Today we’re celebrating the 15th year of opening my office, Steven Secon Architect.  I want to say a heart-felt thank you to my clients, builders, subcontractors, peers, building officials, municipal boards, friends, family and prospects!

It’s been some ride…. It’s that season of reflection- with graduation and the pending “empty nest” around the corner.

This reflection and having interns working in our office the last several years, have given me the nudge to pass along fundamentals I wished they would have conveyed to us while in architectural school.

15 years thanks

1. Among the things they did not highlight in architecture school:  there is no opportunity to do the work unless you have customers!  (Always keep current ones happy, and never stop marketing and proactively seeking new clients) There is little opportunity to do good work, if you don’t have the right customers (avoid work for difficult, know-it-all people steeped in HGTV re-runs)

2. Listen and value the opinions of others, not just your customers…how much we have come to appreciate the insight of builders,  subcontractors,  building inspectors, vendors, and peers.

“Still waters make poor sailers”….I love this saying because, it is the essence of how we learn from experience. It’s the storms and adversity that help make us better sailors.


Clearly, there have been many lessons, achievements and failures over the last 15 years.

3. The challenges include on a basic level, of getting people to do what they don’t want to do and explaining the benefits why such and such makes sense.

Hmmm. I’ve learned that most of the failures stem from a failure to communicate in both directions.  While we try hard to deliver the message to builders in drawings and specifications, they occasionally fall short. Field monitoring and observation are critical during construction to assure things are built properly.   The achievements come through extraordinary teamwork.  We always preview the sequence of coming construction events with residential and commercial customers with conversations, graphic charts and schedules but these previews occasionally go unlistened or unread….and then become avoidable surprises later.

4.  Architects are just one small piece of the team that creates, or modifies a building or site into something it was not before.  The builders get most of the glory, and rightly so- it’s hard work and very complicated.  Imploring contractors to follow what is called for in the drawings or specifications, and listening carefully when they cannot and improvising are critical to producing a great result.

5.  Also trying to educate customers about the process of design and  construction is critical to meeting expectations….This experience which is frequently a labyrinth of Byzantine terms and non- sequential events cobbled together with application forms, municipal fees and approval meetings seems like a mystery-but in reality is rational.


6.  Asking better questions and looking for comprehension: I’ve learned to listen more closely, pay more attention to things that are implied, but not necessarily said and also to seek the counsel of others who have done this before me and can shed light on where the bodies are buried and which turns to avoid.

7.  Friction and resistance- Finally, I like to also thank my nay-sayers.  They have strengthened my resolve. Each has given me fortitude and energy to delve further and regroup in more resourceful ways to overcome obstacles and continue to do the work that I love.  Thank you so much for the opportunity and incentive.

Article by Steven Secon