Before starting HiWorks in 2012 I spent ten years working for other people. That's how it's supposed to work: in addition to the Architect Registration Examination aspiring architects must also spend years "apprenticing" with established firms to learn the necessary skills do design buildings.
And so after I graduated from architecture school I naturally wanted to work for firms that reflected the values I had as a nascent architect. And so I moved to Chicago got a job with Perkins & Will because they believed architecture "Had the power to transform lives." A couple of years later I moved to Dallas and worked for Max Levy because I wanted to learn what he knew about how design can "connect people with nature". After I moved to San Antonio I spent the better part of a decade working for Lake|Flato because they believed "first and foremost that architecture should be rooted in its particular place."
I learned plenty form each of the offices and if I had it to do over again I don't know that I'd do anything differently.
That said, every once in a while I come across a building that so completely embodies my values as a designer - a building that is such a perfect act of architecture - that I think if just spent long enough looking at and studying and experiencing the building, I would have learned everything I needed to know.
In my recent trip to Arizona I had a chance to revisit one of these buildings. The Desert View Watchtower on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon was designed by Mary Colter and built in 1932. Yes it enjoys an amazing site, but it is so perfectly rooted to it's particular place that it looks like an outgrowth of the canyon itself. The observation rooms and galleries connect people with nature while also connecting people to the cultural traditions of the Hopi People who once called northern Arizona Home. It has the power to transform lives as it certainly transformed mine.