This post is part 6 of an adaptation of How to Steal Like an Artist (and 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me), this engaging and instructive essay by Austin Kleon, a Texan artist and writer. Kleon states that “when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past.” What follows here is me talking to a previous version of myself, one 10 years younger, hopelessly naive and about to embark on a life in architecture.
6. The secret: do good work then put it where people can see it
Like it or not, buildings cost money, lots of money. Of all the arts, architecture is in many ways alone in this respect – concrete, timber, glass and steel all cost far more than the architect can afford himself. It doesn’t matter how good you are or how brilliant your ideas if you can’t find someone to pay for them to be built.
Knowing people with money and the need for architectural services is an important ingredient to starting an architectural practice, but so is having your work seen by your prospective clients, that is, the rest of the world.
In architecture, where word-of-mouth is king, your best advertising weapon is your work itself. So the not-so-secret secret is to do good work and put it where people can see it. The first step is hard yakka and there are no shortcuts – do work, seek feedback from your peers, improve, do more work. The second step used to be hard but is easier today than it has ever been, all thanks to the internet. Putting up your shingle (simply being available) and a handful of local architectural journals are no longer the only outlets for your work: there are online building databases, international awards programs and ideas competitions happening all the time, in every corner of the globe. Submit every project, both paper and realised, as often as you can and to as many places as you can – you never know where one good win will lead.
We submitted one of our finished projects, Hill House, for the House of the Year competition held by World Architecture News, an English architectural resource, where it was long-listed. A scout for a Canadian television show, World’s Greenest Homes, saw the project and contacted us via American social network, Facebook. After it aired, we received enquiries from potential clients across Australia – here in Melbourne, in Canberra and in Perth.
Do good work then put it where people can see it.