Newsletter | Jan/Feb 2022

Thoughts about Retirement

by Janet Crane

Although retirement might not be the first thing on your mind while you are working hard in your job or in your own practice, here are some thoughts about my experience in leaving the field after 50 years.

Why retire? Many architects continue practicing beyond the traditional age of retirement for other professions and architecture is a profession where experience really counts. Consider I.M.Pei and Frank Gehry, practicing into their 90's. Certainly technology changes in construction and in the way buildings are designed and documented, but so many aspects of the whole architectural process do not.

In my case, my partner in life and in architecture is 12 years older than me and wanted to prioritize other things in life after his over 60 years in the profession, being beholden to other people's deadlines. I continued to run my own projects in the office as he moved away from the daily routine and after 2 or 3 years, followed in his footsteps. We closed the office gradually over another 2 years as staff moved on to other jobs or to open their own practices. It was a remarkably smooth landing: we didn't have to let anyone go and we gave one remarkably talented associate all the contacts and recommendations necessary to take on any outstanding projects and future work with clients as she started her own firm. So no regrets there.

And what comes next? During the last 8 years of our practice I co-founded a non profit supporting seniors who are aging in place in the North East neighborhoods of San Francisco, NEXT Village SF. ( I juggled developing this organization with working and as we closed the practice, NEXT filled all my time and more. Community building was always a love of mine in architecture and so this step was a logical one for me. NEXT now has 3-1/2 staff, an office, is funded partly by the City and has provided an enormous amount of support to seniors during Covid. So I am now as busy as ever (a full time non-paid job!) and enjoy this new direction as much as I enjoyed starting and growing an architectural firm. The skills developed in architecture are wide ranging and valuable in many other endeavors.

I would love to ask those of you who have recently retired to share your experiences, which might be quite different from mine.

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