Architalks: Meet Jane Doe, Citizen Architect

This blog is a part of “Architalks: Citizen Architect”- Architalks led by Bob Borson of Life of an Architect.

AIA says “The Citizen Architect uses his/her insights, talents, training, and experience to contribute meaningfully, beyond self, to the improvement of the community and human condition.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My name is Jane Doe, and I have taken this name to signify that I am your everyday architect.

I am the mastermind behind designing those buildings that don’t make you stop on your evening runs to watch against the sunset and post on Instagram. I am the keeper of your safety and well being who spent  numerous hours designing that exit staircase- exit lobby- exit discharge to public right of the way – but that Type X wall system I added to the staircase will never interest you enough to touch and feel it on your way up and down the stairs. I am the one sitting at the City office waiting to submit the drawings that if approved will end up generating significant revenue for the City and create employment opportunities in the community- yet you will drive past the construction activity without noticing the building envelope. I am the person who designed your average grocery store, your typical bank, your everyday office, your familiar school and sometimes your library..

I, Jane Doe was your average architect until I decided not to be.
Now I am Jane Doe, the Citizen Architect.

Jane Doe, Citizen Architect, takes responsibilities- your building is more than another avenue to show her design and management prowess and earn revenue. She decided to get her license. She decided that even though she designs regular buildings, if she is designing more than three hundred thousand square feet per year, she should add more to her superpowers to help you make the best decision. Jane Doe will not be one more team member in a group of yes-masters that take orders from a person who stamps and signs the drawings even though they don’t always agree with master’s decisions. Jane Doe is empowered, and makes ethical decisions- decisions that Jane Doe the Project Manager might not always be able to do.

Jane Doe, the Citizen Architect struggles to answer the simplest of all questions: What do you do?

Jane Doe always replied with details about her next project, the location, the client, etc. But it’s hard for Jane Doe, Citizen Architect to explain her job, or rather her profession using a mere two words and three sentences. A project is not just four walls and a roof. No way, not without those interwoven- interconnected social, environmental, and economic characteristics that lay within the walls and roof. From worrying about the environmental impact of choosing that virgin land to stressing about the footprint of the building material sourcing, to pondering over the social impact of having a diverse team of architects/ consultants and contractors, to agonizing over the economic impact of illegal and undocumented labor, Jane Doe, Citizen Architect has a lot of things on her plate.

But through thick and thin, she repeats to herself “volunteer, volunteer, volunteer, and lead. ”

The mantra for all Citizen Architects is to be the change they want to see in their communities. We all have different ways of doing this- some of us engage in activities with AIA, or are on the Board of Planning Commissions. Some of us take the time to go to classrooms to inspire and lead the youth. Some of us fight passionately for what we believe in- be it equality in pay and equality in profession. Some of us take  it upon us to write blogs to educate the public.

But my point is, we all go above and beyond, and do something more to be that Citizen Architect. There is more to Architects that using a Lamy on a Moleskin, with a cup of black coffee and fierce eyeglasses. We have more to share with the world than what our professional outline demands.

Jane Doe knows you care about the origin of that apple you are eating, and you frown when you see titanium oxide listed as an ingredient in your cereal. But what about the building you live in? Have you thought about what makes up the walls and ceilings? What about the site your house was built in? Are you aware of the native vegetation and wild life that thrived before you called it home? These are things that are seldom talked about by your builder, but literally make up the foundation of your life. Given that you spend over 90% of the day in built environment, shouldn’t you be more concerned about the origins, ethics in practice and life cycle analysis of the same?

Jane Doe, Citizen Architect knows miracles can happens.

They might not happen overnight. But Jane Doe and John Doe, Citizen Architects can make it happen. Your neighbor, your neighbor’s neighbor, your best friend, your bartender- what do they know about what surrounds them? They have a stand on LGBTQ issues and women’s reproductive issues- but do they have a stand on VOCs? Are they well informed to make that decision? Surely no one will throw PSAs at prime time the cause. Will that mean they should under-informed or ill-informed? Isn’t it their right to know where they live if they have a right to know the truth about what they eat and what they wear? We assume they know, but they barely know. They know HGTV, and they know Frank Gehry. They need to know Jane Doe and John Doe, Citizen Architects. Time to step up the game beyond that AEC world and involve the general citizens without generalizing them as clients and end users.

Jane Doe and John Doe, the Citizen Architects are the hope of the world. They are the sum total of the character of the Citizens they represent.

Jane Doe
Citizen Architect

Citizenship is a tough occupation which obliges the citizen to make his own informed opinion and stand by it. – Martha Gellhorn

(This post is loosely based on the idea of  the speech in “Meet John Doe”)

To read what other Architalks Architects shared on the same topic, click on the links below:


  1. We all need to takethat extra step to educate about origins and sourcing with regard to the materials used and there ramifications on the built environment. A wonderful take on the idea of Citizen Architect.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s