was younger, I guess I can go back to even before Cal Poly San Luis. For some reason, I promised to build my mother a house when I was like a little kid. Probably, you know, going to grade school, and for some reason, I just stuck with it, and that's how I became an architect. So I didn't know what that actually meant when I was going to school, middle school, high school. There were some drafting classes, and probably computer classes that I probably should have taken, that were more geared towards art and architecture, but instead I focused on like math and physics. I took a music class for, I don’t know, eight years. I play an instrument, didn't really get into art, I wish I did, and probably learned how to draw a little better. When I was looking for colleges, I agree with Omar, Cal Poly is a state school. It was very in it was fairly inexpensive as compared to some of the you know schools on the East Coast, or you know some of the private schools for architecture. But Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was ranked top in the nation, and you know going through the college career guides of where to go to, based on the discipline, that seemed like a pretty good choice. So that was one of my top places to apply. I applied a couple of low placed schools as backups, but I was able to get into Cal Poly… Luckily. And had a great experience there, so like Lizbeth said, you have to declare what your major was. It was architecture. In the beginning, you kind of take general, you know, math courses, and you know, general education, but because it was a Polytechnic school, the math background that I had in high school actually helped out a lot, because we take a lot of math, and a lot of physics… almost too much math and physics if you ask me. We don't need to know about imaginary numbers in architecture, but we studied them. But, it was still really good as problem-solving. Like Omar was saying it's a lot of crisis management is what we do in our job and you know solving other people's problems as well of our own. So at a school I stayed in San Luis Obispo worked a bit and then end up teaching at the college for one semester. I was really excited to, but I always thought I wanted to go teach, and particularly, if you're a teacher in some of the state schools, it's very helpful if you have a master's degree. So I applied to a master's program down in LA, at UCLA, another state school. It was very affordable. It was great for me. I was able to do it on my own. Other schools were up into the $40,000 a year. UCLA was more in the range, of you, know five thousand dollars to ten thousand when I went. And, because I went to an accredited school…Accredited versus non accredited, it just means how many years you stay in college, and the California architecture, like a licensing board, deems it as extra experience. So if it's an accredited school, it counts as all of experience for you towards architecture. If it's unaccredited, it's kind of counted as some education, some experience, but not as much as an accredited school. So going to get my master's, I only had to be there for one year, since I went to an accredited undergraduate. If I went to an unaccredited undergraduate, I would have to go for three years. So there's a difference there. So I graduated 10 years ago with my master's, and then ended up working in LA, and stayed here, and end up working with Lizbeth, and then bumped into these guys downtown, and that's why we're here.
Day-to-day right now we're working on a project… you know, architecture has different phases, from, you know, meeting a client for the first time, to giving them a concept design of what a building looks like, to developing that, and actually making it, like what Lizbeth is doing now, into drawings of the detail, of, you know, how the floor meets the wall, or how carpets, you know, end at a column, or how steps work. It’s, you know, it's very detailed and entailing. And I'm more right now, in our phase, we just finished doing that, and we're submitting our drawings to the city of New York. Actually we're working on a project in New York for approval, so they have to check, and make sure that it meets all the codes… no one's going to die, or get hurt, and kind of more now, in Omar's area, not necessarily for a team in our office, but we're now working with people who build the project to make sure that they understand what we drew, and what we're saying, and we check all their work, and we work with them. It's very collaborative to try to get this project built, kind of the way we envisioned it, so once again problem solving, crisis management and get into the details. It’s fun.
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): Thank you. I'm going to jump around a little. You had talked about internships or volunteerships, perhaps at where you work currently and in the career in general. Do you know, are there a lot of internships, first for high school students versus college students versus people that are already out of school?
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): Yes our office actually does taken a handful of interns every summer. I think they're all either in school or already in some architecture school. I was lucky, when I grew up, I was, I didn't have a, you know, it's just fresh out of high school, so I just you know, knocked. It was a small town so, you know, you could just walk up to the architect. And I got work there. I worked there for a small amount of money, but yeah, I mean, I imagine there are a lot of offices do provide internships, and they're paid internships, so it's worth asking, and talking, and I think architects are willing to talk, and meet new people. And they love talking about their profession, and their career and everything about it. So you just kind of walk up to them, or email them. They'll, uh, I'm sure they'll have something, they could have you help on, or you know be a part of, the office and experience.
SPEAKER 3 (OMAR): Well my experience was different. My first internship was at the firm, or actually my only internship, was the firm that I am at now. So, the people that mentored me, I am now working with… what 14, 15 years later? Yeah 14, 15 years later. So yeah, the people that taught me architecture, are the ones that I'm working with collaborative now… now every day. I do think that opportunities for interns are only open to university students, not so much high school. I think that has to do with the training. So you're training to be an architect, and so they welcome you. And we do need a lot of clerical work. I guess that's what I would call it, and you need to learn that, and in the beginning, you know, like in the construction, there's a lot of paperwork, and the people that are trying to solve the problem need somebody to produce, you know, and manage the paperwork. So I would say hang in there. You need to learn everything from the beginning. From back in the days running a fax machine, not so much anymore, but that's where you start. You start with helping somebody, and it might seem like an eternity before you get to do anything exciting, but eventually you do.
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): Yeah I completely agree with that. I mean my first internship was actually through the college that we went to. They had a program where for a couple month, they hooked you up with the firm, architecture firm, to work with them, and you know, it was through the school, so not necessarily me going out and knocking on doors and trying to find a job, or you know someone to help, but I agree with Omar, it's um, it's more like college, like if you're in community college, you know, regular college, like undergraduate graduate schools, where internships come from typically, during the summer time. I actually, my first internship, I quit after a couple days. I didn't think it was a right fit, even though it was set up by the school. I was very particular, I didn't want to, you know, for lack of a better term, waste my time. Like, I wanted to learn something that was great. I didn't expect to be, you know, designing a house or a concert hall on the first day. There is a lot of clerical work, there is a lot of learning how to, you know, work in an architecture firm, and work with people, but I would say that if you are in a position of an internship, and you don't necessarily feel that it's a right fit… there's a lot of different types of architects out there, and a lot of different firms, so finding that right fit is a good idea. And then, once you find that finishing that out. Because right now, in our office, we don't necessarily take a lot of interns. A lot of interns are actually through schools that we've either built, or programs that we work with one-on-one. So we'll kind of like, as a as a nod to them, we will take on students from that school, or that program, and allow them to be in our office. But if you like where that internship is, and it's teaching you something, well …good, and you like the people there, I would apply the following year. You know, because in our office, we've actually hired a few of our interns that have come back to our office for maybe you know one or two years in a row, and they do a really good job, and when they come out of school and it's time for to apply for a job, or you know, another internship or something, we, if you do good, and we like you, we typically hire you, and kind of keep you keep you in the fold. It's a lot about teaching, like, you know, teach you how to… how our office designs, or how that office works, or who's who. And once you get to understand that, that's a very powerful thing…in our office… in an office.
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): Thank you. I'm going to jump around the questions a little bit. How comfortable does one need to be with technology, and what kind of classes should you know young adults and adults be taking if they hope to do what you're doing? And what platforms?
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): Platforms? Comfortable with technology? I guess you have to be pretty comfortable. I think Cal Poly did a really good job in providing classes where you learn AutoCAD, which is a 2d drawing tool, and that was back in the day, and there was other programs that were coming up. And now there's so many different new programs, and depending on the office, which programs they use, you'll…you might find yourself that there's programs that you've never used that much, and you're just going to have to learn, and you have to be somewhat comfortable, and for me, I kind of fell into the comfort of the 3d modeling. When I first started where I'm at now, I had come previously from an office that did a lot of custom houses, and so we did a lot of 2d work, and a lot of sometimes I did renderings, and you know Prisma colors, and you know, doing things by hand, and then just starting at Gehry’s office, it was, there was a lot of physical models, but then when you went from the physical model to the 3d world, there was this new program, which Frank Gehry is very well known for… kind of pioneering this kind of 3d modeling tool. And I took kind of an interest in it, you know, I learned a little bit of 3d modeling in school, and in the other office, but the program itself became kind of…the it's the tool that Frank uses for building a lot of his complex, you know, the Disney Concert Hall, and other buildings with the complex geometry, and I started to learn it very well, to the point where I just enjoyed it a lot, and I was able to also work with Gehry technologies, which is kind of the 3d modeling aspect of his office. Now there is a new program which is kind of more common in a lot of offices it's Autodesk Revit. And in a way, like because I was in the 3d aspect of our office with Gehry technologies, and now with Revit being kind of the common program throughout all of the offices, in a way you're almost…once you kind of get comfortable with one tool, you kind of learn that comfort and you pick up things, and as things evolve, because programs are going to keep evolving, and you're just going to keep learning and it's not like you need to apply for a job and know it. I think you shouldn't be intimidated if somebody says, oh you don't know how to do this very well. You should just be like, you know, I've dabbled in it. But you know everybody is kind of on that learning curve, because there's so many new things out there so I wouldn't feel intimidated by all of the new technologies. I would just kind of say, you know, you can do it, and you'll just like, willing to learn. So I guess that's kind of like my spechiel on the 3d world.
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): Yeah, I agree with Lizbeth, it's you kind of just have to dabble, or know the general concepts of the programs, because actually, like in our office, if you come and you're a new hire or an intern, there's actually a couple week-long training course in those programs, so they teach you how to use them a little bit, but also how the office uses them. Because each office uses everything a little bit different. So it’s good. So like the 3d program that Lizbeth and I use on our work, the one that Frank Gehry kind of developed at Gehry technologies. It was first used to design, you know, airplanes, and you know, the computer program then developed to design buildings, or fun little sculptures, and now it's, you know, very powerful. They design buildings, and no one knew how to use that, like it didn't exist outside of that office pretty much, so when we both got there, Elizabeth actually learned it a lot better than I did. I'm still kind of a novice at it. You know, the office trains you, and gives you plenty of opportunity to kind of learn by doing. That's the motto of Cal Poly. It makes sense. So to add on, you know, we do use AutoCAD a lot, it's a 2d drawing program for drafting we use, that digital projects program right now in our office to we're using a lot of a 3d modeling program called Rhino, Rhino 3d. It’s pretty good. It’s really powerful. You can do some animation, some automation on it, but it's a very good program. To get started, I would say I've never used it, but and I know in the office that I worked at before they started using a program called Sketchup, so that's kind of like a good introduction into kind of the concepts of how 3d modeling works. And you know, can help you kind of advance later on into more advanced programs. Using Photoshop is helpful for us, using Excel, Word, and Outlook. You know, email, even those type of programs that you know, kind of everything. Well-rounded idea of using all those types of… even Office, mundane programs.
SPEAKER 5 (FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): What was the name of the 2d to 3d program that you mentioned?
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): Her question was, “What was the name of the 2d to 3d program that we use?” It's the Revit Autodesk. From Autodesk. Yeah.
SPEAKER 3 (OMAR): Okay in terms of technology, I would say be comfortable with the basics. That means the pencil, the pen, and the paper. In terms of your basic technology and then moving on to software, yeah be open, because later on as you climb the ladder at work you're going to end up using managerial software, if you choose that path, like Microsoft Project, or even Excel. You know once you become a manager, it's really important that you know how to use Excel well. Where all the tricks in Word are, otherwise, you're just going to, you know, drown. Yeah you're going to drown in the demands of your job.
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): Thank you so much. And I would just like to plug a couple of our databases we have, like Lynda.com and we have different databases where you can learn Excel, and you know, some tools such as that. So definitely always ask us if you're looking to learn about these things.
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): I will go ahead and say that our office actually has links to Lynda in our office. So that's actually how I learned to use the modeling tool Revit right now. So it's a… Lynda's good, and they have really good tutorials. It was very, very good for me to learn that, and I guess we can… Also I forgot to mention even the more fun technology, I mean you were talking about the pen and pencil but integrated with the other ones like the 3d printing software, so we get to use a lot of like physical tools, that kind of help us make our buildings like the mill the CNC Mill which they use actually to make buildings, we use to make models a lot in our office. We use a lot of physical models, so technology doesn't necessarily just mean a computer, it means you know, physically getting with a piece of machinery, and kind of you know, getting comfortable with a band saw, getting comfortable with a drill, getting comfortable with a 3d printer. So it's going on the same lines of more technology.
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): Sounds great, it sounds fun. Any questions from the audience so far? Anyone want to ask anything? Okay. So we will keep going. I’m going to still jump around. Can you talk a little bit about diversity and diverse backgrounds? And I noticed your flyer is bilingual which is wonderful to see. Is there a lot of diversity in your career?
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): I think it's in the beginning it didn't feel very diverse but I think as the years pass the younger generation there has been a lot more diversity I want to feel like at Cal Poly there weren't that many Mexicans. I’m Mexican. Or Mexican Americans that, at least in architecture, a lot of them, a lot of the Hispanics that I met at Cal Poly were interested in architectural engineering, and Cal Poly has great you know that they have this big umbrella of education at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus. I mean Pomona has the same… similar aspects where you, they, have the College of Environmental Design, which includes architectural engineering, construction management. Landscape architecture is there, another one there's like a business aspect one? I think the business aspect just got added to it, and a lot of the Hispanics that I met were kind of either leaning towards engineering or architectural engineering, and in a way, to them, they felt that because it paid better when you graduated, and in a way it's true you know. As you, as a recent grad from any kind of engineering degree, do get paid better as an architect… versus an architect, because the architecture profession a lot of your pay increase happens as you gain experience. School teaches you a certain amount, to a certain extent, you know, you learn to be creative, you learn to understand the art, you learn to understand the buildings, you know the history, and you learn to have a passion and a sense for it, and you learn to, in some degree, which is why Cal Poly is really great, because you learn by doing. Understand the materials, and in some of the aspects of construction, but when you get out to the profession, in the real world. And every different office is very different. It’s not… you… there's still a lot more you're learning…you have to learn. There's still a lot more, so it's kind of…the pay increase happens through the years. As you can gain more experience…and as you know…go from office to office. Question?
SPEAKER 5 (FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): Yeah what is the difference between an architecture degree and an architectural engineering degree?
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): The difference? Well I know the architectural engineering program is a lot more engineering and a lot more calculations and structural loads, and I'm not exactly sure where they end up after they graduate, I haven't followed up. I don't know do you guys know anyone who…they probably become engineers?
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): Yeah I think they become structural engineers. So architects are more of, it's more like, if you're doing a movie, like the architects are more like the directors. They have the big vision, they have the design, and they have the idea for the movie. And then they work with a person who filmed and the production designer and the other areas. A structural engineer who's typically what happens if you study architectural engineering is someone who really likes math… a lot… and physics. And basically we give them a building, like the Disney Concert Hall, or a hospital, or a house, and say can you please help us make sure that this thing doesn't fall down on an earthquake. Can you tell us, you know, how big this column has to be, or what type of nails do we have to use, or how much concrete we need to kind of put on the ground as a foundation for the building. And they run the calculations. They run it through computer programs and do the math, and they come back and say this is what you need. As architects, we kind of have to have a little bit of an understanding of what goes into that, a little bit of the math, so we can check their work, or ask where. And a lot of cases how to change it or make it different in order to work with our design and then we challenge them and they challenge us back and that's kind of how the collaboration process works.
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): Can I plug back into the diversity question? Because I know I kind of strayed on the whole, like, because there is an economic factor, because I know at least growing up with my family, like get a good job. You know, be like my sister, went to be a doctor. My brother's an engineer, and like architecture, is, like you know, everybody's worried about you succeeding, you know, paying the bills etc. But once you're in school, like you almost forget where you come from, to some degree. Like you don't… at least for me, I didn't like go in there like, oh I'm this like, I'm looking for diversity. I know… you're…when you go to… at least architecture school, it's about the architecture. It’s about the art. It’s about the experience. It's about you know, walking outside, and seeing buildings, and you know understanding urbanism. And it's you. You kind of become, you know a visionary. You know what it is, you're… you want to make your profession… you know, it's not so much of, like, am I the only Mexican, or a woman, you know. There are, our office has a great diversity. You know, there's a lot of women, there's you know, a lot of Latin… Latinos, Hispanics, people from other countries, so it's… it is what you make it, so regardless of where you come from, I mean… that's my diversity perspective.
SPEAKER 3 (OMAR): I agree with that. I think diversity is your job. So whatever office you work in, the office is going to be as diverse as the city you’re in. So my office has, you know all kinds of people with all kinds of labels given, or you know self-declared. If you go to you know, in the middle of, I don't know some place without diversity, of course your office is going to be not diverse. So what I'm leading to though that diversity, is your job. I would say don't go to school in the same place that you grew up in. Go somewhere else, because that makes you diverse. You might think you’re diverse, but you're probably not. So you're as diverse as the things that you absorb. So go see another country, another city, and another culture, learn another language and study abroad. Go places! So if you're from Pomona, don't go to Cal Poly Pomona. Basically, that's what I'm saying. Go elsewhere it'll really help.
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): More on that? Yeah, geez. I mean yeah, even with school, let's say, you know growing up for Cal Poly, when we went, it was a lot of white guys going to architecture school, like maybe a class would have you know a couple women, and a couple of people of color, or with different backgrounds, but after six years, seven years, after I started teaching there, the class that I taught actually had like 75% women, and you know 25% men. I don't know if it was because that's how the class went out but there was actually a lot more just diversity just in gender which was really nice to see and even in our office now you know when I first started there were less women. There were still women, you know, there were still people of color, there was a little diversity, but even as the years went by, I've been there for ten years now, and I notice the difference. And there's a lot more Latinos, a lot more people from other countries, and it is very important to us, you know, our field, to get other, you know, expectations of understandings, of other cultures, how things work. And it really influences design and how we work and how we… you know make space. So you know, these guys, I did a lot. Yeah. Go experience other cultures, take your culture into the job. Don't think that you have to necessarily assimilate to the… you know… the views and the offices that you are… or even your project manager, or your boss. What you have at least in the field of architecture, and probably most other fields… that's very important to express that opinion and express who you are, because it can only help the situation. Or it gives a better understanding of what it is, and enriches what we're creating.
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): Thank you. Yes, question?
SPEAKER 6 (MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): I noticed that you both went to San Luis Obispo. For someone like me, I’m planning on going to Pomona. I think San Luis Obispo is like up in Sacramento area? Or somewhere around there?
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): It's closer.
SPEAKER 6 (MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): From what I know about San Luis Obispo is that there’s not much to do in a sense? While in Pomona, there is a lot of inspiration to see, with it being in LA and such? Do you think that’s not something I should look at? Do you believe that Pomona is more design focused, and San Luis Obispo is more architect focused? Which one would you say, as a person who wants to go work for a firm, you should go this path, or that path? Like, do you see a lot of people coming from Pomona, or San Luis Obispo?
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): So to recap did, that catch on the microphone? Okay, thank you.
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): I think for your first studies of architecture like at an undergrad, it's important to go to the best school that you're at. I wouldn't necessarily say that, like Cal Poly doesn’t have anything to do around it, or you know, LA, being in Pomona, it's closer to LA. I mean I don't know how many times you're going to get downtown, or go see buildings when you're in Pomona, cuz you know, honestly, we worked a lot. I mean we were in studio… we had a lot of work. There was a lot of homework, a lot of tests, our design classes where we're actually like designing buildings and learning all the principles, we were… it was three days a week, for four or five hours, and then we were expected to kind of develop projects throughout the week, so we were still there maybe another four or five hours every day, after night, on the weekends. It didn't really give us a lot of time. I think what would help though is if you take classes with professors that travel. So I went to LA twice, San Francisco twice. You know some schools go to New York, some schools go around… I mean San Luis Obispo is only about three hours away, so it's not too far away. And then it's actually even closer to San Francisco. It’s only two and a half hours, three hours from San Francisco, which is good to get the diversity in the type of cities. And then one thing that I learned… I mean he made the comment of, “you know, do you go to a certain school to go to a specific firm?” Like if you really want to go to an LA firm, you have to go to Pomona? That's not necessarily the case I wouldn't say. Something that I learned was… going to graduate school was actually more true to that. So architecture for undergrad, I wanted a great education. Learn the basics, go to a top school. So that was recognized, you know, your portfolio, what you have to submit for a job was good and strong. But then when I went to graduate school, is when I learned, you need to really figure out who the professors were. Who you wanted to work with. Like that's the professor of a top firm, that’s a professor who has a really strong at design. This one's this, this one's that. You take their classes, you learn from them, and that's actually one of the reasons why I ended up in LA was because the professor at my school, I ended up working with them. So it was almost like an internship. You learned a lot, but you're actually working one-on-one with someone, and getting their feedback, and developing that relationship, which can also happen in an undergrad, but it was more of like an experience in graduate school. Another question?
SPEAKER 7 (MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): What aspects of architecture do you guys like least?
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): To repeat the question what aspects of architecture do you like least?
SPEAKER 3 (OMAR): Well sometimes an architecture you feel trapped. So it's important that while you're working you tell the people in charge what it is that you want to do. So you might live your whole life in architecture hating it and never leaving, it because you never told anyone where you wanted to go or where you want it to end up. So I… that would be one of the things that you like the least. The fact that sometimes you might feel trapped, but again it's your job, it’s your job to free yourself. To tell people what do you want to do, or to you know, feel things around. See what makes you comfortable within architecture. You have to deal with people, and I think architects are mostly introverts. That makes it very difficult. The people that we deal with in construction are the total opposite of what architects are, which are contractors. And, even within the field you deal with all kinds of personalities. So that would be the other part. Just I guess being tolerant is difficult… often.
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): Aspects that I like least? I guess it would be… I don't know, it's hard to think of a specific time. But when… let's see…
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): Sounds like there are a lot of things you don’t like!
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): Working with Paul…I’m joking. I think when it's slow when there isn't a lot of work to do… which happens in the profession. You know sometimes you're… you know the client doesn't… is waiting on money, or whatever, for whatever reason, things kind of slow down some days at work. And you're just there, and just waiting for something, or just trying to figure out, you end up cleaning your desktop, and your folder. I hate that. It's like, it makes me want to think, like, oh no, am I going to lose my job? You know, like those time to stop thinking about that. And then the other part that I don't like so much, but it's going to happen… it happens all the time… it's like either when clients change their mind and you're like, I got to redo it, and it's kind of like, there's a lot of redoing of things, or because there's a lot of changes, so sometimes it becomes kind of painful where you're like, I just did it one way, and now we have to do it all over again a different way. And it's, and it's, kind of… a kind of… not the best part but you know? If you… if you like that kind of change… you know, things changing all the time, then maybe it's exciting for you, but not for me,
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): Yeah its part of the process of design is changing at the last minute. So I guess one thing I hate least, our deadlines. Because we do change things a lot at the last minute. We get a lot of, you know, it's a schedule. Someone wants a product at the end of it. You know, we're, you know, we're a service, and we provide, you know, an end thing. it doesn't go on forever so deadlines are tough and they're stressful, because you want to produce something that's so perfect, and that you only have one shot for the most part, and if you're a perfectionist or know something's wrong, and something needs to be moved over, you kind of have to let it go to focus on something bigger. So it… it's horrible to have in the back of your mind. Everything that you know is wrong, but you know that can be fixed maybe or addressed later, but then you have to produce something. So that's kind of tough. And then you know, yeah architecture isn't always… you know… there's, our job isn't always like you're not the happiest all the time. Like you know, people say do what you love. It’s great you know. Some days you're just not going to feel it. You're not going to be happy at your job. You're not going to feel good at your work, but if this is your career, and it's what you want to do, you kind of have to… you know… pull yourself up, get through it, clean your desktop a couple of days. You know, check emails for a long time, and then the next day you feel a little better, and then you have a great project in your hands and you're having fun. So it's kind of just going through it all is a little tough.
SPEAKER 6 (MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): Would you say the architecture degree is like an expendable degree? Compared to other job options like Graphic Design and such?
SPEAKER 3 (OMAR): I think architecture is a great degree because you can go and do whatever the hell you want afterwards, but you know, you could do… was it theater sets? Or what do you call those things? Yeah like setups for movies or theaters. You get to graphic design, you could do and even with within Architecture, while you're studying architecture, you get the chance hopefully, to study other things, get a minor here… get a couple of minors or something. So architecture is not an expendable degree. I would say that it’s opposite of. It's a very valuable degree because you can go on and do a lot of other things. I think not so much in this country, but in other countries an architecture degree is considered superior to many other degrees. Equal to being a lawyer, and you can pretty much do whatever you want afterwards. You can be a professor you know. You could quit everything and become a garbage man. Who knows, you know? It’s it prepares you for everything. It really makes you, I don't… I don't know how to word… it kind of… be aware of all the problems that are revolving around you, so you can do anything.
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): Yeah. Oh no, I was just going to ad that we've met architects who were musicians or that were singers they had an album, remember Barthie’s album?
So I was just going to emphasize that the education is amazing. like architecture, when I was told that Cal Poly is like very rigorous, a lot of people drop out, it kind of just drove me to like I'm going to finish. But doing the whole education, you learn to experiment with so many different things that yeah, you can easily fall in love with photography, with you know, landscape architecture, with theatre. I took a theater class, I took music classes, I mean, it's… and you can apply all that into your work, in your profession. Which is I mean…an education. We could just go off, and like say it's wonderful. There's like there was three questions there.
SPEAKER 8 (FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): My question has to do with construction project management? Like architecture, if you’re interested in either of them, like what would be the difference between them?
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): Great question!
SPEAKER 3 (OMAR): I majored in construction management. I was in that thing for three years, and it really helped me a lot in terms of my current job, and in the rest of my architecture degree. So that the difference would be that construction management is like the last word of it says, it's more managerial, so you manage a lot of costs, really, you know cuz every material that you put into a building cost something, and you need to figure out how to calculate everything. Like, I remember taking a class of figuring out how many cubic feet you take out of the earth, and you can ever replace that amount of cubic feet because it expands, so you can never restore it to its original state. So a lot a lot of weird math like that. A lot of shards. So that would be the difference. I took as part of construction management, I had to take business law, which was pretty awesome for me. I enjoyed that. I had to take statistics as well. So things that are completely off of architecture, but interesting. So I don't know if I answer the question of what the difference is.
SPEAKER 8 (FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): So, but you’re…you began your undergrad in architecture, and then you went to construction?
SPEAKER 3 (OMAR): No, the other way around. I started in construction management and then I switched, started into architecture. But then because of that, I ended up working. My specialty in architecture became construction administration for a period. Which is the phase in architecture in which you are supervising the construction of the building, and I’m still kind of beginning that right now in my current project.
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): But a construction manager deals more with like construction administration, but I would think they're like an architect, kind of, they're the ones that design the building. They kind of put it together, they work with the engineers, the mechanical, structural landscape architects. They're kind of, like I said, the director of the whole thing. And then they get a pack of drawings together, and documents, and they submit it to the building department, and give it to the owner and say, “Here’s your building!” You know it's approved, find someone to build it. And that's kind of like the construction manager job right? Is to kind of, put it together. They can work with us as well as architects, but then, they kind of put that team together that builds it, and deals with a lot of… like Omar was saying, the number-crunching, trying to figure out how to save money. Because you know the owner typically has a budget, and they want to stay on budget. You know, sometimes architects do a good job sometimes they don't. So it's you know, it's kind of, we work with them. And the phase that he's working on now and I'm working on now is we work closely with the manager and the contractor, to kind of make sure that our vision is implemented, and done well, on budget and can actually physically be built with them. Right? I mean that's yeah I mean structural manager doesn't necessarily design a building. Yeah they can work with, they can work with architects to design a building, and it's a different type of firm, like construction manager and an architect, kind of in the same firm, but architects design, and then they oversee construction. Kind of like making sure this stuff is built how they want it to be. But the construction manager kind of takes over and builds the actual project.
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): There is a question over hear as well.
SPEAKER 8 (FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): So, you mentioned earlier that you like science and art... [Unintelligible].
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): So her question was, how do I incorporate some of the aspects that I had brought in from like my high school, like science and math and art and that I was interested in theater. I took theater in high school too. it's, I guess it's at least at the office I'm at now, I feel like there are a lot of things that I that I can incorporate, like art and theatre, cuz we… our office does some, design some museums, but even in, I guess just to be more specific, even like in picking a certain color, or designing a light fixture, it feels like it's a little bit of the science and an art because you have to, kind of, you know there's a problem how is this going to work, you got to do little research, and you discover you know, how things are put together, so there's a little bit of that science. The theater part, because I haven't really worked in projects that are theatrical or any of the theater projects in our office, I guess it's more about role playing. I know, I don't know, I'm just stretching that answer. I don't, I haven't really dealt with theatre. A lot of the things that I ended up doing in high school, that I loved, I feel like I apply in my profession maybe 60% of the time. Because I end up doing all the artistic things on my free time. You know, I’m involved in other creative things on my free time and work is like 50 percent creative and the other percent, you know, it's very technical and there's a lot of people management, so I feel like, had I not done all those things, you know, learn to love science, or love biology, or art, or theater, I think, I think had I not learned that, I would have not had all of the cultural experiences that I've been having growing up. You know, I, I'm interested in traveling, and seeing things, and I think that then pulls me back into the profession. That then gives me inspiration to maybe suggest something, or to solve a problem a different way, so it's related, but you know, in a convoluted way.
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): We had a question?
SPEAKER 5 (FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): Yeah, what is the job market like right now? Are there a lot of jobs out there? Do you have to go with a firm? Are you able to open your own firm? What the market like? Can you freelance?
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): Can you freelance? Um, it's the job market right now, I'm just thinking and looking out the window or looking out where we live around this area there's a lot of construction I mean there's a lot of work and there's probably a lot of offices with a lot of people making the drawings and doing the work I think we're in a good moment right now I think there are a lot of job opportunities in the big city I can't speak for the rest of the country or the rest of the state I don't know you know things are booming and other and other places can you freelance so I what we've considered my husband I considered trying to start our own office but a lot of it is because you need that kind of first project to kind of get you funded to do the work and then and it was always kind of challenging for both of us because we're not like super social people we're not out there like so it's a little bit of like if you're comfortable and you know you're if you have family who like wants you to do their house or something they can kind of get a start on that but yes you can freelance I mean I think you would probably just start doing your like little remodels and I think that kind of a that's a good start I know a lot of people who have their own little offices and around the LA area. I don't know I hadn't kept up with the job market since I'm not applying anywhere
SPEAKER 3 (OMAR): Well it's really good right now but our architecture is very vulnerable to the economy so I would encourage anyone who goes into architecture to specialize in something within once you know you get going with your career you know like the two people next to me are specialists in digital project and in CATIA okay you're a specialist and crazy, curvy, pokey architecture, which you know, comes in handy sometimes. For example, in the middle the recession, Lizbeth and I fled to Mexico City. And that was great. So be open to be open to crazy opportunities when things get bad and yeah try to find a focus because specialists are always necessary even in the worst of economic times.
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): Yeah, I agree. The business is really big right now, it’s very good. There’s a lot of money. People are allowing like you know other countries to invest in projects. We have a couple of projects actually downtown, that our office is working on that have been influx for like 10, 15 years because there's a lot of money when the project starts, and then the recession happened, you know like five, six years ago, eight years ago, and then that money went away, so the project got put on hold so our office actually went from… it's like 200 people to 100 people over the course of a year. So architecture typically feels it first, and we're like one of the last professions to kind of come back. With that said, all the profile, all the fields of architecture, engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering are with us, so you know, it's not like a doctor who was, you know, you always need someone to fix someone who has a heart attack. You always need an architect, but sometimes people just need them a little less during the slow times. But freelancing, and having your own firm, like that… it's limited on what you can do, you know, you have to be a licensed architect, a professional, go through a bunch of other type of testing, and be certified from California in order to become an official architect, to call yourself an architect, and then you can design skyscrapers, anything. But if you're not licensed, you can design maybe small homes, garages, you know, small cafés, so you're limited on what you do unless you have an actual architectural license.
SPEAKER 5 (FEMALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): Is that an extra expense?
SPEAKER 3 (OMAR): The license? Yeah it is. There's multiple attempts, I can't remember how many there are and they're six now they're not cheap and then California has its own except this is specific to California. I mean there's different requirements all over the world so depending on where you want to be an architect the requirements but yeah the exams are expensive especially if you fail because you have to retake them and repay yeah study materials are super expensive yeah and then once you become an architect and the renewal fee for the license is three hundred dollars every two years hopefully your office space for it and mine pays for mine so I just get it reimbursed I think that's it. Al so, check with the states so the state of California doesn't require that you go to school to become an architect you can do it through experience so you know you want to call that path you know research it and you could essentially be an intern for multiple years and get your experience signed off by somebody and then you can be an architect yeah.
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): We have only about four more minutes, so I see one more question. Go ahead?
SPEAKER 9 (MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): [Unintelligible].
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): The question was about our…the homeless in Los Angeles and about prefabs and prefabricated 3d houses that some other countries do have.
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): Well with LA in particular, and even in California, there's a lot of regulations for housing, so it's very difficult to, kind of, make that happen fast. So you know it's more about the process, and trying to find land, and then find someone who can actually design the project, and then with 3d fabricated housing, or prefabricated housing, I think it's actually being used a lot more now in California, in Los Angeles, but it still takes a while to kind of get that. Homes… I think the one on 5th Street, by Michael Moulton, is partly prefabricated, so basically his office had someone who was very familiar with the process of integrating with the state and the city of Los Angeles, almost at a political level. This is some of the things that they don't teach you in architecture school, is that, you know, you have to talk with people, you have to fill out grants, you have to fill out applications for certain specific types of housing, and they had someone that's specialized in it. And I'll go back to what Omar said that actually made them very particular to that type of architecture, and they can do what they knew. That process, and then with working with the city, and the state, and the national government, since this is like a homelessness crisis. You can't just build a house and give it away to somebody. There's a lot of, a lot of regulations you have to go through that. So it just takes time.
SPEAKER 9 (MALE AUDIENCE MEMBER): [Unintelligible].
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): Well that's a very good question. I guess I want to say them, at least for myself, I don't have complete… I'm only talking cuz I don't have an answer. Because a lot of what we deal with, is there's a lot of legislation, there's a lot of you know, politics to it…yeah materials or whatnot. I mean architecture is not just the design. We have an idea, we're going to go put it out there. I mean there's money involved, there's developers, there's, you know, City Council's, there's, you know not in my backyard type of things. So there's so many politics involved with it that, a lot of the times, that we have minimal control as architects. I mean some of these questions are probably best if there was like, a, you know the governor here, or the city mayor, or someone who can, who knows who, where things can get pushed forward. For things to happen, I mean we're kind of on the tail end of the work, so I mean we'd love to solve every problem which is one thing about our education, you know. We're taught about environmental science in terms of like controlling the buildings, so they don't put, you know, they don't waste a lot of energy, using recycled materials, and we become very utopic and idealists, but when you go out to the real world, you know, it's the developers, it's the politicians that we have to deal with. And it's a lot of setbacks. A lot of setbacks. So it's I mean, all good questions, and I wish we could solve them, but we can't.
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): Yeah, and in terms of like new technologies like 3d printed building materials, and things like that… you were talking about the USC professor who developed a machine. There is a lot of testing, and a lot of we have to make sure that it works in all conditions especially like in California a lot of the 3d printing technology… I think they use concrete. And the kind of 3d print with concrete, we have to make sure that that can stand up in an earthquake, and it doesn't burn down, and doesn't kill people. So it takes years. So you see it done in a lot of other countries. Maybe I can… disaster relief or you know in other areas because it's quicker. They don't have as many rules, and also they're able to test it out there. That's part of that testing process, so eventually it'll come. They do have some 3d technology that they use to print, and you know, in the field that's expensive right now, but the more advances, the cheaper it will become and more widely used it'll become, and the more acceptable it will be in the testing. So it's… there's a lot, a lot of steps to go through, and that's just even one part of architecture, like Elizabeth was saying, it's very tough.
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): We are done, but I have just one quick question what is your very favorite project that you've worked on, that perhaps we can see or Google?
SPEAKER 2 (LIZBETH): Goodness, well there's so many… of the... It’s a… should I just pass it on? I might need more time to think. I don't know, I think the one project that would, that I haven't visited, but I've worked on, and is built, and I recall it being kind of my first project that I felt, that I was working on something really big and very interesting. It’s the Louie Vuitton Museum in Paris. It looks kind of like a katydid and there's like these wings that looks kind of like see-through if you just google it; Louis Vuitton Museum in Paris, it's in one of the parks. It's just I remember working on it, I haven't seen it in real life, and I think recalling now that might have been like, I knew I was working on something very big and important, but I was so young I just kind of kind of brushed it off, and so it's the memory I have...but it's exciting so Google it.
SPEAKER 3 (OMAR): Okay for me - based on location and the precedent, so it's the Museo Amparo in Puebla. And I'm picking that one because it's built, and because the previous architect that intervened in this historic building was Pedro Ramirez Vasquez, which is on the front cover of the flyer. He did that concrete thing. My favorite architect. And then I was working for Enrique Norten at the time in Mexico City, and he came and intervened, and I didn't see the project finished, but I my friends have sent me pictures. So yeah that's it.
SPEAKER 4 (PAUL): I was going to say the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, but since Elizabeth took that from me too. This is going to sound really dumb, it's a gas station in Pismo Beach. It's off the freeway, and the reason why I like it I mean, it was one of my first projects that I got see built. I was working with a small firm in San Luis Obispo that actually specialized in gas stations, but I can go there. Everyone goes there because that's like the gas station off the freeway, and there's a jack-in-the-box. I can get a, you know, frosty treat. And it's it sounds dumb, but it was something, because gas stations have a very specific design, and we were actually able to talk with the owner and get them to spend more money on the design and do stupid things like remove the ceiling and expose the structure and not have a tile floor, but have it be a concrete floor, and it saved money for them, and in the end what we did. But it's you know, it's just a space, that I can go and say I worked on this… everyone can go visit. It's nothing fancy, it's a gas station, looks kind of cool, it's a big white building off the freeway, but that was it.
SPEAKER 1 (LLYR): Well thank you all so much for agreeing, and joining us for the Career Conversation that was excellent, and thank you all audience members! Let’s thank our guests for joining us, [Clapping]. And we hope to see you on the [April] 7th for Career Conversations with the television writers.