03.21.06 Competition Countdown
Eleven days from now–Friday, March 31, 2006–is the Stage One deadline for the 2006 ArchVoices Essay Competition. Some of you might have already registered and are working on the 500-word essay proposal. Others of you might have passed the information on and encouraged those who are eligible to submit an essay to do so, and still others of you might be contemplating whether or not you have time to participate. For those of you who are “thinking about it,” I’d urge you to reconsider, as I hope my own experience as an essay competition participant three years ago will illustrate.
In February 2003, I was faced with an unexpected opportunity to completely rethink my professional architectural career path to something other than working in a firm. Only a week before, my schedule had seemed too busy to add yet another task to the “to do” list, but as I was contemplating my next steps, I was reminded of an announcement for an essay competition that I had recently come across. The question asked about thoughts and expectations on internship and one specific change that could be made to the process. Here I was, almost 10 years out of graduate school, still asking the very same questions–and for the first time, someone wanted to know what I thought.
A chance to concretely think about my architecture path to date, this competition afforded me the opportunity to find some clarity in the puzzling path toward licensure. More importantly, submitting an essay proposal represented the ability to engage in an activity beyond the confines of everyday work, something that my schedule of late had not permitted.
My essay wasn’t bad, though it wasn’t great either, looking back. It discussed points that were not necessarily new, but it did allow me to begin to clarify my own thoughts about architecture and the point I was at in my professional career. The opportunity to pause, think, and write was far more valuable than rushing to submit resumes and set up interviews.
Juggling the demands of work and family is an ongoing process. When do we ever have the true luxury of time to stop for a few minutes and reflect on our schooling, our work experience, our community activities, and how they each fit into the larger realm of our profession? Of course, the possibility of “winning” the essay competition (and with it, exam fees and study materials) was nice, but not what motivated me to participate. Rather, a more compelling reason to enter is the opportunity that this forum provides young designers to constructively think about the profession and their place within it. The ability to crystallize one’s thoughts and share them with others will serve you well, beyond exam fees and even completed ARE divisions.
An exercise in critical thinking and writing, the first ArchVoices Essay Competition helped solidify my choice for the next phase in my architectural career, that of an editor and writer. In turn, I have come to realize that I can far better contribute to the profession as an informed observer, versed in the issues and practices that face architecture in the 21st Century, than I ever could drafting at a computer.
Reading the 179 essays submitted last year, I was struck by two things: the variety of “voices” and the abundance of commonalities shared by young design professionals worldwide. Each unique perspective allows the rest of us to consider something we might not have thought of before, and yet to know that others have the same thoughts reinforces that our own concerns are valid.
So sit down for a few minutes, take some time to think about your choice of architecture–where it is taking you, what is working, what you would like to do differently. Here is an opportunity to clarify your thoughts, to contribute to an ongoing dialogue with a community of your peers, and to actively participate in the decision-making process directly affecting your chosen career path. Little did I know when I submitted my essay that it would be the start of working with and meeting an astonishing group of young professionals that are the core of ArchVoices.
To submit your own entry and to learn more about this year’s competition theme and prizes, visit www.archvoices.org/competition. The Stage One deadline is next Friday, March 31, 2006, midnight EST.
Co-Chair, 2006 ArchVoices Essay Competition
Senior Editor, Architectural Lighting
ArchVoices is an independent, nonprofit organization and think tank on architectural education, internship, and licensure.
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