Repurposing Architecting Skills: Sine qua non

Sine qua non is the eighth in the series unpacking how architects might use their intrinsic architectural skills to not just to make architecture but to do better in their practice of architecture.

Sine qua non: is an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient. It was originally a Latin legal term for “[a condition] without which it could not be”, or “but for…” or “without which [there is] nothing”.

Wikipedia

As an architect I lamented (tongue in cheek) about the four dirty ‘c’-words: Clients, Codes, Consultants and Councils. They generally led to the often onerous ‘c’-words: Conditions, Constraints and Caution. My tongue firmly in cheek as their imposition as both a blessing and a curse. Architects tend to do their best work under considerable constraint, working harder to come up with more remarkable solutions. I am reminded of Harry Seidler’s Capita Centre, one of his few buildings on a very constrained site and arguably one of his best as a result. Constraints are good.

Constraints and ‘c’-words, however, are not the point. Instead, acknowledging that the ability to integrate and assimilate disparate and often competing requirements is a remarkable skill. It first takes a level of skill to seek out all requirements and doing the research as previously discussed (Memory and Research). The ultimate skill is to then reconcile all requirements into a design, additionally with “commodity, firmness, delight” as a value add. Such skill is the most under-acknowledged and rated in architectural practice.

It takes considerable skill to reconcile a vast array of requirements into a solution that the client is happy with, is buildable, meets all codes, has aesthetic value, and so on. That is remarkable.

What else might be done with this skill? A reconsideration of the set-up of architectural practice, for example, through the collection and reconciliation of advice and information from consultants such as a business advisor, accountant, lawyer, software engineer, marketer, copywriter, and a workplace psychologist (just for good measure), not to mention gathering precedent and critical analysis too. Of course that’s overkill and you’d never do that, right? You can if you’ve got large budget, or simply you’re willing to take the time to research specialist knowledge that you’re unable to afford from a consultant. It’s simply a choice. Most architectural practices are established in an ad hoc way and as cheaply as possible, only to be modified and restitched at a later date.

It may be fanciful to imagine redesigning a practice entirely in this way, but it’s not fanciful to more widely utilise design reconciliation skills. A more manageable approach is to consider the components of practice. Reconsidering and redesigning office processes for example: marketing, finance, design, administration, and so on. It’s not necessary to do things the way they’ve always been done, there are many areas of work that could be researched and reconciled within a modified practice structure. Buildings are rarely the same, should practice processes and principles?

Design reconciliation is a skill applicable to so much more than the redesign of practice and the execution of a building design. It is worthy of consideration as what other billable projects might be possible if this was to be offered as a standalone service and core skill of architectural practice.

Now that you see this as a skill, what will you choose to do with it?


Previous posts in the Repurposing Architecting Skills series

Designing PossibilityFail and IterateMemory and Research, Critical Thinking, Design as Improvisation, Assimilation of the Design Brief, Design as Decision Making


Do you need support in better utilising your skills in architectural practice? 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.


Picture by Ming-Cheng Wu on Pexels [cropped]

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Tickle your fancy?

Recent Posts

Ask more questions

The power of Questions

Without questions there can be no answers. Yet we’re often reluctant to ask questions because answering, or the answers, can be scary.

Re-Strtaing architetcural practice

How to [Re]Start Architectural Practice

Architectural practice is hard. The challenges are never ending and often for diminishing reward. It’s also the best job ever when it all works. So when practice isn’t working the way we’d like, how might we [re]start our architectural practice?

How might architects create a movement?

Architects finding their seat at the table

Architect’s voices are often too quiet to be heard despite having a lot to offer conversations on the common good. How might they rethink what that means and what they can do about it?

Architecture peeking into the frame

Practice has a Marketing Problem

If we’re to believe architects, the practice of architecture has a marketing problem. Their contention is that they’re not being heard, valued or acknowledged to the degree they might expect.

The latest from the mind of Michael

Blog Me Please

Get notified about new articles

check-in on your practice
New Workshop

Over the last year you generously checked in on family, friends & colleagues.It’s time you checked in on your architectural practice.

This is a workshop to identify what’s not going well for your practice, what could be better, where you want to go and then identify and develop solutions to your specific needs.

Discounted until 2nd June  – limited places.