“They’re not a very good architect”

It was a puzzling proclamation, I heard from an architect. I was curious what they meant and the broader implications for the profession.

It’s a statement disappointingly short on generosity. Frankly, the profession could exercise a little more generosity. Generosity creates goodwill and lifts everyone up. It’s deserving of a post of its own.

To understand what was really meant, we need to understand their criteria. What criteria were they using to define “good”? Is their criteria the same as mine? More importantly is their criteria the same as the architect they were criticising and their clients?

When it comes to deciding about what good architecture is, who is right? Who gets to decide? Why? There’s no defined boundary or singular answer to this. That’s the point. We cannot possibly know what defined the architectural approach unless we take the time to find out.

It’s more constructive being empathetic and curious about why they might work the way they do. What’s the background? Maybe they’re good architects with a very different idea about what good architecture looks like. Do they choose to take on difficult clients, difficult projects or both? How do you know this isn’t the best possible outcome (whatever that means) under the circumstances?

A series of questions however were nagging at me. Questions that speak to more potent issues in the architecture profession.

Was this about affirmation?
If so, whose?

Are awards, publications and public recognition required to be recognised as a “good architect”? This again comes down to criteria. Maybe the profession has a problem with who determines the criteria. This becomes about the gatekeepers and raises more questions,

Who are the gatekeepers in the profession? Who made them so?

And the bigger question in play,

What is the opportunity cost to the profession in how “good architects” might currently be defined by the gatekeepers?


Picture by Maria Orlova on Pexels [cropped & edited]

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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