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Leaving college was an unforgettable time for me just like the vast majority of students around May & June of each year. It comprised a combination of emotions. I was proud to have successfully completed architecture school but also bewildered and nervous about what would happen next. Unless I intended on going the route of teaching, there would be no more summers off. And loan payback was right around the corner.
The confusion only get deeper and more complex with the various types of architecture available to enter. I was under the impression high end new buildings was for me. In addition to that, my firm had to be within Manhattan. No other types or locations would work. I was determined this was the path God was leading me. Or maybe I was just determined...
Closely following the completion of my degree, I was faced with downsizing. The firm which I had interned was not going to be able to take me on as full time staff. It was the knife through my heart at the peak of my enthusiastic emergence into the real world. I had grown to enjoy going into work. Both the senior and junior staff were inspirational and understanding of my limited experiences. Some of them became mentors to me during and after my employment there. I stayed on part-time, prepped my documents accordingly and set out with my head high to find something else.
Before long I had sent out countless resumes and contacted several of the big name firms throughout NYC. Then the not so big names. Then the small firms. Then it was any firm that practiced architecture. This was 2008, the cusp of the downward turn of the economy as a whole. Being eager to learn coupled with plenty of firm experience I was optimistic. Ultimately my interning didn't account for much. Those seeking entry level designers requested they have some experience. An oxymoron of sorts.
My whole family started to aid in my job search. Basically just keeping their eye open for opportunities. At this point I was even reluctantly looking into a few Westchester County firms. One day like any others, my father gives me a newspaper clipping for a firm that was ironically very very close to my family's home (at the time). Though I remember little of who I had spoke with, I had attempted to intern there during college but was unsuccessful. My enthusiasm was not very high but I figured it was worth a try. I was called almost immediately for an interview which was promising. I researched the company and prepared for the interview. I was grateful for the opportunity and would do my best.
The interview went very well and I was offered the position the very next day. Having some experiences which paralleled their worked seemed to helped seal the deal. I thought to myself- Restoration? What will I be doing, really? I'm interested in modern new buildings not "old" ones. Or am I? Having an open mind, I thought this was a great opportunity to expand my background. Plus I'd have an incredibly short commute, so I gladly accepted.
Restoration architecture as I've experienced is heavily weighted on building/site maintenance and preventative investigations. All buildings require maintenance at some point after they're built. The better and more proactive an owner is, the easier and less costly the repairs will be. This avenue is intertwined with several mandatory inspections such as local law 11 or as newly named- facade inspection safety program (FISP). This mandates facades, roofs and balconies be inspected periodically. This safe guards the public from deterioration not seen or noticed by said owner. Restoration is not set to the exterior alone. Interiors require updating coupled with necessary repairs to building infrastructure. In addition when infiltration does occurs, following its remedy, the interior finishes may need to be renewed. As defined by most, architects are problem solvers. This is one avenue that benefits greatly from this skill.
Preservation and Rehabilitation throws a historical aspect into the mix. Knowledge and experience which comes in handy when working in such a old city such as New York City. Though old world construction is usually more durable, rigid and long lasting, problems will still arise. Leaks happen, deterioration causes cracking, spalling, etc. The trick is repairing in a fashion that retains the historic fabric, keeping the appearance (look, feel, color, texture, size) the same. At times it is very difficult, especially if the item is no longer made or isn't manufactured in the same fashion. Architects are researchers of materials, fabrication methods and so much more.
In Part Two I will talk about my responsibilities working on restoration type architecture as well as the benefits of working in a small group/firm. Did my opinion change of old vs new!?
Jared W. Smith, R.A.