I have hit a major milestone. Last Saturday I got the letter.
"Congratulations. You have successfully completed your recent California Supplemental Examination with the California Architects Board. Enclosed is an Application for Licensure."
Then, further down the page:
"As a reminder, pursuant to Business and Professions Code section 5336(a) you may not represent to the public that you are an architect, put out any device that might indicate to the public that you are qualified to engage in the practice of architecture, or perform any architectural services in California until you are licensed by this Board. A violation of this section is a misdemeanor."
So, as it turns out, after all the years of school and internships, after passing the 9 exams administered by NCARB, and finally passing the CSE (also known as the Oral Exam, because it consists of being grilled by a panel of 3 architects for roughly 2 hours) I am still not qualified to practice architecture. Sigh. The license will be issued in 6-8 weeks.
Even though the license is not required to design single-family residences, it is required to be able to call yourself an architect. Most states, including California, take this very seriously and enforce it vigorously. I have always been careful about this, even including a clause in my standard contract that acknowledges that I am not a licensed architect.
It also has me feeling a little overwhelmed. I think that is why it took me until today to reflect a bit on it here at the blog. I have been gradually working towards this goal for nearly 30 years, which is a long time. And now, here I am (well, almost.) It is definitely time to step back, evaluate things, and make some decisions about what to do next. The little things are obvious: keep working on the furniture designs, keep practicing my piano, keep writing it all in the blog.
But in the big picture, I need a new focus. I want to grow my practice and build lots of fabulous houses, and I want to do a lot more writing about design and the practice of architecture. I need to sit down and spend the time to formulate 5- and 10- year goals.
Also, I feel like I am at (or nearing) decision point about whether or not to stay in California, and if not, where to go. The regulatory regime in California (and LA specifically) is pretty iron-fisted; you end up spending huge amounts of time dealing with it, and virtually always to the detriment of the owner and/or the project (not to mention the heartburn and frustration it causes me.) I have often found myself caught in between my client on the one hand, who wants nothing more than to finally realize a dream that they have been saving for, and working towards for years, or even decades, and now they have entrusted me with helping them to realize this dream; versus: a bottom-feeding bureaucrat who will only say "No, you can't do that" and is unwilling to provide a reason at all as to how or why the particular issue in question would cause a threat, nuisance, or harm to my client or anyone else.
I take my role of "dream realization agent" very seriously. It is an honor to be chosen by someone to design a house for them. It's not just designing a house - it is the creation of a shelter for their lives. It is a tremendous thrill to be involved in such a positive expansion of the life of another. And, I take property rights very, very seriously. To have the government telling you what you can and cannot do with your property is a horrible perversion of the proper role of government. Combine all this together, and you can probably see that I get very upset at some of the stuff I have to put up with, in order to practice my art.
And, I think I would be much happier, in the long run, if I were practicing in a place where the role of government in my day-to-day work life were more limited than it is here in Los Angeles, or in California.
I should also point out that, although I disagree with the regulation of my profession and the restriction of property rights perpetrated by the government, these are not worth being sanctioned by the State Board or getting thrown in jail. I will practice within the law, whilst agitating for change.
I chose to become an architect, and am on the verge of finally realizing that goal.
Hooray for me!