Continuing with our discussion on the business of architecture, most architects have not been convinced about architecture as a business. Business development then becomes a corollary of the same thought process…
The reality of things being as is, it then comes about that it is left to the choice of the individual. Even in the realm of education, perhaps it can be an elective for the interested rather than a compulsory subject. So, in keeping with that, let us deal with it similarly here… Let’s provide the tools to agree with or to question this approach and you take your call…
There is an exceptionally fine line between advertising and business development of a practice that needsto be maintained when one talks about the business of architecture. What is the primary goal of anybusiness?
To make a profit, right (ethics do play a part here too)? What is the primary goal of an architect? Better buildings, better environment, better life, a better society. Profit is a factor but doesn’t directly fall into the gamut of things. But architects do need to be with the times and be profitable to attract talent and sustain the profession. If architects are not comfortable financially, the profession will stop attracting talent and perhaps eventually even die out. Sustainability is what any profession requires. If that makes it a business, so be it… Times have changed, and aspirations are high even for the architects. Patience and good work, of course, can do it for you eventually, but there is so much happening, so much noise out there. To be heard above the din, one must make one’s point loud and clear… So how does one walk this fine line? Can ethics and profit coexist?
Rajat Ray, an educationist, currently the Dean at University School of Architecture and Planning, Indraprastha University thinks:
“I, myself, have never been very sure about how to clearly articulate the academics vs profession issue. It may not even be correct to say one versus the other.
One thing I believe is that unless one has good business sense it is not possible to become a successful architect. However, it is good when that business sense is used for doing good architecture and pursuing an idea; rather than using architecture to do good business or make higher and higher turnover and worst is for making more and more profit.”
Going to the extreme either way, is neither ethical nor sustainable. Starting with acknowledging the entrepreneurial component of an architectural practice, our education must imbibe this aspect. We are already at a point of destructive change in the status quo of all professions and architecture is no exception. Our education must acknowledge the disruption and prepare us for it. Preparing for the future to ensure work in these uncertain times, makes business development a good addition to our professional repertoire? Would it then not be a good addition to our education too, lest things go awry?
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All these can add value to an already wide-spectrum architectural education. The course itself can be divided into specialisations. Just like doctors or MBAs, architectural education can have branches to specialise in. Business development can be one of those.
The Council of Architecture (COA), the profession’s approval and ethical body in India, does not approve of advertising one’s services. Business development (BD) can steer clear of the ‘advertising’ bit and stick to allowable endeavours. Come to think of it, what is BD all about? Of course, you will figure it out once you get into the thick of things. But wouldn’t it be nice to have an ethical head-start, if that’s what your proclivity is…
Architectural education can incorporate things such as:
– Writing good copy for projects and its intentions
– Good visuals that include understandable drawings and project images
– Choosing the right platform (social media, competitions, lectures, etc.) To feature in
– Participating in events and competitions to stay in the loop
– Networking with other architects, contractors, consultants
– Post-occupancy surveys to prove the validity of the assumptions made
– Featuring buildings designed, under the relevant topics like green, zero-waste, etc
Architectural practices of the country and the world over are recognising the need for this and have started to have business development among their other verticals. They advertise and hire staff specifically for these roles. For the hired staff to have an architectural bent of mind rather than a pure business one, is an added advantage for the practice. Architectural education must step up here to fulfil this real-world requirement. Professional practice is already a subject taught in schools. The changing times require it to be expanded to include this important aspect while staying within COA specified boundaries. Architectural education must be periodically reassessed to stay abreast of the changing times and to include or discard elements based on real-time needs of the profession and its practice. Including ethical business development in the study of professional practice could be a necessary add-on for the advancement of the profession.
Without a survey of this topic and garnering the opinions of many, I think it would be safe to say that YES, architectural education would do the profession well by training students in this regard and getting them to be ‘market-ready’. Don’t mean to be disrespectful of the integrity of the profession, but maybe it is time to move on and tweak some of our ideas.