I just graduated with my masters, and am currently working on becoming a licensed architect, and I think a lot of my motives to become an architect stemmed from my upbringing.

Growing up in a low-income area with a single mom, I developed a passion for helping those in need. I saw my idol, my mom, sacrifice for me to have a bright future while still giving to those in greater need, even when we didn’t have much, and it was amazing to watch. I realized from a young age that people in this world are often treated unfairly, but when we decide to take care of each other, that kindness can be so contagious.

I also saw a world of creative possibility as a kid, whether it was modeling cardboard boxes after doll houses that I saw on TV or drawing up imaginary maps with my friends, there was something pushing me to design and create. I looked around me and saw that no matter how dark things get for people, when given the opportunity, we somehow have this incredible drive to make the world around us more beautiful in one way or another.

Although I always wanted to create and help others, I didn’t always know that I wanted to be an architect. In fact, it seemed like little Brooke had a new dream every week- author, musician, artist, poet, actress, sculptor, even a private detective at one point! (Not sure where that last one came from, possibly Nancy Drew.) But when it came time to seriously think about what I wanted to pursue in life, I learned that there’s a beautiful place where creativity and humanitarian efforts can meet- architecture.

With the sacrifices of my mom, and later my stepdad, I was given the chance to go to school and pursue this grand ideal of being an Architect. I had this notion that I would breeze though school in a couple of years, creating and enjoying every second of it, and then start saving lives and making the world more beautiful the second I graduated… God had other plans. It ended up being one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but, looking back, I see so much growth in those sleepless nights. (If you know a student in architecture, give them a hug and maybe some coffee, because that is not an easy path!)

It was a struggle from day one just to get to college, to get into the architecture program, to maintain a campus ministry, to graduate with a Bachelors not in Architecture but in Science (long story), to raise money for graduate school, to go into the Career Change program, to cram four years of studio courses into one year, to finally join the Master’s program, to plan a wedding, to finish a thesis project, to graduate, and to search around for a firm that held my similar values in the same small town my husband worked. Why did I want to become an architect, again?

I questioned my decision so many times through school and may have daydreamed about easier career paths on many occasions, but then I would remember why I was doing it and who it could impact. When I look at how our industry can use a form of art to house, heal, protect, express, amaze, gather, and shelter people, the late nights seem worth it. Architecture has such a capacity to take care of humanity, to provide places of healing and growth, to showcase the best in ourselves and others, and to leave a lasting imprint on generations to come- and when I fully grasped that, I knew I had to be a part of it!

Written by Brooke Whitehurst, Assoc. AIA