Architecture practice is an emotional rollercoaster ride

The 26th instalment in a series of lessons learned over the years. What do I know now that I didn’t then? What wisdom would I impart to my younger self, given the opportunity?

This lesson also formed part of a lecture given for the May Process forum, The Jump, exploring the challenges faced when setting up a practice. Process is a monthly information sharing series curated by the Victorian Young Architects and Graduates network.

26. Architecture practice is an emotional rollercoaster ride

big dipper

When we worked for other architects, life was pretty simple. We worked on the projects our bosses gave us, and when they dried up for whatever reason – client review, town planning, tendering, budget collapse – we worked on the new projects our bosses gave us. The glaringly obvious truth that we failed to anticipate when we started Mihaly Slocombe is that the boss’ life is not so simple. When a project dries up, so do our fees and so do the things that keep us busy.

A month ago, we were up to our eyeballs in work. Juggling our nine active projects that all needed attention was very stressful and a task we only barely managed. But then within a matter of weeks, two projects finished construction, one finished documentation, one went into town planning, two paused until we received land surveys, two paused until we received client feedback and one died due to an irreconcilable budget and brief. We were left with nothing to do.

Watching one project after another grind to a halt – at least as far as our contributions were concerned – was even more stressful than having too much work to do. We had a terrible month of invoicing that, to add insult to injury, was coupled with a terrible month of expenses. And suddenly, we had to fabricate things for us to do.

Thankfully, our drought was short-lived, barely three weeks long, as half of our paused projects quickly woke up again. But the enduring lesson is troublesome: despite our best efforts at spreading out our projects so they’re unlike to all dry up simultaneously, it still happened.

Architecture practice is an emotional rollercoaster ride.

Image source:

  1. The big dipper. Photo Everywhere, author unknown.

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