Steve Ramos – The Architect As A Public Figure

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This week the Young Architect Podcast chatted with Charleston South Carolina Architect and blogger of Buildings Are Cool, Mr. Steve Ramos. 

You can also listen to this podcast on YouTube by clicking here! 

Architect Steve Ramos

With each article that he writes for his Buildings Are Cool blog, Steve Ramos is rejuvenating the way people see architecture; particularly in Charleston, South Carolina. With his passion for writing and teaching others about architecture, Steve is giving his city an inside look into all that there is to know about buildings.

After he studied architecture at the University of Maryland, Steve went to work as an intern for Michael Graves Architecture and Design in Princeton, New Jersey. He now works for LS3P in Charleston, South Carolina as an Associate Principal.

Breaking The Box

Steve Ramos and I recorded this podcast on December 31st, 2016 and in this episode Steve discusses how he would like to start writing a book for Young Architects about Architecture as a career.

Since the recording of this episode, Steve has been hard at work writing his first book:  Breaking the Box:  Explode out of Architecture School to a Successful Career as an Architect.  Steve is sharing the first draft of the book on the Buildings Are Cool at www.buildingsarecool.com/book.  He hopes for the published version to be available in the Fall of 2017.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • Steve’s love of art and math helped him discover that he wanted to study architecture.
  • Why architecture blogs and podcasts are so powerful for this community.
  • How Steve began his career by working as an intern for Michael Graves Architecture and Design in Princeton, NJ for about two years.
  • Steve’s early experiences in architecture with helping to design hotels.
  • What it was like to be at Michael Graves Architecture and Design and to work with Michael Graves.
  • How architecture has changed over the course of time and what style is popular today.
  • When Steve knew that he was ready for a change as far as where he was working and what he wanted to do with his career as an architect.
  • Steve’s experience designing commercial buildings i.e. hotels, apartments, retail, office buildings etc.
  • How to handle public backlash and opposition when you’re working on a project.
  • The architecture challenges Steve has faced in Charleston, SC.
  • How Steve’s blog, Buildings Are Cool, has grown in popularity throughout Charleston.
  • The Charleston community’s reaction to Steve’s articles.
  • Steve’s writing process and how he feels about his writing.
  • What Steve’s experience to get his architecture license was like and why he hated the term, “Intern Architect.”
  • Steve’s experience with mentorship and his advice on where you can find a mentor or mentors.
  • The importance of working as a team and helping your co-workers become better architects.
  • How Steve is able to juggle his busy schedule by being more structured and trying to make the most out of his day in an effective manner.
  • Steve’s morning routine with fitness, meditation, and maybe writing a blog post or article.
  • How Steve is improving his public speaking skills by reading books, attending conferences, and joining Toast Masters.
  • Why public speaking will help you when you work in urban development and directly with city officials or the local neighborhoods.
  • Steve’s hobbies including photography.
  • How The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and The 5 Minute Journal have helped Steve create his own “miracle morning.”
  • Why it’s a good idea to “batch” your time to help you focus i.e. set a time for checking emails, Facebook, web browsing etc.

Key Takeaways From This Episode with

  • There are many different ways to get involved with your community and to help it grow through architecture. Having strong speaking skills is a great way to get your voice heard and to improve your interactions with clients, city officials, and residents.
  • Find a way that works for you to get the job done. You can help commit yourself to finishing your AREs and IDPs by scheduling a date to take the exams. When you have a fixed date to take each one, it will be easier for you to schedule and prioritizing your study time.
  • You don’t have to go too far to seek out a mentor. The people that are in your circle, your office, your community etc. can be great mentors for you to expand your knowledge of architecture and professionalism. In return, you should try to be a mentor to other people as well.

Favorite Quotes

“With the blog and podcasts, you’re hearing about real-life experiences that are happening right now. I would encourage more people to look out there and read more blogs and listen to podcasts to discover what’s happening in the world of architecture.” – Steve Ramos

“I’ve really embraced the idea of being a local architect in Charleston, South Carolina. I’ve had the experience to learn the context and vernacular of this place and designing architecture that responds to it.” – Steve Ramos on finding his place as an architect in Charleston, SC

“I’ve gotten to a point where I do feel that I’ve become a voice in the Charleston community because to be honesty, not a lot of people are writing about architecture. Development is regularly featured in the newspaper, but it’s just really being reported about in a general way.” – Steve Ramos on the growing popularity of his blog, Buildings Are Cool

“In some way, we’re all doing the same thing with our own voices and we’re not looking at each other like we’re competition.” – Michael on fellow architecture bloggers and how we’re all in it to help the profession.

“I’m a routine person so I studied every day. As soon as I took a test, I scheduled the next one right away. Once you put the money on the line and you commit yourself to that date, it’s going to help you study quicker, right? It’s easy to push everything off, but it’s better to be proactive about scheduling the exam because that will make you take it.”– Steve Ramos on how he studied to get his architecture license.

“I look to a lot of people that are in my circle and I look to them for their certain expertise all the time. My advice for young architects and interns is to find those people who are champions and experts at a certain aspect of architecture. Lean on them as much as possible to help you become more well-rounded.” – Steve Ramos on where to find mentors

“I realize now that the first 5 years of my career were all about me: ‘I need to get better,’ ‘I need to get my license,’ ‘I need to be a Revit guru,’ ‘I need to show how I’m a design expert.” It was like ‘Me, me, me!”  and I realized that it wasn’t a good way to be. Then the next 5 years of my career, I realized that ‘I need to be more about everyone else and I need to help this person get better at Revit. I need to share my little design tips with these 3 people.” I realized that this was a better way of thinking because as soon as you start architecture, you will become a better architect if you help more people. You learn by teaching.” – Steve Ramos on becoming a mentor to other people

“It’s all about teamwork. You can accomplish very little on your own. The more you can make the people around you better at their job, the better you’re going to be too.” – Steve Ramos on teamwork and mentoring people

“As an architect in an urban environment, you sort of take on a leadership role and you will find yourself at lots of public meetings. In a way, you’re sort of lobbying your client and a lot of it starts to become kind of politicized; especially when you’re rezoning a property and you work with the city.” – Steve Ramos on how architecture and politics sort of mix and the importance of public speaking.

 Steve’s Advice for Young, Aspiring Architects

“The one skill that I’ve been focusing on lately is public speaking. In general, architecture is based on communication and listening and public speaking in itself is a very valuable skill that I think every architect should know. Better yet, it’s a skill that can be learned. I would encourage young students, interns, and architects to go out of their way to improve their public speaking skills.” – Steve Ramos

Resources Mentioned in the Show

About the author

Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect who lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with his Labrador Retriever. He is passionate about helping Young Architects change the world. In his free time, Michael likes to take very long bicycle rides across America. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked In.


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