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Nicole Falconer on Collaboration Within The Architecture Field

This Q&A is part of a series of interviews with BRP architects, designers, and others in the firm about their career journey, and the impact that architecture and design can have on our communities and the collective human experiences. Today, we sat down with Nicole Falconer to explore her journey in the architecture industry, from her initial fascination with the field to her current role as a licensed architect contributing to a variety of projects. Nicole shares insights into her career highlights, the rewarding aspects of her job, her approach to collaboration, and how she stays updated with the latest developments in architecture and design.

1. How were you first introduced to architecture and design?

I vaguely remember learning about architecture in 7th grade. It seemed like a cool job then, and as I have progressed through my education and career, there have only been a few moments when I questioned my middle school whim. As I learned more about the profession, I realized it fit perfectly with my love of problem-solving, required creativity, and provided enough variety to keep me interested.


2. Can you share some highlights from your professional journey in the architecture industry? Any particular memorable projects or milestones?

I’ve had some really cool experiences so far in my professional journey. I spent a semester teaching a design studio at my alma mater, Drury University. I’ve gotten to work on some exciting projects both locally (Bass Pro’s Wonders of Wildlife, Ozarks Empire Fair Arena, Cox College of Nursing) and nationally (Hilton North Scottsdale at Cavasson).
My biggest professional milestone, though, has to be getting licensed in 2020. Architectural licensure is a big undertaking that requires an accredited degree in Architecture, almost 4,000 hours of experience, and passing the 6 different divisions of the Architectural Registration Exams (AREs). It is quite the time commitment, especially when actively testing, and is usually a years-long process. Now I volunteer with NCARB writing test questions for one of the divisions of the ARE. Seeing the logic and process behind developing test questions has been fascinating, and it has been nice to have a small part in helping to ensure the next generation of Architects are properly prepared to practice architecture.


3. What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job as an architect? What keeps you motivated and passionate about your work?

I’ve always been a huge fan of puzzles – logic puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles – really any type of puzzle! With that in mind, working through schematic design for a new project has always been one of my favorite parts of my job. Resolving the floor plans of a building with the required areas and adjacencies is just as satisfying as placing the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. And as the project progresses, there are new puzzles and problems to solve. Filling out the door schedule, or putting together a full sheet of head, jamb, and sill details is always so gratifying once it is completed. And with the variety of projects I have worked on, it has been pretty easy to keep my passion for architecture. I am always learning and growing my skill set with each new project. 


4. How do you approach collaboration within your firm and with other professionals in the industry (e.g., engineers, interior designers, contractors)?

The amount of collaboration really surprised me when I first started in the profession. Architecture school certainly had a few group projects, but most of the design work was individual and isolating, so being a part of a team every day was a slight adjustment. Now though, collaborating and communicating with others is one of the most enjoyable parts of my day. My first preference is always meeting in person, since it seems like so much more can be accomplished when everyone on the team is in a room together. But that isn’t always possible when the design/construction team is spread out across the country. If an in-person meeting is out of the question, then a virtual meeting (Zoom, Teams, etc.) is helpful to get everyone looking at the same thing to work through a problem together. 


5. How do you stay updated with the latest developments in architecture and design? Are there any resources or organizations you recommend for continuous learning?

This is actually something I tend to struggle with. It is really easy at this point in my career to focus my time on getting a project documented and built. Unless there is a project-specific reason to research the latest developments in the field, I am usually able to tap into my past experience while I’m designing and detailing. Going to lunch and learns, construction tours, and other AIA events has been a good way to stay up to date. Recently, I’ve also learned about some of the newest design trends while critiquing student projects at Drury. I’m always impressed and excited to see how often students incorporate sustainability into their projects and usually leave with a more positive outlook on the future of the profession.


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