Architect David Higginson encourages students to consider “the last true renaissance profession” on Redlands Career Spotlight


Redlands Career Spotlight is a weekly series in which ETHIC interviews a Redlands professional and asks him or her about their education, career, hobbies and more in order to give readers a more nuanced view into job prospects after high school. This week, fly-fisher, antique car restorer and photographer David Higginson reveals the virtues of a career in architecture and the plethora of openings in said field.

Q: What is your profession, and how long have you been working? 

A: I am a registered architect in the state of California. I also hold licenses to practice in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Washington, Idaho and Hawaii. I was licensed in 1988 and started a partnership in 1986 called PCH Architects. In 2002, I left that partnership and started another practice called Higginson Cartozian Architects. In 2015, that partnership ended and I am now a sole owner of a local Redlands firm, Higginson Architects, Inc.
Q: Where did you get your education? Did you enjoy your time in college?

A: I have an undergraduate degree in Business and Management from the University of Redlands as well as receiving additional specialized education in Architectural Engineering from Cal Poly Pomona. I also have a Master’s Degree in Theology with an emphasis in Counseling from Liberty University.

Architecture is still one of the professions in California you do not need a formal college degree to become licensed. Although that may be changing, people can still apprentice for an architect and pursue a license in the state of California as an architect. I attended college early on after high school but decided to embark on my career before finishing school. I was able to obtain a job at a local Riverside architectural firm and starting taking my state exams five years later and became licensed shortly after that. I went back to the University of Redlands to obtain my business degree to help manage and run my own architectural practice. For personal reasons, I pursued a graduate degree in Theology and Counseling about 5 years ago.

Q: Was your job something you always wanted to do?  

A: Yes, I took four years of drafting and architectural classes at Redlands High School. I was also very interested in photography and thought about pursuing a career in architectural photography for a while. I was always interested in buildings and how they were put together and loved to draw!

Q: What is the hardest part of your job?

A: This is a very involved profession with regards to proper documentation and record-keeping. There are many facets to the business. Not only is the programming and design very time-consuming, but producing a set of documents that a contractor can build from can be challenging. Architects need to address all possible solutions into a cohesive set of documents.  We often joke that Detroit had decades to perfect the automobile, but when we design a building, we only get one chance to get it right the first time! With the advances in computer design and building modeling systems, the expectations of clients to complete projects at an accelerated schedule always challenges our ability to produce a quality product.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job? 

A: The people. Our profession is built on establishing and maintaining relationships. The first and primary focus of an architect is the health, safety, and welfare of the people that occupy our structures. The secondary focus is to create a space that fulfills need and invites human participation into the built environment. Nothing is more satisfying to an architect than to see their vision translate to a space that is both pleasing to the eye and also functional to the people that inhabit the space. I also enjoy talking to young people about the architectural profession and how exciting and rewarding the profession has been to me personally.

Q: What are the biggest misconceptions about your line of work?

A: I believe the public perceives architects as a profession secondary to other professions such as lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc. I am involved with the development and testing of new architects into the profession and the knowledge and skills required to perform our mandated tasks is far and above what the public understands.

I like to think of architects as the last true renaissance profession. As an architect, you need to be an artist, engineer, politician, business person, attorney, negotiator, counselor, contractor, sculptor, teacher, and a myriad of other talents!  The organization I belong to, American Institute of Architects, is promoting their “Look Up” campaign which is meant to direct a more public awareness of what we do as architects and the importance of the built environment in our everyday lives.

Q: Do you have any advice for high school students? 

A: The field of architecture is wide open for all levels of individuals, both men and women. We are a profession that has been around for thousands of years and the future is bright for those seeking a career that is both fulfilling and rewarding. In the next decade it is estimated that 30,000 architects will be retiring from the profession. There are not enough current graduate or intern architects to fill the need. I would encourage any high school student thinking of architecture as a career to contact me personally and discuss options and path to licensure.
Q: What is your favorite location in Redlands?  

A: My favorite spot in Redlands is the old Train Station. My hope is someday, that this structure will be fully restored and utilized for promoting mass transportation between our neighboring communities.

Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: I am an avid fly-fisherman. I love photography, golfing, and restoring classic cars!  I also enjoy spending time camping with my wife Melissa!

Categories: Features

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