Rebuilding A City

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Part of the growth in the city rebuilding field may be traced to our general recognition that our resources are limited and must be conserved. This suggests that our older cities should be rehabilitated as opposed to being abandoned in favor of new development on the edge of the city. Our renewed interest in our community's heritage is also part of the reason.


Communications are important in all human endeavors. In the service industries and in the professions, where interpersonal relationships are basic to the provision of services to the buyer, communications are critical. In the environmental design professions, communications usually take the form of drawings or other fixed graphics and written text to cover those items not treated in the graphics. Thus the architect's sketches, formal perspectives, working drawings, specifications, and various contract forms are developed by the architect for communications with clients, contractors, subcontractors, and others essential to the design and construction process.

But an architect's communications do not begin or end with drawn and written materials. The architect must also develop verbal talents necessary for gaining approval of the designs developed in response to clients' needs. The architect's communications range across all available tools and techniques of exchanging information with those involved in the building process.

After some years of experience, an architect may find that he or she possesses a special talent-verbal, textual, or graphic-in the field of communications and will gain increasing recognition for those particular talents and abilities. In essence, that talent will be recognized as a particular ability to reduce a problem to its essentials, to organize the solution to that problem, and to clearly explain the solution to others. As this talent grows and is broadly recognized, the architect will be increasingly called upon as a communicator and will develop special techniques specially suited to her or his particular type of practice, audience, and personal sense of what tools he or she works best with-written, drawn, or spoken; print, graphic, film, or electronic media.

This increasing sophistication and growing expertise may well lead the architect into a full-time career in journalism, lecturing, teaching, film, television, graphic arts, or another facet of the communications industry.

This does not mean that the architect must necessarily leave the field of architecture in order to pursue this developing talent in communications. In larger environmental design offices, the architect may well find those talents devoted to the work of the firm-the promotion of services, the preparation of project reports, or the representation of the firm and the profession before the public. On the other hand, the architect with such skills may find career opportunities within the communications industries to be more attractive, and he or she may consider a switch of careers from architecture to communications.

Professional Associations

Professional and public interest associations are traditional American institutions. Chances are that you belong to one or more such groups. Examples might be a conservation society, local youth association, YMCA, YWCA, JCC, debate club, or similar group. Most likely you know adults who have long been members of a trade, professional, political, or specialized citizen group that expresses their interest in a particular subject on a local, state, or national level.

In the years, since World War II, the number of nonprofit associations has grown immensely throughout the United States. This growth is the result of our increasing awareness of the need to take part in the shaping of public attitudes and subsequent programs affecting our working and living environments and our general quality of life. Many of these organizations offer attractive career opportunities for those trained in environmental design, and it is common for an architect, sometime during his or her career development, to be on the staff of such an organization.

A review of the yellow pages of a telephone directory in any major American city will reveal a considerable number of such associations. Washington, DC, of course, has thousands, since one of the principal purposes of such groups is to influence legislation. Similarly, most state capitals, or the major urban areas within each state, have a number of similar institutions.

While there are many large nationwide associations that can support a headquarters staff of several dozen professionals and technicians, there is a much larger number of local groups with several hundred members and a staff of only a few people. Typically, these groups depend upon membership dues, foundation grants, and special purpose study and research project funding for their financial bases. Their activities involve writing proposals for legislation, advocacy and lobbying before appropriate elected and appointed bodies, sponsorship of debate on public policy issues, public education programs, execution of research programs, and fund-raising to support all these varied activities.

The interests of these groups may range from the joining together of local professionals for the betterment of their own disciplines; to groups that sponsor improved local planning and housing programs; to regional and state organizations promoting the understanding of open space needs, historic preservation techniques, and similar environmental issues; and to national organizations of professional and citizen groups interested in environmental or other issues at the federal level. All these organizations require trained professional staff to execute programs responsive to the organization's interest. Obviously, a trained architect is often essential.

A staff job with one of these associations may be a part-time student position, a summer position, a graduate intern position, or a career association executive ship. Washington, DC, for instance, has many trained and experienced design professionals who have devoted the bulk of their careers to employment in professional associations. Salaries, benefits, and related work environments for the association executive are equivalent to those found in private firms and public agencies. A particular satisfaction of such a career is the contributions one can make linking public and private interest for the betterment of environmental design.
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