10 Lessons I Learned After Architecture School
Architecture is a profession of passion. To some, the decision to be an architect is a very difficult one. The long duration of the study; the search for a job after, plays an essential part in the decision. It requires determination, hard work, and a passion for the subject matter that goes beyond normal curiosity.
If like me, you survived your university years with a higher level of curiosity and a stronger passion for architecture, you might have considered what next. Months of portfolio edits, rejections, and interviews that seem to go nowhere, will eventually secure you a job. It will take a few tries to navigate the workplace. Mistakes and failings might occupy you.
Flaws are necessary. It has taken me years of failing, asking questions, and reading on the subject to understand this. I had envisioned a different pace of my personal development, and failing was hard to take. I had to learn to cope and to use them as catalyzes of future success. This is an amalgamation of years of advice, research, and personal epiphanies. In talking to friends and people within and outside the profession, I have compiled this, as only a guide to help you get through your architectural practice.
I want, to begin with, what I believe is the most important point:
The world of architecture is hidden to all outside its scope. To be successful, it is important to build a community around you. So talk to people about what you do; listen to them, when they speak about their professions and most of all, be curious! Take every chance to go to and to be part of networking events. Your progress needs to collect new contacts. Take every opportunity to make new friends, from all walks of life. You never know who is next to you.
The human being remains the center of most architectural philosophies. As such, communication is key. Learn therefore how to communicate with peers, superiors, and most importantly, clients. In meetings, be confident: where you believe your input can create, enhance or elevate a solution, find the right manner of voicing them. Do not be timid but rather a part of the office’s conversations. Lastly, keep in touch with digital visualization innovation.
3. STAND OUT.
In the office, you can be stuck in a routine, doing the same thing over and over again. If your aspirations are beyond the scope of that horizon, then seek it. Show your employer, your potential and effectiveness. If your interest lays within green technology, sustainability, or BIM, immerse yourself in it. Become an expert. Learn all you can about the subject; take the seminars, subscribe to the relevant magazines or journals, and become the go-to person for information and expertise in that chosen area.
A designer’s most effective skill is the ability to think through sketches. If you were to have a look, at the greats: from the likes of Palladio to the recently departed Zaha Hadid, you might see; they all sketched, all drew. In your arsenal, is a tool that is most ignored in the lure of the accurate possibilities of technology. But I urge you, to look at the world through your sketches. Analyze buildings, places, and anything that intrigues you, through your own sketches. Develop your skill, your own personal style. Most importantly, get yourself a sketchbook. An Architect should go nowhere without his/her sketchbook and a pencil or two.
5. WORK ETHIC.
Okay, we have all seen the memes, showing architects not sleeping, shabby and exhausted. To be effective, you have to put in the hours. You will work long hours; and yes, you will have some all-nighters. All I can say is, show your passion, work effectively and you would be able to demand your worth. It would be arduous, but ultimately it will be worth it.
6. EDUCATE YOURSELF.
Yes! You have finished your degree program, completed your professional studies. It doesn’t end there, unfortunately. Knowledge is infinite. As designers of such things as space, we must keep hold of education. In the professional setting, there are laws that you must be up to date with. Above that, acquire knowledge for your own benefit. I beseech you, keep informed, read more, get the TED app; learn from the success and failures of others.
Simply put, find yourself a mentor, within or without your place of work. Someone to look up to; to give you advice when needed and a push when required. On the other side of the coin, become a mentor yourself. Share your knowledge with someone else. Besides, it forces you to learn some more, so you can build on your own knowledge.
8. LEARN THE BUSINESS OF ARCHITECTURE.
While studying, we seek the best design approaches, best software, etc. We forget to ask a simple question, how does the business of architecture work? Learn how the business works; how to get and keep clients; when and where we get paid; learn tendering and all the other aspects of running an effective office.
9. EMBRACE YOUR FAILURES.
The certainty is, within the course of your professional career, you are going to fail. This is an inevitable truth. So learn to acquire wisdom from your failures. I remember a lecturer of mine, telling us never to use the word, ‘problem’ when it came to our designs. Rather, he asked us to see them as opportunities. See your failures in the same light; from your failings find future triumph.
10. LASTLY, KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE.
It is imperative to remember why you entered into this profession. Maybe you wish to change the world; wish to see your skyscraper as part of the London or New York skyline or maybe you want to diminish the carbon footprint of architecture. Whatever your goal is, keep it at hand. Let your passion direct you.
For the next few years, you will have more than a few bad days. It is even possible, that you may shed some tears. This is why it is important to keep your goal in front of you, both literally and figuratively. Whenever it gets too challenging, look towards your goal – the prize.
I would end by saying, on our journey to become architects, we will occasionally be unsuccessful in our endeavors. It is important to fall, that we may arise better informed and better equipped. Most of the architects we look up to have had difficult beginnings. It is imperative that you keep going and necessary to keep faith in your own abilities and capabilities. It can be strenuous, but be you. Be patient and keep pushing; for on your own merit, did you get your foot through the door.
So GOOD LUCK!