An article peppered with statements such as these made by executives from BIG, Zaha Hadid Architects and Design Haus Liberty, at a business talk hosted by Dezeen, drives home the need to understand and apply, this largely overlooked aspect, to the practice of architecture.

Business of Architecture- Tips from famous architects
Image Sources: ©Business of Architecture

Don’t spend money you don’t have

Don’t be afraid to be an asshole

Read it at:  www.dezeen.com/2017/07/24/business-tips-big-zaha-hadid-architects-design-haus-liberty-talk-london-festival-architecture/ 

You cannot be an effective architect without a basic understanding of the business of architecture.” Architect Mark LePage of Entre Architect says: “Profit then Art.” :

Read it at: www.buildingsarecool.com/book/understanding-business-of-architecture

Moving on, have a look at the responses on another panel discussion at: www.archdaily.com/148758/the-business-of-architecture-panel-recap

There’s not one mention here of finances. It’s all about people and relationships. That’s what we collectively believe architecture is about… Also, not all architects practice architecture. The study of architecture gives you a good grounding for many other professions that have humans at the center, like design thinking, user experience design, service design, and the likes. Ratan Tata, the industrialist, recently stated that despite not being able to practice architecture (which he had trained for), he had gained directly from the sense of humanism that architecture renders.

Read it at: www.moneycontrol.com/news/india/ratan-tata-regrets-being-unable-to-practice-as-an-architect-for-long-5168961.html

The business of architecture has not been a popular subject in the architectural fraternity. It seems like this is not something architects specialize in or want to be associated with either! It’s not taboo, but not an important burning topic. Only recently has this subject been brought to the forefront and discussed. In traditional architectural discussion even today, it is still not a hot topic of discussion. The nobility and integrity of the profession remain the most prominent topics. How does one reconcile the two? Is there a way for us to put it side by side with the ideals we hold so sacred?

We need to embrace our creativity and become more entrepreneurial and adaptable. We need to find new opportunities, and, where necessary, change our business models… We not only need to think about the business of design, but we also need to consider the design of business. Let’s become archi-preneurs and be business savvy, while constantly surveying the market place to seek opportunities.” says Jane Cameron, director of Jane Cameron Architects, Australia in 2014.

Analogies were made to other professions, such as surgeons and doctors however, our work is somewhat different in that we bridge aspects of art with science. We tend to be distracted by the art and lose focus on the overall performance of our businesses.

www.aca.org.au/article/what-are-we-doing-to-ourselves

Tadao Ando’s opinion on the subject will have to be culled out from this interview: archinect.com/features/article/43132544/tadao-ando-interview-20-minutes-with-a-master/50

Despite these noble thoughts, the fact of the matter still is:

A recent headline in Britain’s tabloid Express read, “Construction jobs BOOM: Bricklayers and plasterers earn MORE than architects.” It seems that skilled construction workers in the UK are at the front of the pay line, with architects bringing up the rear. Ouch. But architects reading this headline on either side of the Atlantic are hardly surprised.

Read it at: www.architecturalrecord.com/articles/13462-why-the-field-of-architecture-needs-a-new-business-model 

This article emphasizes the need for architecture to have a new business model. I think the big firms/starchitects have found their balance on the see-saw of this ‘business’, as they manage to stay on. Then again, as architecture is not a ‘business’, there is also the view that if you’re good at what you do, word will get around. More work, profit, fame, etc. will find you eventually. To reconcile the two views may not always be possible, but we can present both points of view here, just ponder over them and agree to disagree! You can also choose which side you’re on, or just decide to straddle it out and be on both…

Along with business concepts like human resource, finance, operations, Business development has been talked of as an important concept for architects to address.

So much theory out there and so many thoughts. Now think,

What is your opinion on the concept of ‘business’ of architecture’? Are business and architecture contradictory terms? Oxymorons? Running a practice is about making good buildings that add value to human life, taking into consideration profit and other things to keep the practice running… So, think about it and decide on the path you wish to take. In the meantime, let us share some details about the business. As architects, being a business-person is not what you had set out for. You wanted to make a difference in the world, to make a mark on the earth… and be able to maintain the integrity of the profession.

The seductive aspect of Art in our work, makes us lose sight of the business component as it’s just not attractive enough.

For online help and detailed info, an online course to guide, see (and have a look at the reason for starting this too): www.businessofarchitecture.com/

Then there is also “The Master in Business for Architecture and Design that trains professionals for a future that does not differentiate between business and design, not between physical and digital, and in which action, collaboration, and multidisciplinarity are the rules.”

For details see: www.ie.edu/school-architecture-design/programs/graduate/master-business-architecture-design/

Let’s also put forth some opinions of practicing architects on the subject:

1. Ashish Karode, Principal, Design Atelier – Urbis

In my opinion, the professions should not be construed as a business. They produce intellectual solutions and provide services in support of their clients. Nothing (no product) is bought or sold or held in inventory. The primary professional motives are to advance their field and serve society. The professions are based on a code of practice, a concern for others, technical excellence, ethics, honesty, and integrity. The motivation of a business is to serve its shareholders, which may become a conflict of interest here.”

2. Rohit Tewari, Principal, Rohit+Matin Architects

Business of architecture is not the same anymore as it once was. The focus now is more on corporate methods and target lines rather than pure design and the art-side of the project. It’s all about being super-fast to the finish line, where the design concepts and design drawing with working details are only a little cog In the entire gamut of sales, larger than life portrayal, target, and bottom line profits. Kickbacks and favoritism play a major role… It’s not the result, it’s the business and profitability that matters… total shift of values!

3. Radhika Kandhari Dewan, Practicing Architect

Running a practice is really like walking on thin ice as far as balancing the thought of why we started the practice – the dreams, the idealistic and pure thought of making it a successful business, paying salaries, getting projects and satisfying clients. I do believe that those who can walk on the thin ice without it cracking, those who can balance this fine line have successful practices without compromising their values. That, on its own, is a great skill. But undoubtedly architecture should be a successful business too…”

4. Rajat Kumar, Principal – Recro Kardo

“Many times, I feel that architects who set out to practice don’t know the fundamentals of running a business and go through a lot of struggle. The notion of good business itself lays primary strength on serving the society, adding value to lives and extending quality to the users, suggesting that any business must bring about tremendous value addition to society. Built into the education system and embracing the business side of it, its structure, organization, growth, value addition, service, and profitability, would allow architects to focus on the quality of the design and its practice.”

5. Vikas Kanojia, Principal – Studio Code

Small scale Indian design firms do not understand the business of Architecture. The term business is alien to Architecture as most of the firm’s call themselves a practice. A practice that entails conceptualization of a project and then supervising it while implementation. Most firms do not take into consideration profitability, required human resources, etc. during the tenure of the project or even if they do, it’s never a rigid condition. In the end, if the project makes a profit, it’s fine. It’s not something which is usually the aim. However, I do feel that there is a need for Architects to understand this business. This needs to be taught at Architecture schools which currently doesn’t happen.”

With these views, it seems obvious that this is something that needs to be addressed. The entire business of architecture now has changed from what it used to be and shall continue to do so. Presently, with things on the planet going as they are, the coronavirus, lock-downs all over, the stay-at-home/work-from-home, things have been disrupted for all professions. How does one do this? Online? But architecture is all physical shelter and buildings. The practice can go online and the actual implementation can involve some drones and robots. For now….

Mona Madan
Author

An architect by training,who has practised for over 20 years. Her chosen path nowis of a researcher, writer and creativity coach. Shebelieves that it is nowthe era of compassion - for humans to do away with attitudes of segregation and to heal all that we have ravaged!

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