10 Things Everyone Can Do to Become a Better Architect

Architecture is an interesting profession to be involved in. As we all know, remaining current in the field requires constant learning, updating, knowledge, and different ways of thinking. Becoming a good or great architect requires much more. Over my somewhat short (relatively speaking) career in the architecture world, there are many things I think can, and should, help you develop from “just” an architect, to something that might evolve into much more.

Sketching in recent years has taken a back seat to the computer rendering. These days, computer generated models might be just as easy, and gives you something tangible in your computer to progress a project, but for the fluid articulation of ideas and the communication of concepts to clients, nothing beats a good, old-fashioned sketch.

Become Vernacular with Materials
Personally, I think all architecture should, at least in some sort, incorporate local materials into design. With the amount of new materials and technologies in the field, it’s always tempting to design around one of these ideas, rather than what a building “needs.” And while having a vernacular concept towards a design might now always be in the cards, one should still be true to their materials. Some of the very best projects to emerge in recent years prove that the textured qualities and structural properties of raw materials still produce timeless results.

Listen Carefully
This is pretty self-explanatory; I may have mentioned in a past article that listening is one of the most important factors in the architecture world. Architects retain their relevance by taking all viewpoints into account; opinions count no matter where they come from, and every firm will do well to keep an open ear.

Be a Social Promoter
And, no, this isn’t in the Facebook or Instagram sense. An emphasis on socially conscious design is surely one of the greatest strengths of good architecture. We as architects and designers should look to get more involved in surrounding scale social solutions when designing.

Read More
Another instance I have mentioned in the past, but am guilty of not following. While it may be tough with the hours that architects tend to keep, reading anything on architecture and design will at a minimum strengthens your mental toolbox. If you can allocate only ten minutes of quiet time to flick through a few pages at the end of each day, there is a host of fresh architectural literature out there to inspire. This can be anything from books, to magazines, to online blogs. One of my favorite books is Corbusier’s Towards a New Architecture, and one of my favorite blogs is Life of an Architect.

Have a Sense of Humor
I take umbrage to anyone who thinks architects are dull, boring, or dry people. More so, I find it frustrating when architects think they must hold themselves in this manner. Humor and approachability, I believe, can go a long way in this profession.

Talk More
The best architects let their designs do the talking, and will undoubtedly be the case in the architecture world. However, there is also great value to be found in conversation. Architects can communicate their value and promote great design by telling stories, encouraging people to ask questions about the built environment that surrounds them. Sometimes, it’s good to talk.

Break With Programmatic Convention
Cross-programming is nothing new, especially today where functions try to activate social spaces in buildings and their surroundings. The advantages of mixing typologies in urban and smaller city type settings have never been clearer. Changing technologies, world issues, climate change, ways of living, modes of transportation, etc. are all reasons that this is time to get radical (or at least simply thinking differently) about programming.

Enter a Competition, and (try to) Win
If your budget or time permits, I think all individuals and firms should do at least one competition per year. Some firms and individuals are propelled to success simply for winning a competition. When she was 21 and still an undergrad, Maya Lin beat over 1,400 other submissions to win the design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Remember: you’ve got to be in it to win it!

Travel More
Whether it is a simple walk around the block or a plane ride to the other side of the world, travel more. In a world where buildings and new designs can be seen within an instant of a Google search, when it comes to subtle textures, atmospheric spaces, and beautiful details, there is no substitute for traveling to experience architecture in person. This is one I am guilty of not doing, and sure hope to do more of in the near future! n