In the transitioning state of today's architecture, alongside remarkable new technologies and unprecedented modes of practice, it can be hard to keep things straight. When the market is good, the options can be overwhelming, and the path to achieving your goals might not be so clear – even as you're one step closer to them.
For those just getting out of school and considering starting your own thing, Gem Barton is here to help you drum up motivation, not sweat the small stuff, and stay focused on what's important. Trained as an architect, Barton works as an author, academic and futurist (as well as a Senior Lecturer at Brighton University), and has written and lectured extensively on the state of architecture education and alternative modes of practice. Her recent book, Don't Get a Job... Make a Job: How to make it as a creative graduate is a catalogue of advice from a slew of architects and designers working all over the map – including Assemble, FAT Architecture, Stereotank, WAI Architecture Think Tank, studiogaas and others – meant to provoke, inspire and help young architects situate themselves in the world.
Barton penned an original piece for us in the spirit of Don't Get a Job, tailored to those new graduates who are thinking of starting their own practice – check it out below:
So you want to be an architect? Nice one. Chances are you have dreams of designing beautiful spaces for people to live in and love in. You may have finished studying already, or are nearly there and considering your many options post-graduation. These considerable options can be gut-tingling. You are excited to get out in the real world, to continue learning, to develop into the best architect you can be, but you are also scared. There are so many more decisions to make; where to live, what kind of work to explore – who to apply to, or to set up alone. There are so many paths we can take at this point it’s like a being at the world’s busiest crossroads without a map. Sound familiar?
First things first – the days of trading in your degree certificate for a nice safe job offer are gone, and who knows if they will ever return. It is simply not enough to graduate anymore, the world demands more from you – you are the future, you are the next generation of entrepreneurs, design-thinkers, hyper-specialists and cultural agitators. You have a role, you have a responsibility…it is no longer about the world of the design…. it is about the design of your world!
So what do you do? Well firstly, congratulate yourself, secondly and more importantly, become very familiar with yourself, remind yourself daily of your dreams, your ambitions, and wherever possible stay true to these. We are all different – that’s what makes us so special. There is no right thing to do when entering the world of work; there is only the right thing for you. And only you can know what that is.
So take a good look in the mirror and question yourself, ask yourself the tough questions, prepare to be agile and of course prepare for the mistakes – there will be many, but you will learn the wonders of damage limitation and this will make you stronger – this is where your journey begins.
If whilst at university you have become accustomed to the freedom that a liberal arts education offers you – the independence to follow threads of interest, to develop personal specialisms and work on speculative ideals and theories – then you may be thinking about setting up practice on your own. Maybe it will be a traditional practice with clients and projects, or maybe it will be less traditional – developing new building technologies, discovering and developing research and teaching theories, or maybe it will be multi-disciplinary in its output. Or maybe it won’t. The sound of this kind of venture sends some people’s hearts flying through the roof, and not from excitement, and that’s OK – we are all different, thank Corb, that’s what makes the design world so remarkable and so humbling.
Our educated youth are ethical souls, they want to make a living, sure, but they also want to leave a legacy of betterment behind them for future generations, not just a collection of pretty things to be listed and honoured and drooled over in class. They are a powerful force, one that doesn’t plan on waiting for clients to commission them – they will be busy setting mousetraps of design excellence, subverting the balance of power away from those with the cash and towards those will the design ability. They are a hungry, motley, self-initiated crew, taking the world-of-work into their own hands. Gone are the days of ‘getting a job’ and welcomed is the age of ‘making a life’.
But let’s assume for a moment that you do want to take the plunge, you do want to do this for yourself, being just another CAD monkey or model-making minion in a large corporation isn’t for you. But what do you do next? The careers advice department at university isn’t really geared up to supporting and advising fearless trailblazers such as yourself, unfortunately you’re left out on your lonesome with your determination, your resilience and your fearless attitude (don’t worry if you don’t have these yet, you will soon). But that’s OK, because you don’t follow rules too well anyway, you much prefer to write your own… and that’s what you can do, because this is your career, this is your journey, this is your destiny. It is so exciting. It is physically breathtaking. There is no clear-cut equation for success – it is different for everybody; for some it’s money, for others it’s happiness or recognition – but always remember that success is fluid and it is reactive.
As I said before there are no rules to entering the industry, but here are 31 tips that might just help – read them/follow them/ignore them.