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Meet a Real Architect

Name: Kristin Hensel

Education: Bachelor of Architecture, Andrews University


The Job: Although her company refers to her as a graduate architect, until she earns her license Kristin is still an intern.

Her workday begins about 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. She draws (either by hand or computer) designs for college campus buildings, churches, housing—even a courthouse.

Then there are the occasional meetings she has to attend with fellow team members and product representatives (regarding tiles, water fixtures, and all types of building materials).

During a typical week Kristin gets home between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. She’s expected to work around 45 hours a week at the office. But when deadlines loom close, everyone puts in extra time to get the work done.

Words to Live by “Architecture should not just be about designing what looks good or fulfills the requirement, but about creating a structure that adds to its surroundings. As a Christian architect, designing healthy environments is my main focus.”

Architecture for you?

Consider Architecture as a college major if you're crazy about:
•making things (ever make miniaturemodels as a kid?)
•drawing (no stick figures, please)
• computers (it’s the hottest accessory)
• details (calling all obsessive organizers!)

Avoid Architecture as a college major if you get nauseated by:
• science (how much weight will this 2 x 4 hold?)• math (ya gotta love formulas)• reading (ah, the philosophy of architecture) • people (architecture is dependent onclients—and pleasing them)



Is it simply four walls, a floor, a roof, and a bit of plumbing and electrical wiring? Yes, a building is all these things.

But to an architect, a building is a lot more.

Gene-Anthony Hay is a senior architecture major at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. And to him, a building represents a meticulous art form of not only aesthetic but emotional proportions.

“Anyone can throw up a warehouse. That just takes technical skills,” explains Gene. “Architecture evokes a feeling—think about the way you feel sitting in church or school.”

Buildings and feelings? It’s a strange mix, but the unique field of architecture is all about joining skills that you may not usually associate together.

While all majors prefer students to be well-rounded, architecture combines art, physics, math, engineering, and social skills. It’s a major for the jack- or jill-of-all-trades.

Are you up to the architecture challenge? If you are, start your research right here with this month’s On Course. Gene tells all about the wonderful world of drafting, crafting, and staying up late.

On Course: How did you decide to major in architecture?

Gene: I’ve always liked to draw, make things with my hands, and design. But I didn’t want to be a starving artist. In high school I started taking drafting classes that showed me that there are some practical applications in art—such as architecture.

OC: I think everyone has a basic idea of what architecture is, but how would you define it?

Gene: Architecture is the art of building, the bonding of art and science.

OC: What kind of art and science are we talking about here?

Gene: Architects aren’t just builders; they’re designers, too. It’s the architect’s job to take into account their client’s personal needs, then put them into a practical form that will positively affect the surrounding environment.

The architect always considers the context of where things will be built—the history of the area, the land type, the neighborhood, even the kind of trees that grow in the area, because architects have to make the building work with whatever’s around it.

As far as science goes, physics is very important. There’s some math involved, but once you get the formulas, you can just plug in the numbers. It’s helpful to know trigonometry and calculus, too.

Then there’s also the systems approach, where heating, plumbing, and cooling for a building all have their own formulas and rules of thumb. You have to know and keep these things in mind.

OC: But you’re more of an artist by nature than a scientist, aren’t you?

Gene: I’m not good at the sciences. It takes me 20 minutes to figure out what a good student can figure out in 10!

It requires more effort for me, but the benefits of the design part are so great that I’m willing to put more effort into the science. And ultimately, it’s the creative process that shines through the most.

But science is a very important part of architecture. Once I realized the relationship between the two, it motivated me to improve in the scientific areas.

OC: Hey, do you get to build those tiny cardboard models?

Gene: Yeah! It’s great because, in a way, by building models we can see how the construction process works as well as see our designs come to life. And we can also see what’s wrong with our design!

OC: That’s an artistic element, but I can see that it would be very technical, too.

Gene: Yes. Architects have to consider not only how things are going to look, but how they’ll work—such as the plumbing and heating and cooling systems. Again, you’ll see the art and science coming together.

The best way to design is not a linear process but a spherical process. As you draw your design, you must also be figuring out how it will work.

You can’t just concentrate on the artistic side of things. You have to keep yourself in a realistic frame of mind so you can create a building that works together well and is inherently beautiful. A building may look nice, but if the people using it are going to be uncomfortable, it’s going to be a bad building.

OC: What do you love most about architecture?

Gene: To be able to see something that comes out of my head come to life.

OC: What do you hate most?

Gene: I wish I had more of a life. Because we’re always working on projects, we’re almost always in the studio where all the tools are.

OC: So there are some late nights at the studio?

Gene: Oh, yeah. Projects are very time-consuming, and we earn most of our credits by working in the studio. So if you want to study architecture, be willing to sacrifice sleep!

OC: What other things should potential architecture majors expect?

Gene: You have to be able to organize your time, since there are a lot of projects. People who typically procrastinate won’t do very well in architecture. It takes extreme discipline to get things done.

OC: After four years in a program, you graduate with a bachelor’s degree. What’s next?

Gene: You could go to graduate school, but it’s not a necessity. What you really need is a bachelor’s degree, a good portfolio, and experience.

Most graduates go on to intern at a firm, working under a licensed architect. Nearly all states require three years of practice before you’re eligible to take the Architect Registration Exam. And each state offers a different exam. After that, you’re required to keep up-to-date with the latest developments. This may mean taking classes, doing research, or getting published.

OC: What are options after graduation?

Gene: You can teach after you get your master’s degree. You can be a consultant. You may not want to work in a firm, but you could do contract work for them. Or you can work as a computer drafting person, just doing drawings. Some architects also move into designing furniture, housewares, and products.

I want to work in a firm and get my license. I don’t want to own my own firm. In order to have your own firm you have to be an aggressive hustler and bring in clients.

OC: Is architecture an unusual major for Christians?

Gene: I don’t think there’s a focus on architecture in the Adventist community. But there are a lot of Christian principles in the field. And architecture is a social work, a service.

Typically, the best architects are people people. That means you understand the way people think and can think outside of yourself. I do best on a project when I’ve prayed for God to show me what’s best for my hypothetical client.

OC: Do you see a relationship between your major and your relationship with Christ?

Gene: Definitely. The ability to create is something we’ve all inherited from our heavenly Father.

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