Repurposing Architecting Skills: Thinking Around Corners

"Thinking Around Corners" is the ninth 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.

Even 35 years after construction, the lifts in the Lloyds of London building may still be the most seductive lifts of any in the world. They work not just because they’re the most elegantly resolved glass and stainless steel box hanging slinkily off the side of any building south of the arctic circle, but because they make sense of an irregular site and cater to pure rectangles of unadulterated floor space. Lord Rogers makes it look so alluring and easy.

For lift cores to be routinely glamorous is uncommon. They disagreeably penetrate the competing wrestlers of car park, retail and apartments, with their own interests in where to stick the core. Architects must be adept at refereeing the wrestle. Acceding to one demand only to find the other two still wrestling for ascendancy. With core wrestling, as in chess, it pays to think ahead.

Thinking ahead is a wonderful skill.

It’s even better if you can think around a corner…

Architects love a good shadow line. The delineation of one material from another. The separation of two adjacent planes. How good is that? They look wonderful drawn in elevation and detailed section. They’re clear, concise and logical. Nothing could possibly go wrong, right? Then the builder’s name lights up the screen of the phone. “What do you want me to do with the shadow line when it collides with both the underside of the steel stair stringer and the timber dado around the corner?” …Oh Crap!

Architects therefore learn to think around corners and not just for shadow lines or lift cores. It’s a skill that keeps the phone silent, the clients happy and the outcome assured.

The challenge then is to utilise this skill for more. How might architects think around corners in their architectural practice?

As an architect in practice it can be easy to drift along from one project to the next, with little consideration of what might be around the corner for yourself or your business. What if instead of letting that happen you follow your personal shadow line around that corner? Will there be a collision, an unexpected junction and/or something that turns out to be entirely unresolved?

So what might be around the corner?

How might your practice scale? Whether that’s the systems in the office, the HR systems, administrative ones, IT and so on, or the physical space or the management structure. What type of work does your practice want to pursue? There are numerous issues to be resolved as they go around the corner and ahead in time.

On a personal level, a consideration of skills comes to the fore. What are the skills you need in order to get where you would like to go? Have you even considered where you would like to go, or what you would like it to be and to look like?

If you haven’t started to think around the corner and what the implications are for your practice, it’s time to start doing so.


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, Sine qua non


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 Life Of Pix on Pexels

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