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An Architect: To Be or Not To Be
Khanh Nguyen '23 Staff Writer
November 22, 2020

At the beginning of the term, Architecture Teacher David Payne spent an entire class answering the question of why one shouldn’t become an architect. Although this answer seems nonsensical at first, Payne’s logic stems from his personal experience within the field.

Mr. Payne developed his passion for architecture from a young age. As a child, his parents would drive him back and forth between their house to Bradley International Airport, where he became inspired by the old houses they passed in the town of Suffield.

After graduating from art school, Mr. Payne worked as an architect in Boston and taught evening classes at the nearby Boston Architectural College. There, he realized he had a passion for teaching, rather than working in an office as an architect. He found himself at a crossroad, having to decide between attaining his architectural license, or pursuing his PhD and going into the teaching profession. He chose the latter, and began to teach at the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, North Carolina.

Despite having held a successful architecture career, Mr. Payne discourages students from pursuing the field. From his past experience of becoming an architect, he understands the tedious process and the amount of effort and time one must sacrifice.

“It’s a long, difficult path between school, working as an intern, qualifying [and passing] all of your exams, [which] requires a lot of time and commitment,” Mr. Payne said. “Unless you have an undying passion for architecture where you cannot imagine doing anything else, then you really shouldn’t become an architect.”

Instead, he encourages students to major in a different field for undergraduate studies and take additional architectural-related classes such as drawing or art history to find if their passion still lies in architecture. If it still does, they can pursue architecture in graduate school without having to take other unrelated courses.

To Payne, studying architecture does not result in a one way path to becoming an architect. There are many things one could do with the knowledge gained, which can be applied in any field. 

“Architecture is a big gap in most people’s common knowledge. By taking classes, you gain insight that benefits your [personal] and professional life. For example, if you want to go into real estate, knowledge in architecture allows you to be a better communicator with architects and designers that you will encounter.”

For Deerfield students, the depth of architecture lies beyond the walls of the classroom and the subject itself; taking Mr. Payne’s architectural class allows students to learn more about the history of the town of Deerfield and how its architecture has developed over centuries.

“I try to take students for walks around Main Street, point out houses and talk about the history of the buildings. By taking an architecture class, [students] gain a better understanding about the town that they’ll be spending a few years at,” he said. So, even if you don’t think you’ll be the next Gaudi, taking an architecture class just might open your horizons enough to appreciate the hidden stories in the buildings around us.