Repurposing Architecting Skills: Patience in Slow Time

"Patience in Slow Time" is the eleventh 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.

I visited La Sagrada Familia over 30 years ago. I have a distinct memory of standing in the empty roofless volume that would become the church, my mind blown by how long they had been building and how much more they had to go. I recall thinking I will never see this finished. Of course I hadn’t foreseen the changes in technology and a motivation to speed construction, that may now prove me wrong. Yet the patience of Antoni Gaudí, of his clients and the builders just boggled my mind.

The practice of Architecture, especially Landscape Architecture, is a slow march. The design and approvals process is always an extended period, construction takes time and once completed the design, as conceived, may not be realised for years, while materials patina or plants grow.

Every step of the way is slow in architecture. Design, approval, documentation, construction, growing in (for want of a better term). Delays are also accepted as part of the process, it’s pretty much a given. The possibility of delay is even built into building contracts. Generally, architects are patient and accepting of all these issues. There is an implied and accepted patience in practice at the macro level, far less so at the micro level.

How might architects better embrace patience and develop this skill?

The first thing to do, when feeling the impatience rising, is to stop for a moment or two and consider:
“What is the situation we cannot change?”
Having done so you might now recognise you have far less to be impatient about by letting go of those things you cannot change.

It’s a given that we don’t necessarily want to accept the delay or inconvenience, but we might want to avoid the emotion of it, the anger or resentment. Behaviour is a choice.

It requires a cognitive shift to be more patient, to choose to embrace our thoughts over our feelings. We accept and know that verdigris takes time to colour copper. We understand that construction is lengthy. We know these things to be true, it’s part of our thinking. It’s the daily parts of practice that feelings come to the fore and impatience overwhelm in terms of work you’re waiting on and being done by others. It takes cognitive empathy to reframe these thoughts, recognising that they too are human with all the messiness that entails and with the similar time demands and constraints as you. Consider a time you were running late with something due to circumstances beyond your control. Circumstances aren’t always black and white, it takes thought to recognise this, don’t allow the emotion to over-rule.

There are tangible benefits to developing patience. Impatience leads to stress and most people appreciate the impact stress can have on body and mind. Patience is reciprocal, develops trust and builds better relationships. Patience allows us to enjoy our work more: if when we hit a setback and can just shrug our shoulders, smile and say “How fascinating!” life is a little easier than if we throw our phone at the wall.

Here’s a challenge for you, that may also make your life a little easier too. Choose to teach patience to others. Often our own impatience is born from impatient people leaning on us.

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, Thinking Around Corners, Constraint by Design

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 Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels

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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