Citizen Architect

The following is a part of the #ArchiTalks series wherein a topic is suggested and a group of architect bloggers each give their take on the subject.

The topic this month is "Citizen Architect"

What is a Citizen Architect? There is a film by this title which documents the work of Samuel Mockabee and the Rural Studio and Auburn University. And i would highly recommend you watch it as i really think it gets to the spirit of what this topic is about.

But that is just one example of what being a Citizen Architect can look like. It is specific to a location. And to some degree a time period. And not all of us have the opportunity to affect the kind influence this program has. But we can all do our part. In our own time. In our own community.

So what are the hallmarks of being a Citizen Architect. Is it doing civic works? Is it doing pro bono work? Is being involved in local government? Maybe to all of these, but not necessarily. It will help to tell a bit of my story to illustrate what being a Citizen Architect means to me.

I moved to Mansfield, OHio in 1997, just before our second son was born. I had a job with a local architect. I went to work. I went home. We went to church on Sundays. But that was really about it. I was young. I had a young family. And i had air cooled Volkswagens. I kept busy and i kept to myself. Fast forward 11-1/2 years and things had not changed much. We had moved. I had gone back to school. And i was now a licensed architect. But fundamentally, i went about my life the same way. Then in November of 2008, i was laid off. For the next two years, i looked for work, picked up the odd job here and there and collected unemployment. But most importantly, this time afforded me the opportunity to become invested in my community. Through volunteerism, serving on a couple of non-profit boards, and becoming involved with the Richland Community Development group. And that is really what is at the heart of the topic for me. Being a "Citizen Architect" means investing in your community. By being involved. By being aware. By being part of the solution.


Mansfield is an economically, culturally, and socially depressed area. At first blush, there is not much to celebrate. High crime rates, two prisons, a general and pervasive apathy and ignorance, dilapidated infrastructure, and a strong resistance to change. And to be honest, i was ready and eager to skip town with the first job offer. Of course, that job offer never came. In the meantime, i became invested. I began to see Mansfield for what it could be. I began to consider Mansfield home. I care that Mansfield become a better place. To fulfill it's potential. As i became more aware of the town i live in, i began to realize there is  rich and proud history. But there is also a vibrant future just waiting to be actualized. We have some incredible assets for a town our size. And a energetic arts scene bubbling just below the surface, waiting to explode and affect some real change.

For me, being a Citizen Architect is more than being politically aware and active. It is being in the trenches. Understanding the community we serve. Understanding the larger cultural ramifications of a project. And making architecture accessible.


For other takes on what Citizen Architect means, follow the links below and read the rest of the #ArchiTalks crew's posts:

Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Citizen Architect ... Seems Redundant

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: The everyday citizen architect

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
small town citizen architect

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Does it Mean to be a Citizen Architect?

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Citizen Architect

brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Senior Citizen, Architect

Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Help with South Carolina's Recovery Efforts

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Meet Jane Doe, Citizen Architect

Rosa Sheng - Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
We are the Champions - Citizen Architects

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
My Hero - Citizen Architect

Jes Stafford - Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Architect as Citizen

Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Citizen Architect: #architalks

Courtney Casburn Brett - Casburn Brett (@CasburnBrett)
“Citizen Architect” + Four Other Practice Models Changing Architecture

Greg Croft - Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Citizen Architect

Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Citizen Developer??

Daniel Beck - The Architect's Checklist (@archchecklist)
Protecting the Client - 3 Ways to be a Citizen Architect

Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Citizen of Architecture

Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Citizen Architect #ArchiTalks

Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
[cake decorating] to [citizen architect]

Tara Imani - Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
Citizen Starchitect' is not an Oxymoron

Samantha Raburn - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Inspiring a Citizen Architect

Aaron Bowman - Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Citizen Architect: The Last Responder

Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How Architects Can Be Model Citizens

Amy Kalar - ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Architalks #13: How Can I Be But Just What I Am?

Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Citizen Architect - Form out of Time

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Good Citizen Architect


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