Kansas City, MO
495,327 (2,088,000 est. Metro)
The path that led me to Kansas City was anything but straightforward. A native of Detroit, I found an unlikely second home in rural Alabama at Auburn University. Drawn to Auburn by the welcoming administration, as well as the stellar reputation of the College of Architecture, Design and Construction, I relished the opportunity my education provided. During my fifth-year Urban Studio option (an urban design focused studio headquartered in Birmingham, AL) I grew increasingly interested in the unique architectural challenges faced by the cities of America. I spent the first two years after graduation in Birmingham with a local design firm but craved the opportunity to tackle some of those challenges in a more established metropolitan area. At the same time, my husband and I had little desire to seek these opportunities on the coasts, primarily due to the high cost of living associated with cities like New York and Chicago. This led me to look back at my Midwest roots and the multiple possibilities in what is typically considered ‘flyover country’. One visit was all it took to convince us that KC was exactly the right city for us: a growing Downtown core, affordable lifestyle, a thriving arts community, and multiple opportunities at cutting edge design firms.
What sort of job opportunities are available?
Ask anyone who knows anything about Kansas City and they will confirm: this is a Sports town (and not only because the Chiefs are the reigning Super Bowl Champs!). Known as the Sports Architecture Capital of the World, Kansas City is home to some of the largest sports and entertainment design firms in the world. In addition, the Crossroads Arts District is home to dozens of established architecture firms with opportunities ripe for young design professionals. With the Downtown core undergoing dramatic re-investment over the course of the past 20 years, there remains a prime opportunity to help craft the urban landscape in both the short and long term. No matter what type of firm you are looking for, you can find it here in KC.
Tell us a little about your internship and exams. What were your successes/failures?
While in school, I convinced myself that I wanted an internship with a large architecture firm. Big firms seemed to me (at the time) to have the most opportunity for young designers to work on interesting projects, while providing the best resources and job benefits. My first internship opportunity took place as part of the fifth-year Urban Studio option at Auburn University: each member of the studio was placed with a local firm for a 3-month period to get first-hand experience working in the design industry. I was assigned to exactly the opposite of what I initially wanted: a small 6-person firm. I quickly learned that as a young designer this was perfect for me because I learned how to work in a variety of different roles while juggling multiple projects at once. This trial-by-fire experience helped re-shape my preferred job focus, and since graduation I have worked at two mid-size firms (20 and 35 people, respectively). Using the first few years after graduation to experiment at firms that design at various scales and project types allowed me to find a better long-term fit in a location that I really enjoy. This approach has also allowed me to nearly finish my AXP hours, as I have had the opportunity early in my career to get hands-on experience at construction sites and with project management. As I begin studying for my exams, I am confident that my experience has covered many of the topics the exams will test, and I certainly feel more prepared as a result.
How did you overcome your failures (if any) with the ARE/AXP?
Although I haven’t sat for any of the exams yet, I have had many conversations with my former classmates and current coworkers about how the tests work logistically, what to expect, and the best approaches to studying. One thing I do have some anxiety about is getting back into an academic mindset (consistent studying, exam prep, etc.) especially now that I will have to balance studying with a full-time job and a family at home.
What kind of firm support did you have for the licensure process?
I am grateful to be at a firm with quite a few young designers in their mid-20’s and early-30’s, many of whom are in the midst of completing their own exams. Having a group of folks actively engaged in the licensure process to go to is a fantastic first-hand resource. In addition, my current firm reimburses passing exam fees and offers bonuses once licensure has been achieved which gives even more initiative to study hard and reduce the financial burden required by the process.
What is the social scene like?
Having accepted a position here in KC in December, I must admit that relocation to a new city in the time of COVID has been quite a unique experience, to say the least! However, even amidst the lockdown measures we have gotten a taste of what Kansas City’s social scene has to offer. Living downtown offers a plethora of walkable dining and entertainment options, while the expanding streetcar system makes destinations such as the Rivermarket outdoor farmers market and the Crossroads Art District just a short commute away. One thing that is mandatory for every KC resident is to find your favorite local BBQ restaurant (ours is Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue). As the city begins to reopen, we look forward to getting out and exploring more!
How did you manage to make friends the first few months?
Managing the double-wammy of COVID and moving here from out-of-state has certainly made socialization scarce. That being said, with the rapid addition of multiple new apartment developments within the Downtown core, the area is flush with young professionals. As such, there are ample opportunities to get to know your neighbors either through co-worker connections or through church and volunteer opportunities. Professional groups like the local AIA chapter are also quite active, so finding friends hasn’t been a daunting task, even for out-of-towners such as ourselves.
How did you find your apartment?
Before arriving in Kansas City for the first time to conduct in-person interviews with local firms, I reached out to a number of apartment management groups to arrange tours and explore housing options. Thankfully there is no shortage of Downtown or suburban apartment offerings at nearly every price point in KC. We were specifically looking for options near the Power and Light downtown entertainment district to capitalize on the many walkable services available in the urban core, and were able to find 3 different options within our price range. The advantage of having an influx of new development in the area is that prices for housing have remained competitive and relatively affordable. That being said, once I secured a job offer we had to remain vigilant and active in communicating with the local property managers until we found an apartment that suited our needs. Whether you are looking for a home in a shiny new skyscraper, a renovated art deco icon, a historic brick mid-rise, or even a duplex in a quiet suburb, KC has plenty of options.
This month, ‘I Want to Work In’ is sponsored by PPI, A Kaplan Company, the Preferred ARE Prep Provider of the AIAS.
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