Get Out There

Last summer, I played beach volleyball for the first time—nerd that I was in high school. Of course, I went too hard and hurt my lower back within the first hour of play. With my poker face in place, I struggled to finish the game, then endured an excruciating sleepless night. The next day, I went to my physiotherapist and was recounting my heroic volleyball moves when she broke in to ask me what I do. “Architecture,” I replied. Without batting an eyelash, she responded, “so, you sit all day. Your back pain is not from a single overexerted volleyball game but years of sitting all day…” (all day) (all day) (all day) it echoed. The next thing I knew, I was on Indeed looking for a change in career. 

Just kidding. The reality is there are so many facets of an architecture career. Contrary to the common (and rather offensive) stereotype of just sitting and drawing all day. Behind the glamorous image of a designer, lies a very demanding mental and physical reality on top of extreme intelligence (ahem). It takes, on average, 5,942 steps an hour to conduct a field review (the construction industry’s fancy term for “You, go to the construction site! Get out there!”) The job entails scanning through the building skeleton, picturing the outcome, managing the safety risks, giving instructions, and if lucky—complimenting the work. Also, climbing flights and flights of stairs in the absence of a working elevator.

My fellow BCIT student, Catherine, recently experienced first-hand the physical demands of a field review during a site tour of the recently completed UBC Arts Student Centre. The tour was organized by the volunteer group Women in Architecture Vancouver (WIA Van). I have personally had a great experience with the organization and I encourage all female-identifying BCIT architecture students to check it out. But I digress. The UBC Arts Student Centre is a massive 11,700 sq ft. That’s an easy 500 calories burned by simply walking 7,000 steps an hour, plus climbing up and down three flights of stairs.  

Not only is architecture more physically demanding than people realize, but good architecture is also about creating functional space that improves other people’s lives as well.  In Catherine’s own words, “I want to be an architect because I believe through design, we have the power to improve our way of living and human interactions. I see architecture as the world we create, and I feel very passionate about contributing to that future world. So, go! Get out there! Walk around your neighbourhood, observe and start thinking about what can be done to improve your community. After all, it’s a great way to stay in shape.” 

Catherine’s experience reminded me architecture is not just sitting all day. So there is no need to change careers for me. So long as I ensure a good mix of the right food, sleep, and exercise, a career in architecture can still mean a balanced life. But maybe I’ll take it a little easier on the beach volleyball court.