Name: Kyle Morphy
Born: Calgary AB - but raised in Winnipeg MB
Profession: Architecture (Sports Architecture)
From sports domes to skyscrapers. From houses to shopping malls. From museums to libraries. The list can go on, but what all of these buildings have in common is that they've all been carefully planned and designed by an architect. Kyle Morphy talks about what it's like to be a graduate architect.
What is an architect?
An architect is a person involved in the art of planning, designing and overseeing the construction of buildings, or more generally, the designer of a scheme or plan. But if you're a fan of the big screen, The Architect is a fictional character appearing in the last two films of the Matrix trilogy.
What's a typical day at work like?
It depends on the project we're working on, but obviously checking email constantly — for responses or questions from clients, plenty of interoffice emails from co-workers that are on the same design team.
In the design phase of a project there are lots of small meetings or unofficial brainstorming sessions on design solutions... lots and lots of sketches on tracing paper of ideas on designs for a particular building or landscape. And also at this stage we are constantly looking through books and design magazine for inspiration and ideas that might relate to our particular project.
There is plenty of surfing google images for precedents that might relate to the project. Often a single image can serve as the design inspiration for the project. In the design phase we want to represent our ideas as clearly or as best we can, particularly to the other members of the design team and to the client. Representation ranges from pencil sketches to building small scale models to computer renderings — Adobe Photoshop, Indesign, Illustrator, lots of different 3d modeling programs — 3D studio max, Rhino, Sketch-up and of course AutoCAD.
A majority of the day is spent simply refining and building upon each previous image or idea until you have a good representation of the design solution to show the client. We will do lots of small design reviews with the senior partners involved with the project and then every week or two have meetings with the clients to review the design. Many times, the clients are overseas so we're often emailing PDF packages and Jpegs to the client and emailing clarifications back and forth.
It's important to know that the type of work and typical day can be very different depending on the project and certainly depending on the firm that you work for. My firm does more of the front-end creative work often entering design competitions while other firms handle more of the contract administration - hammering out building details and construction schedules — issuing drawing packages to the client, engineers and construction companies in more of a project management capacity.
Meat Yes or no?
Hell yes. And double the meat.
Did you always want to be an architect?
No actually — I always loved to draw, but I wanted for the longest time to be an astronaut... and a professional athlete also!
What courses in high school prepared you for this field?
General math courses help and perhaps physics to begin to understand structures and loads. Social studies and courses in different cultures and world history I've found to be very valuable. Architecture is often the representative of world history and culture and it's important to know about it. There is a great deal that architects today can learn from architectural history.
What is the last movie you saw?
Pirates of the Caribean 3 - thumbs up! Maybe not quite a good as the first — but still good
Where did you go to university?
I went to the University of Manitoba (UofM) where I got a Bachelor of Environmental Design (architecture) and then went to the University of Toronto where I got my Masters of Architecture.
How did you decide where to go?
I decided to go to the UofM because I grew up in Winnipeg about 5 minutes from campus and also the architecture program is highly regarded.
I went to Toronto for my Masters degree because I felt it's good to have a fresh environment to study architecture — a new group of professors to learn from and a new city. Toronto is a very dynamic city in which to live with lots of great new projects just minutes away from the UofT campus. Also different architecture schools have a different take on architectural in general and it's good to get a wide range of opinion and experience different schools.
What is your favourite hangout?
Baked Expectations — Osborne Village, Winnipeg. A great place for desserts with a busy, hip atmosphere and free refills on coffee... you can sit there for hours and chat.
Was there extra training involved after you finished university?
There is a lot to learn on the job. Architects must have an understanding of so many areas — administration, finance, structure, mechanical systems, design, materials etc. In University, you are really only able to scratch the surface.
There are several courses and professional designations that you can achieve while on the job, such as being LEED accredited which is the designation that represents a knowledge or expertise in sustainable design (green architecture),
To achieve the official title as 'architect', you must log hours in a book on a variety of tasks — working drawings, contract writing etc. and then (at least in Canada) write and pass 9 major exams — each focussing on a different topic. The process can take many years however you can still be the lead designer and do everything that is required of an 'architect'... however in the end any official documents/drawings have to signed by a registered architect. Often this person is a partner overseeing the project anyway.
What is the coolest part of your job?
The best part is the opportunity to create something in your mind, draw it with a pencil on tracing and then see it actually get built..... and all with someone else's money.
What is the worst part of your job?
Sometimes we work some long hours, but as long as it's a fun project — sometimes you don't mind all that much!
What is the best thing about Canada?
The diversity of its people and its landscapes.
Ooops. Everyone, makes mistakes. What's the dumbest thing you've ever done on the job?
I haven't done anything dumb just yet... I haven't been at this job long enough yet!
Is there any advice you'd give to someone who's interested in becoming an architect?
Travel! Experience as many new places and cultures as possible... bringing those experiences to the table at University and on the job can go a long way to designing a great building or landscape. And always keep your eyes open to the built environment around you...
Tattoos: cool or uncool?
Cool if they're small and in the right places!
What are some good references out there on architecture if someone wants to learn more?
Death by Architecture