From a young age, Christine Snetter-Dick, AIA, felt inspired to learn about the field of architecture. Drawing on early experiences with her family building a home in West Africa, Christine turned her budding interest in architecture into a passion that has fueled her career.
In addition to working as a Facilities Architect and Project Manager at Jefferson Lab (a national laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science), Christine also volunteers on the Virginia Board for Architects and Engineers and NCARB’s ARE 5.0 Forms Assembly Subcommittee.
Read more, as Christine shares her inspirations, advice, and insights from the field.
What inspired you to pursue a career in architecture?
As a student growing up in West Africa, I was always curious about how a two-dimensional plan evolved into a three-dimensional physical structure. At an early age, I recall looking up to see my mother standing with contractors, holding building plans in her hands. We were building a family home in West Africa, and my mother was the one making sure things happened. This and other memories instilled in me the desire to be an architect.
I came to the United States to pursue my dreams and attend architectural school. Despite the challenges, I never looked back or regretted my choice. Architecture school was a world of majority men, but this did not deter me from pursuing my goal. After all, my mother instilled in me that nothing is impossible. That passion kept me going, and I enjoyed every moment.
What role do resiliency and sustainability play in how you approach a project?
I approach all projects with resiliency and sustainability at the forefront, using High Performance and Sustainability Building principles. My goal is to have projects designed inside and out to be biodiverse and environmentally friendly. I do this by focusing on practical, on-the-ground solutions that adapt to the surroundings, recognizing that I cannot always design for every disadvantageous situation, like natural disasters—but I can help make buildings that bounce back and are able to withstand disruptions and negative environmental impacts.
In addition, I desire to be innovative and ahead of the times, thinking about the past and the future and not being too comfortable with the present. I believe a successful design must take resiliency and sustainability to heart.
What is your advice to people who want to pursue a career in architecture?
What I know for sure is that if you love it, you must live it! Architecture is about people in public and private spaces. And this profession allows you to meet people and give your all to satisfy their needs, giving them an environmentally friendly, livable space that they enjoy.
Students may sometimes feel discouraged by aspects of the profession, such as the length of time it takes to achieve qualifications or the amount of math involved—but I remind them that these challenges shouldn’t deter them from following their dreams. No achievement comes without some type of difficulty. So don’t allow any obstacle to deter you, and enjoy yourself while you are learning.
Tell us about your experience volunteering as a Member Board Member and its impact on your career.
Being a member of the Virginia Board has exposed me to the real purpose of the board’s existence and its effect on the profession that I love. The board’s goal is to regulate the profession and make sure that the public is protected. In this way, it is fulfilling to be part of an organization that has the public’s best interest in mind.
My work at Jefferson Lab reminds me daily of the need for regulations that benefit the profession and the public. When enforced properly, these regulations and guidelines steer architects in the right direction and ultimately benefit everyone.
Additionally, the board is diverse and allows me to interact with peers of varying disciplines. The board also exposed me to NCARB, where I was encouraged to volunteer on several committees. I encourage architects to get involved with their local and state regulatory boards so they can be a part of the solution.
I am delighted to be able to contribute to the goals of the Virginia Board and NCARB, enrich the lives of our citizens and communities, and enhance the profession. I am determined to make a difference.
Looking for opportunities to be more involved within the profession? Learn how you can serve on a state licensing board.