5 Actions That Every Successful Architect Have In Common

Sketch. Draw by hand. I know our desks are getting smaller and more crammed with computer monitors, but find a space to sketch. This is an essential communication skill. I admit my sketching has fallen out of practice but it’s something I always strive to do more. Sketching is the most expeditious way to express an idea. I have been in meetings with clients and had colleagues start sketching, to much adulation of the client. Everyone from clients to construction managers to subcontractors [to parents] expect us to be proficient and talented at drawing. That’s what they think we do, so let’s hone it and do more of it.

Deal with Criticism. Let go of ego. All creative professions are susceptible to criticism. Make the project the top priority. It’s better to divorce yourself from an idea so that one is not personally offended. Also, practice criticism so that critique enhances the intent. The advice should help or add value. Give “whys” and suggestions. No one likes the seagull criticism where one swoops in, drops a bomb, and flies off. Okay, honey!?

Get Out of the Office. Get in the field. Make site visits. Do construction administration. Figure out details in the field. The construction site, for me, is fun. It’s part of why I became an architect. There is nothing more gratifying than seeing  your drawings come to life. There are countless benefits of being on site observing your work: vitamin D absorption, hat hair, Bono-esque safety eyewear, tripping hazards, and…uh hum…gulp…learning from our mistakes.

Have a Life Outside Work. Don’t just hang out with architects. We’re a weird, arcane bunch. There is a world outside of the profession. Broaden your horizons and learn from other professionals, businesses, and people. How else are we supposed to be of value to society if we are not part of it?

Listen. Place yourself in the users’ shoes. I have heard too many architects say things like, “my building…” It’s not your building, unless you own it. We are still providers of a service and we can’t fall in the trap of thinking that the projects are “ours.” Successful architects LISTEN to the clients and can feel the needs of the users.

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