The Architect Magazine published an incredibly insightful and interesting article that interviews different Architects that have been able to create their own firms, and it gives us a look into their firms in a personal way. The article called “Up and Running: Words of Advice for Young Firms” provides you with different perspectives from the likes of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects, Brooks Scarpa Architects, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple, and more.
Within this blog we intend to summarize the stories and tips that these greats recommend for those of us that are thinking about starting a firm or are in the midst of running one and need some help!
Robert Frasca from Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects states that they have used the series “Up and Running” for guidance as well, “What (they) didn’t do until later was train people in all aspects of the practice which produces the future leaders. That involves not only doing good work (which we have done) but in getting good work which was where we were remiss in the past. We get good work by showing what we have done but also by giving the client the feeling that they would enjoy spending the next three or so years with us.
Mark Ripple from Eskew+Dumez+Ripple states that, “Architecture at its essence is built on relationships. And of course after 30 years of doing it, it makes perfect sense. My late partner [Allen Eskew] used to say that architecture is a great act of optimism, because the fact of the matter is if we’re building something for somebody it means they’re investing money in something tangible and usually long term. So it represents an act of optimism on their part that there’s something great in the future and it’s worth spending hundreds or thousands or millions of dollars on. But what comes with that is understanding that for any client, whether it’s an institutional client or a residential client doing an addition on their home, there’s risk and there’s uncertainty…what they’re mostly looking for is what we like to call architect as trusted advisor.”
Lawrence Scarpa from Brooks Scarpa Architects says that for, “a successful practice (it) requires cultivating relationships and being involved in your community. These relationships take time to develop. Because I moved from city to city often, I rarely had the time to develop these kinds of relationships, so when I finally settled in Los Angeles it was like starting over. Had I known this, I probably would have given more consideration before moving so often. My best advice for someone starting a practice is to find a place that you like and stay.”
Ann M. Beha from Ann Beha Architects mentioned that, “If you stand for your vision, and great work in your area of practice, the best team members will seek you out. All clients are not equally ideal for a practice. The cultures and the aspirations need to be aligned, and bridged. Never be afraid to say no. Learn from other firms, but never follow too closely. It doesn’t matter what they do, it matters what you do. Don’t be shy. Don’t let anyone let you think you are less than you are. Large and complex projects may be available earlier than you think. Push for the big opportunities. Someone else is pushing, for sure! Public work is an enormous opportunity and it is critical that good architects contribute to the public sector.”
Thomas W. Chessum from CO Architects says, “Everything in the continuum of our practice has hinged on the identification of beliefs and the building of the culture from the earliest days. But further, codifying those foundational aspirations and principles in a set of mission, vision, and values statements has been worth every investment of time and efforts. These become the tangible touchstones for the following years of practice. They both guide the critical decisions, as well as become the living legacy for future generations.”
William L. Rawn III from William Rawn Associates, Architects elaborates that, “I’m a great believer in meritocracy. If you’re in the same position I was, then make sure you make that meritocracy a real advantage and don’t be bummed out by knowing that some young architects get their work through family connections. Forge a process so that you don’t worry about that. Those are projects you’re never going to get, and just proceed with going after clients, whether they’re institutions or developers that really make their choices not based on family connections but based on the work you do. Come up with a strategy that plays back to an advantage rather than be depressed that you don’t have the allegedly right connections in our culture.”
Gordon Gill, from Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, wishes that someone had given him the following tips when he was first starting out, “Define a clear philosophy or approach to your practice that is achievable, and hopefully, needed. Surround yourself with individuals you trust who will be constructively critical, supportive, and who have a balanced appetite for innovation and reality. Be involved in the daily decisions of your firm; focus on the culture and the people; intellectual capital is your greatest asset while leadership from afar is a recipe for disaster. Manage your firm carefully; the economics and the design are equally critical; make the tough decisions. They’ll be worth it in the long run. Lastly, be brave, think big and have fun everyday. Energy is infectious and breeds success.”
When considering your next career move, plan proactively and create Portfolios that include your best work. Consider looking into finding a mentor with Architect-US, and improving your Portfolios with our Portfolio Plans and Career Advice Program. We provide coaching and personalized mentorship, so you can have a professional and experienced take on your next steps in your career, as well as a great team to confide in.