Design training apart, ever wondered what it means to be an architect? While architectural design can be taught in schools, learning about professionalism comes from being on the job. I have often heard tales of anguish from graduates about how unprepared they were in their starting roles. Beginning from what they were expected to do up till the soft skills they were lacking, freshers can find themselves in the deep end unless they have had little experience in the business of architecture or know someone in related fields.
With the intent of shedding some light on what an architecture job is all about, here are a few informal rules & regulations to practice that can make you a better architect…
Either brilliantly or shabbily, but sketch. As students, we learn the theories of design, but with visualizing technologies reaching new pinnacles, the old-fashioned approach of pencil-to-paper is fading. Be sure to make space on your desk for a sketchbook & pencil. Ideas don’t always materialize directly into the software workspace; building an understanding around a basic plan, section or detail helps save time & energy.
Sketching also helps explain ideas quickly to clients, colleagues, and team members when in the thick of design discussions. If you’re like me, a master of intangible scribbles, you might be questioning the efficacy of your sketching. If so, remind yourself that it’s not about how appealing your sketch is, but about communicating a concept. Keep it minimal and to the point.
2. Dress Code
A simple rule within the community is that just like doctors or teachers, architects should keep up a crisp, smart appearance. The way you dress is a reflection of your personality. It conveys how seriously or lightly you take yourself.
Architects are in the business of negotiation—be it with clients or shareholders—an attire that shows confidence can influence others’ perceptions and set the tone of how they communicate with you. They are known for their high sense of style; studying how other professionals dress can inspire you to give a personal twist to the ‘Architect’ rhetoric.
First & foremost, always don your confidence by wearing something you are comfortable in. A few simple tips to practice are ALWAYS to iron your clothes, keep your hair and beard (if you have facial hair) well-groomed, use neutral-coloured clothing, and let the makeup (if you wear makeup) be subtle steer clear of over-accessorizing or wearing fancy shoes. Keeping it minimal and classy exudes refined elegance. Heavy prints and bright colours should be used as part of the ensemble, not as the whole outfit.
Formal shoes are preferable as they are comfortable for site visits and office work alike. Unlike before, tattoos are not frowned upon anymore, but clients are more reassured when they are fewer in number and depict nothing extreme.
3. Technical Knowledge
One of the elementary rules of architecture is to know the technicalities of your design, be it structural or service–related. Artistic renders of the facade can sell ideas, but practicality is what gets things built. With extensive online databases at our fingertips, going beyond textbooks or campus learning to understand local building techniques should be a routine habit. Attending seminars, raising questions to vendors and consultants, perusing periodical publications, learning from on-site workers, etc., are all excellent ways to broaden your horizons.
Without adequate knowledge of materials & services, it would be impossible to provide efficient solutions. For example, a simple decision of whether or not to have sunken slabs for plumbing can produce vastly different designs. We don’t have to be experts, but we do have to educate ourselves to provide what is best for our projects.
4. Project Awareness
It is habitual for architects to often become completely engrossed in their work so much that they forget to eat or sleep. But how many of us tend to remember all information related to it off the top of our heads? When asked about clear heights or which direction the road is facing, we hesitate and falter.
As architects, it is our responsibility to know our projects in and out. Keep specific data such as heights, locations of rooms, important dimensions, and built-up areas handy as you may not always have access to computers or drawings when doubts have to be clarified. Conscious awareness of vital data translates into a good understanding of minutiae.
5. Site visits
Visiting your project site before and during the timeline of your project is an essential rule of architecture. Before we begin conceptualizing a design, a thorough analysis of its context tells us what factors the building would need to respond to.
A guideline put in place by the COA (Council of Architecture) mandates regular site visits for project architects as the scope of their contract; this is crucial in preventing major construction errors, solving unforeseen issues that may have arisen on-site, and guiding the team to achieving the final form. For any student who is eager to learn, the potential of observing techniques as they are executed is unrivalled by its theory.
Tag along with friends or family who are in the same field when they have site meetings, ask your boss to let you get hands-on experience. If nothing else, you can profit from even a few minutes of conversation with contractors or site labourers you come across.
Architecture is a community of free thinkers. This is an advantage and drawback at the same time. While we tend to pride ourselves on our designs, we would benefit largely from considering worthwhile suggestions. Critique, both positive and negative, allows assessment of where the design lacks and paves the way for resolutions that satisfy everyone’s concerns.
Making it an architectural rule to discuss your work with colleagues, friends, and even with clients is beneficial for several reasons but while doing so, remember to take criticism positively and see the root of the matter. In any field, keeping your emotions aside and doing what is best for the project is what makes you a true professional.
When working in a team, make sure to value your colleagues’ takes just as much as your own, divide up the tasks to ensure balanced contribution & ensure that the result is one that everyone is satisfied with.
It is imperative for an architect not to get upset with people (clients, consultants, or nosy busybodies) who think they know better than him/her. It is common for people outside the field to be unaware of what exactly an architect does. Be patient & educate them where they may be misinformed or simply ignorant.
A golden rule of architecture is to show multiple options of designs to demonstrate the various ways in which a project brief can be interpreted. This opens up thinking and establishes a respectful professional boundary. Remember that you earned a degree in what you do; it is what distinguishes you from a layperson.
While all of the above are facilitators to making a better professional out of you, your design talent is what will carry your career forward. It is imperative to hone all your skills to become an all-rounded architect.
Building Design + Construction. (n.d.). 10 essential habits of successful architects. [online] Available at: https://www.bdcnetwork.com/blog/10-essential-habits-successful-architects. [Accessed 29 Aug. 2021].
ArchDaily. (2019). 21 Rules for a Successful Life in Architecture. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/549436/21-rules-for-a-successful-life-in-architecture [Accessed 29 Aug. 2021].
www.coffeewithanarchitect.com. (n.d.). An Architect’s Dress Code | Coffee with an Architect. [online] Available at: http://www.coffeewithanarchitect.com/2011/09/12/an-architects-dress-code/ [Accessed 29 Aug. 2021].