Well Rounded Architects connect better with clients.
Recently I was approached by a group of Masters students for an interview on unique architects. They were researching architects who had different or unusual career paths and I fit the bill to a T. Before I became a registered architect, I explored careers as a painter/sculptor, graphic designer, property developer and a professional ballroom dance instructor. The interview got me thinking about how my background has helped me to establish and grow WOLF Architects.
A good architect should be a generally well-rounded person. While they must be able to design they also need to be reliable and good communicators. At the same time, they must be scientific and practical minded- understanding construction, budgets and able to navigate through complex planning and building codes. Architects with their own practice then need take it to another level altogether with business and marketing skills.
So how does an architect become multi-dimensional? I taught architecture at university level for many years and never saw a course or subject that properly prepared students to be well-rounded architects. While many students live and breathe architecture for several years at university they get little contact with real clients, builder and people outside of their design world. There is too much ambition to design the next record breaking sky scraper or iconic building like the Sydney Opera house. WOLF ARCHITECTS never originally had such ambitions. If the opportunity presented itself and we were in such a position to create something truly special then naturally we would be honoured and up to the challenge, but this is not what motivates us We want to enhance living and have learned that even the smallest detail can affect lives in a positive way. The desire to win awards or be published vanished a long time ago with the simple realisation that architects don’t live in the buildings that they design.
For me this realisation came after spending many years exploring several different career paths with one of them as a passionate professional ballroom dancer. It was my time as a dance teacher that I connected most with different people. Rather than forcing students into steps that didn’t come naturally I found ways to bring out the best in them by expanding their strengths and avoiding their weaknesses. At the same time, one must understand appropriateness and have some commonsense. I would never try to dip an elderly person or teach them some strenuous move that could cause injury or get young children to dance moves that were too sensual for their age. At the same time, it all had to be fun and enjoyable. Customising classes to find that balance took great skill.
Designing a house is very similar since architects must understand the clients and deliver to different briefs. We must understand what is appropriate and be responsible enough to take the brief further with issues related to the environment, and long-term building life cycle, etc. Like learning to dance the design process should also be an enjoyable one.
Unfortunately, most architects are not well rounded and unable to connect genuinely with clients. That is why many people these days prefer to bypass the architect and pursue their dreams via a builder or draftsperson –seeking a cheaper option. Having said that, I do believe one must shop around with regards to architects as not all architects are equal. Not all can design, understand budgets, construction, etc. and this brings me back to my background in dancing. Dancing took me all over the world and opened my eyes to different cultures. I taught people of all ages, sizes and backgrounds. I’m not saying that all architects should be dancers but perhaps a varied background or alternative career paths leading up to becoming an architect would help them be better balanced and more well-rounded.