Photos and article by Nick Proulx
Meet Jackson Strom. He’s a young guy with a great career, working on projects with Helenske Design Group around Fargo-Moorhead. But there’s one dirty little secret you might not know about.
He’s not a licensed architect. Well, not yet anyway…
Don’t let that fool you though; he has designed a few homes on his own, and without even realizing it you might see some of his work each and every day. We grabbed a cup of coffee with Jackson over at Moxie Java the other day, and here’s what we were able to find out.
D&L: How long have you been an architect?
Strom: “Well, you see, that’s the first thing: I’m not a registered architect. I graduated in 2009 from NDSU with a masters in architecture, and I’ve been working at Helenske full time for about three years now — I worked there through college, too. I work with Craig, the principle there, and he and one other guy are the only ones who are licensed architects. I work with three or four others who aren’t licensed. You end up doing pretty much the same stuff; you just don’t sign your name on the dotted line. It’s kind of a common misconception; people say, ‘Oh, you graduated, but you’re not an architect? You must have went to tech school.’”
D&L: So, why not become licensed?
Strom: “I actually am studying to become licensed right now. It’s a series of seven tests, and every test is a different division of construction or something similar. You have to have about three years of experience in the field and pass those seven tests to become licensed.
“I would never have to be licensed if I didn’t want to, but if I wanted to go start my own firm or become a partner in a firm, then I have to become licensed. Eventually, that’s what I want to do.”
D&L: Why did you want to become an architect?
Strom: “To be honest, I always loved to draw when I was younger. I was always into art in high school, and it pretty much got to the point during my junior or senior year when my advisor sat me down and said, ‘You have to figure out what you want to do with your life.’ She noticed I loved art and drawing, and I did some construction in the summers, and she asked if I had ever thought about architecture. From there I just kind of went with it — there wasn’t a whole lot of deep thought into it at the moment, but I’m really glad I did take this route.”
D&L: So what have you worked on?
Strom: “With Craig I’ve worked on a bunch of residential stuff — more high-end residential. It’s a lot of fun working on those projects. There’s a pretty big residential project in Detroit Lakes that we’re working on right now. It’s still under construction at this point, and we’re still working on the main space but it’s going to be magazine quality when it’s done.”
D&L: What’s a trend you’ve noticed recently?
Strom: “There has been high demand for a small, more efficient homes. People want something that’s going to work a lot better for them in their day-to-day life rather than, you know, ‘Build me a big house with a lot of rooms — I’m not sure what I’m going to do with those rooms, but I want to show off to my neighbors,’ or something. People are getting smarter now with how they live.”
D&L: Have you ever finished designing something only to realize it’s not going to work out as planned?
Strom: “You learn that there are details you have to go back and do later after the initial design process. Being young in your career, you don’t know how to detail everything, that’s why you need a guy like Craig, or whoever the principle is, or a coworker. They show you how to detail something, but you realize over time that there’s more than one way, more than one answer. I’ve definitely had to go back and redo something before.”
D&L: Do you analyze most of the buildings you walk into, or are you able to turn the switch off?
Strom: “If it’s heavy on your head, then you pay attention to it more so. I definitely find myself looking at things that my friends think, ‘Why are you paying attention to that? Why does that interest you?’ It’s just a general interest. If you’re passionate about something you always have it in the back of your head.”
D&L: Where do you want to be five years from now?
Strom: “I’d like to be a principle or partner in a firm, and I think it would be around here. There are a lot of great people around here, a lot of stuff happening in the community right now and I see even more happening in the future. There are a lot of ambitious developers around, and it seems like there are more young people sticking around. It’s more exciting than most people think.”