This is the 10th and final instalment in a series of articles where we attempt to categorise chronologically and thematically the list of things you will need to start your architecture practice, and furnish it with the glimpses of insight we’ve accrued during the first three years of our architecture practice, Mihaly Slocombe.
10. The future
When: The future
You will not be a young architect with a new practice forever. One day you will be middle-aged and successful. One day you might even be old and a legend. What sort of success do you desire? What sort of legend do you want to be?
As we have discussed previously, there is no better time to think about the shape of your future than today. Architecture is often ruled by word of mouth, meaning each project you undertake and complete will pave the way, daisy-chain style, to future projects. Glenn Murcutt puts it slightly differently, arguing that the projects you reject have the greatest impact on your future projects. Either way, it is rare that a house renovation will lead to a stadium, or a restaurant fitout will lead to a museum: if these are things you want, then you need to plan for them.
A lesson in what happens when you don’t plan was examined in our recent article about Donovan Hill, recently merged with (read: acquired by) much larger practice, Bligh Voller Nield. From craft beginnings and the sublime C House, Donovan Hill accepted opportunities as they appeared, moving into commercial tower projects far removed from their previous sensitivity towards culture and climate. Merging with BVN was perhaps a natural subsequent step, but there is no getting around the fact that their old stuff is much better than their new stuff.
To help us avoid this honey trap, we have a 20 year plan that we put together in early 2011 and describes where we want to be in the year 2031.
- It describes characteristics of our studio: sufficiently flexible to pursue new project typologies; comprising more than 10 staff but less than 20; structured to give us the freedom to study, teach, write and travel.
- It describes our projects: most in and around Melbourne, some in other parts of Australia, and a few in other parts of the world; a mixture of project typologies, including regular entries into design competitions; firmly rooted in design research and experimentation.
- It talks about our roles beyond our studio: we are leaders in our architectural community; we are heavily engaged with the wider profession; we encourage our staff to be the same.
- It talks about recognition: we are worth waiting for at Presentations to Juries events; we are widely published; our reputation among our clients is for good design, environmental sustainability, adaptability and reliability.
If we want to achieve any of these ambitions by 2031, we need to be prepared to lay the necessary groundwork now and over coming years. We are well on our way in some areas (we are heavily engaged with the wider profession and regular entrants to design competitions) but not so much in others (our projects are almost exclusively residential and we have so far only entered the Presentations to Juries once).
Your future is what you make it. Understanding where you’re heading is essential, as is referring regularly to your goals and updating them as your expectations evolve.