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Young architect spotlight Meet justice architect Christine V. Smith Christine V. Smith, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C Smith is an Architect at Arrington Watkins Architects LLC in Phoenix. After an alternative path due to the state of the economy in which she worked and volunteered for various police dispatch units, Smith reentered the architecture realm when the chance came. She brought with her a wealth of knowledge and passion for justice architecture and is eager to keep that passion ignited for generations to come.

Christine Smith, originally from Wisconsin and now in Phoenix, graduated from Iowa State University, found her dream job, and then was hit by the 2008 recession. Smith did not let this hurdle deter her passion. While staying active with small architectural competitions, teaching herself programs like Revit, and learning from her dispatch jobs, Christine always had public architecture in the back of her mind. When a colleague from a former internship called, Smith had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Her experience being a part of the communities she wanted to design spaces for has only helped her become a more holistic thinker and problemsolver. She believes wholeheartedly that architects do not just deliver a building, but also an experience. The experiences we hope to create can be helped by alternative paths that may be inevitable during economic downturns. The current and future generations of architects should keep seeking out opportunities, never give up hope, and use their knowledge and interests to bolster the immense capabilities of the architectural profession. Learn more about Christine’s path below.

Ashley Hartshorn (AH): Did you take a non-traditional path to become an architect or since you became a licensed architect? If so, please describe that journey. Christine Smith (CS): I graduated from college in the midst of the Great Recession. I was laid off in 2008, just four months after landing what I thought was my dream job. I would send


hundreds of résumés out and rarely even heard back. I took a job as a police dispatcher and ended up working for multiple police agencies across the country for over five years. When my husband and I moved to Phoenix, I switched paths into the insurance industry and ended up writing property and casualty insurance for years. The overlap of experience that I gained in both the police department role and the insurance underwriter role provided a broad viewpoint for my current role as an architect that I never would have expected. Having written insurance policies, I understand contracts, coverage, the liability of what we do on a daily basis, in addition to my technical architecture education. The knowledge that I gained in those roles has provided me with a unique perspective and understanding of my clients and my professional responsibility to them. AH: What inspired you to become an architect? CS: When I was young, my mom and I would tour the Parade of Homes every summer in my hometown. I was drawn to the unique feelings that could be invoked by different spaces and materials. I gravitated toward the public safety and justice industry very early, being drawn to the endless “Law & Order” marathons. When I was in college, I worked as a police dispatcher. The department I worked at was small, and I had in-depth interactions with the detectives, chief, and officers on a daily basis. I was always impressed with their ability to adapt to their environment — not just in their job on the street, but within their facilities. I am inspired daily by the work of our law enforcement agencies, and I am truly passionate about using my talents to create work spaces that they deserve.

Profile for AIA Young Architects Forum

AIA YAF Connection 18.02 - Citizen Architect