Directives for a Better Architecture Profession

How to do meaningful work.

Work in service of the planet first.
Build only what is needed. Demolish only when necessary. Adaptively re-use. Minimise the impact of the construction.

Work in service of people and the public.
Prioritise building trust over building buildings. Be accountable. This is the way to build value and support.

Work in service of your colleagues and the profession, not in competition.
No-one wins at architecture. Collaborate generously. Live to work don’t work to live. Celebrate everyone’s success.

Fix the diversity, equity and inclusion problems.
It is indisputable that diversity and inclusion create better outcomes for culture, people, the work done, and for the benefit of everyone.

Ask not what your institutions can do for you – ask what you can do for your institutions.
When you withdraw your support of our architectural institutions they have less resources to support the profession. (with apologies to JFK)

How to better work.

Exploit the innate skills of architectural practice for more than designing a building.
There’s never been a better time to be an architect. Architects are thinkers: design process thinking, systems thinking, strategic thinking, thinking around corners (that’s thinking ahead, anticipating the implications ahead of decisions made now). And that’s just the “thinking” side of practice. 

Don’t think of or describe architecture as design.
Architecture is so much more than just design.

Ask more questions.
Good questions like: Why do we do it this way? Is there a better way to do it? What’s the untapped resource for public good that exists within the architecture community?

Stop considering design as a problem solving exercise.
This thinking is disempowering. Design can be proactive, not just reactive. Good design can emerge from an insight or an opportunity not just a problem. Look for insights and opportunities.

Consider the edges of architecture.
The edges are where change happens and opportunities lie.

Show your working.
By showing how and why you arrive at a solution makes the whole process more comprehensible, inclusive and helps good ideas to spread.

Stop taking on questionable projects because someone else will do it if you don’t.
This is the drug dealer’s fallacy. It’s a bad reason. There’s no excuse.

Buildings last a long time. Ask yourself will I be proud of this when I walk past in ten years time?
Consider the long term consequences of not having the difficult conversation or of chasing short term gain.

Always use more than one piece of butter paper.
The best way to have a good idea is to have more bad ideas – this applies to all your work not just when designing.

Share regularly and generously.
Sharing makes things better. Knowledge, lessons, improvements, anything of value.

How to be more generous and connect.

Learn to lead and don’t wait to be asked.
Do this is service of the profession and of the public.

Take action. Become a steward not an advocate.
Stewardship is more than just talk, it puts you on on the hook to act and deliver the change you want to see in the world.

Critique work in a way that communicates how it might be better.
That way knowledge and understanding of a better way of doing things can spread.

Take the time to connect with people outside of your silo, whether you agree with them or not.
Connection, empathy and understanding are important attributes and skills for an architect.

When talking to the public, speak in a language free of jargon and terminology exclusive to the profession.
Jargon and specialist language excludes people.

Describe a story of the future that resonates and people can emotionally invest in.
This is a more effective way to make change happen.

Remember it’s not about you.
It’s about the positive change the profession can make in the world in the service of the public.

Forge a better culture. One that embraces these directives.
Culture crushes strategy and uses it in the footings.

Don’t look for reasons why any of the above is impossible. You’re a creative, come up with creative solutions to make it happen.
Use “We can if…”

Start small.
You don’t need to do everything at once but you do need to start.


Hat tip to Derek Sivers who inspired this post, when he distilled the knowledge of well over 200 books he’d read into Directives.

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