Repurposing Architecting Skills: Critical Thinking

There's often a focus on how architects have utilised their skills in other careers. Architects can also leverage those skills in better architectural practice. This is the fourth in a series of articles about this possibility.

There’s arguably no more important skill for an architect than that of critical thinking. Considering their own work and that of others in a critical and constructive way. Typically this skill is considerd the exclusive domain of the design process. It is, however, one that brings significant benefits when applied across all aspects of architectural practice.

The work of research and precedent study (from the previous post), we implicitly understand requires critical thought. It’s work that seeks understanding through a critical lens, learning at the feet of others and the application of critical thinking to deepen understanding. Great designers cast a critical eye over precedent, extracting valuable lessons and ideas that they’re able to apply to their own work. They’re skilled in this thinking and therefore allow themselves the time to research and rigorously reflect on precedent, in order to inform their own work.

Critical thinking takes rigour and time for analysis. It’s not simply “gut reaction” and requires dedicated thinking time to derive insight and understanding. Thinking that demands answers to questions and deep consideration. 

Questions that, for example, might be asked in critical design analysis:
What were the design objectives? In what way have the design objectives been achieved? What are the failures or shortcomings of the design? What has been done beyond the ordinary? What was the approach in the design and how has it achieved the outcome? How might it be done better? What else might be learnt in the critical analysis?

The challenge is to now bring that level of critical thought to other aspects of practice. What if architects were thinking more critically about their own architectural practice, or components of their practice? Take HR, for example, what are the objectives for HR in the office (the Brief)? Are the objectives being met? What’s working? What’s not working? What can be done better? What are examples of organisations either from within the profession, or beyond, doing HR well? What is it that they do? What can be learnt? and so on.

In the design process, the key objective is not to simply tear something down, but to learn from it in order to do the next thing better. In thinking critically about your architectural practice, the objective is to build a better practice not tear it down. Here’s a challenge:

What areas of your practice might you start to apply critical thinking to in order to make them better? Here are a few to start with: marketing, HR, business development, design process, office processes, client management, communication, meetings, and so on.

While you’re doing that, do some research on other organisations, keep in mind there are many other industries that are doing things differently and very well.

With the benefit of critical thought, what might you learn?

My note for those in employment, as per my previous posts, this applies to you too. How might you show leadership and bring this level of consideration to the office you’re working in? How might you apply this to yourself?

Previous posts in the Repurposing Architecting Skills series

Designing PossibilityFail and IterateMemory and Research

If you think you might need to apply a little Critical Thinking training to more than servicing your projects, but don’t know where to start, please feel free to drop me a line. I’m here to support you in building a better practice, forging better human and professional skills, and developing architectural leadership.

Image by Brett Sayles on Pexels [cropped]

Hi! I’m Michael

I’m an architect and coach. I help architects rethink their practice and support them as they uncover better ways to work. I’ve worked in architecture for over 25 years, and I ran my own practice for 14 years. I understand architectural practice from the inside out. Fun Fact: my NSW architect’s registration is #10 007 and I have a license to skill.

I believe improving practice takes asking hard questions and deep listening.

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