What are important qualities of an architect?



I’ve recently embarked on my journey in architecture education, and a question that has been persistently on my mind is: What specific qualities contribute to the success of an architect, both academically and professionally?

The reason I’m eager to know the answer to this question is so that, five years from now, I don’t look back with regret at missed opportunities that could have shaped me into a better architect. 

I hope those with more wisdom and insights on this matter can give a helping hand.

Thank you.

Oct 22, 23 4:31 am

While you are getting an education: Grind it, learn, be a sponge that just absorbs information and knowledge. In addition to your formal education, try and learn on your own as much as you can or work part time for an architect to get real world experience. Draw projects, sketch, plan things, get involved in architecture as much as possible.  There is a lot of information that an architect deals with that is not taught in schools such as building code, zoning, town approvals, business etc. Also while education is important and expensive, also remember that its just that, an education and its what you do with it after that matters.  In the real world, in order for you to matter, you need to have a skillset that can be applied in real world projects. Below is a list that I think are important:

1. Ability to draw - details, plans, sections, 3D. Having an ability to draw things and create drawings in itself is a valuable skill that will keep you employed. Drawing is your main tool as an architect, you can express ideas, solve problems, and create projects with the intention of being built. 

2. Be a good communicator - communicate your ideas, your demands, your wishes and desires. The real world is a tough place, you wont get anything unless you ask for them. Get involved, be vocal. 

3. Be a problem solver - Architecture is the science and art of building that solves spatial problems for a specific site or client. You have to go beyond drawing and be a critical thinker and look 5 steps ahead of everyone else in the building industry. Be pro active, go above and beyond when the opportunity is there.

4. Develop thick skin - Corporate world, coworkers, clients, bosses, will all get under your skin and make you question everything at some point of your career. Develop a mentality that everything is a stepping stone to your ultimate goal to be a good architect, whether its a sole proprietor, a partnership or something in between. Dont take anything personal, but learn how to be professional in standing up for yourself or taking criticism. 

After education, there will be a period of learning and working for an employer that you will most likely not like for a few years. Try and grind it out, learn from each experience or employer, get exposed to different project typologies and figure out what you want to do career wise long term, the sooner you figure that out the sooner you can concentrate on doing things that you enjoy and projects that matter to you. Some folks stay with one firm for a long time, move up the corporate ladder and are happy doing that. Some folks move around more often and journey through different firms. Each strategy has its own benefits. 

After you have bloomed into a competent Architect and have the technical skills, design skills and knowledge to work on your own projects, obtain your license and any other certifications that are relevant to you (sustainability, passive house, whatever). Whether you work for a firm or yourself, licensure is a must if you want to be considered a serious architect.

In the end, remember that being a good Architect, does not mean much unless being a good Architect pays your bills, supports your family, or has a positive impact on your community. Its up to you to turn that good architect skill in tangible rewards.

Oct 22, 23 8:16 am  · 
5  · 

I cannot emphasize enough the second item you mention. Be a good communicator!

However, I want to adjust the scope of your comment since you are focusing on a narrow aspect of how it impacts the individual architect.

I think one of the biggest things architects don’t learn in school, or inherently have skill at, is professional communication. The ability to navigate complex relationships within your office, your consultants, owners, and contractors is key to the profession. You may learn how to present your ideas in school, but you also need effective and clear day to day professional communication with everyone involved in projects.

Oct 23, 23 12:58 pm  · 
3  · 

Well said. I just had to have a "chat" with an employee about his communication with our consultants. No pleases, very few thanks, and no grace. That's not the way I roll. This is somebody with ten years more experience than him, and that's why I'm his boss. Communication is literally what we do for a living, whether it's drawings, specs, or emails. They're all important. Language matters.

Oct 26, 23 11:59 am  · 
2  · 

I'll add - know your worth.  

While being able to give and accept constructive criticism is a good thing don't simply take bad behavior from ANYONE you work with. 

Oct 23, 23 9:58 am  · 
5  · 

I came here to say this^^^ ​"Be able to learn and grow from constructive criticisms"

Oct 23, 23 3:42 pm  · 

for school, most importantly, you need thick skin…. they will bust you down on pin-ups and critiques.  Also have some technical thinking with how your designs will actually work and respond to the environment.  “form follows function” - Louis Sullivan (you’ll hear about him in school) - make it artful, but also practical.  

Oct 26, 23 10:57 am  · 

Bust you down? I must of been at a unique school because none of our professors 'busted us down' during critiques. We got constructive criticism.

Oct 26, 23 11:46 am  · 

During my very first pin-up at arch school, the department head told me "those are the most godawful drawings I've ever seen," which obviously sticks with you. I said to myself, "you can fuuuuck all the way off. Watch this." And it made me practice and learn and two years later I was getting drawing awards and SELLING them to profs. That comment motivated me. It worked. It probably would have messed up a lot of people.

Oct 26, 23 12:03 pm  · 
2  · 

Even when I did other students though was a great job on a school project the professors still have constructive criticism on my work. A few students thought the profs were being mean. I understood that they valued my work and were pushing me. To be fair I've always had high standards for myself so . . . .

Oct 26, 23 12:17 pm  · 
2  · 

I personally didn’t get it that bad…, but I had a friend that got scorched (left studio crying) and sadly, I do think it really messed him up

Oct 26, 23 1:27 pm  · 

I doubt you didn't 'get it' as bad as you think. At that age most people don't have the emotional maturity to handle any type of criticism. There are profs out there who are #*@*$ though.

Oct 26, 23 1:38 pm  · 
2  · 

They should if they actually learn to develop emotional maturity when they are supposed to (by age 15). By age 18, they should already have a few years or so of development of emotional maturity and coping skills. This is what parenting and schooling is supposed to do among other parts of preparing them to becoming adults. The problem is to many graduate high school with the emotional maturity and emotional control and coping skill level of a 10-13 year old. They should and would have had experienced situations for developing a thick skin like dealing and coping with the punk behavior of bullies that will call your work the worst piece of shit. The skill is to ignore the stupid even if it came from the professor, or a critic, or a client. Some of it is an act they do to train you to not get too emotionally attached to the work you produce. Just because you spent 40 hours a week for half a semester or entire semester, and make a nice elaborate model just to have the professor or critic or whatever throw it to the ground like a Gordo Ramsey tantrum. You made it, you can always make another. Remember that. The reason that is done is in the real world, you deal with assholes and they magnify and exaggerate it to unrealistic level of assholism because the real world is not as fucked up even though it is not perfect and that there is fucked up times. This way, when some asshole client were to do it, you don't run away balling in tears leaving them with the thought "fucking cry baby". This is to "Vulcan-ize" you to these situation to be or at least appear emotionless to the stupid antics of assholes and stand calm, professional, under all circumstances. There's a reason they do that to students because you need to experience it to deal with it. It is not that you don't feel but you don't let them see you cry like you don't let the enemies see you bleed. It's about maintaining that composure under those fucked up situations. There are assholes that are just that assholes. I agree with what others have said.

Nov 18, 23 3:27 pm  · 

Fuck everyone, do what you like, have fun.

Oct 26, 23 11:43 am  · 
4  · 

Just make sure you don't spend more than 2.5x your first year projected income on your entire education.

Oct 26, 23 11:47 am  · 

That, my good sir, is a fools task. That we could ever stay ahead of that.

Oct 26, 23 11:50 am  · 

The average fresh grad pay is $40K a year. The average five year M.Arch degree is $75K. It's possible.

Oct 26, 23 12:15 pm  · 
1  · 
Non Sequitur

2.5X is peasant talk. minimum 4x if you want to be taken seriously.

Oct 26, 23 12:35 pm  · 

That's funny Non!

Oct 26, 23 12:40 pm  · 

Sure, if you're just talking about tuition and live at home, and stop eating avocado toast.

Oct 26, 23 3:18 pm  · 
James Bragg

Avocado toast is so 2022.

Oct 29, 23 1:16 pm  · 
1  · 

The 2.5x is realistically impossible because the rate of college for the required education need for licensure in many states (where there is no alternative path other than that architecture degrees... some that absolutely requires an M.Arch) increases faster than the pay rate in the profession so the loans increases accordingly. If it could be achieved, that would be great. I wouldn't expect it, though. I do understand the point of trying as much to not spend more on college than 2.5 years. Ideally, strive to minimize lone debt to not be more than 20% of your average annual income of your first 5 years would be, paid out over the 10 years. That is, your average income for first five years would likely be around $45,000 to $48,000. 20% of that is $9,000 to $9,600. Then times that by 10. Your loans should be less than the $90,000 to $96,000. I'd recommend keeping loan debt down to $75,000 or less if you can. Get grants, scholarships, or financial aid, and if possible work part-time while in college and you could be debt-free or close to it when you graduate. You don't know what your pay will be future from today only what it is today and you can guess what you could make but try to calculate your loan debt based on the typical introductory pay level is. Minimum wage is at $31.5K in some states, already. Entry level salaries aren't always much more than that, at all. Some are just maybe 20-25% or so higher where you get maybe ~$38K to $40K. Some employers pay better for entry level employees in this profession. I would hope so. In places where minimum wage is $15/hr. starting salary should be at minimum $60K a year in this profession. In places where the minimum wage is $7.50 to $10/hr., I can understand the $31.5K to $42K starting salary when the cost of living is proportionally less. Cost of living is a key factor in that respect and ensuring you are being ethical to employees. Of course, the education should be truly professional level even for those B.Arch and M.Arch degrees.

Nov 18, 23 3:50 pm  · 

fuck everyone, but use protection.

Apr 10, 24 11:43 am  · 

travel.  see the world.  experience some old buildings, some new buildings, a bit of new urbanism.  see all the things. 

Oct 30, 23 10:46 am  · 
1  · 

Find a mentor.  Stay close to people who has burning passion for the craft. Don't rush.  Seek the truth.

Nov 8, 23 6:47 am  · 
1  · 

I’ve worked for big and small architecture firms. I’ve worked for a couple big firms where the founding partners were still there. The thing I noticed about them is that their approach to design was “ does this work and can I sell this?” rather being super engaged in the design and production process. They recognized that their primary role was the face of the firm, were more willing to delegate, and generally gave people autonomy. The big offices where the founders were long gone tended to be more hierarchical and rigid.

Smaller offices tend to suffer from leaders who are unwilling to give up control. They sometimes see staff as a means to execute their particular “vision” rather than fellow professionals and colleagues. These offices can do ok, but I feel like it’s much harder to be successful if you aren’t willing to delegate tasks that take up the most time and fail to recognize and use the talents of your staff - especially if they are better designers/detailers than you.

As for individual success - it’s about being able to promote yourself and your skills, being able to recognize that others may know more and are better at certain things than you (and hire them if you can). If you are a good sales person you will naturally attract the people who are better at and want to focus on the other stuff. And if you want to focus on becoming an expert in a particular niche within the profession that is fine too, but don’t sell yourself short.

Nov 16, 23 10:03 am  · 
3  · 

What are important qualities of an architect?

tenacious, good communicator, and smart-working

Apr 11, 24 4:21 pm  · 

Patience, good communication, problem solving, empathy, tenacity.

Apr 12, 24 1:55 pm  · 

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?


This is your first comment on Archinect. Your comment will be visible once approved.

  • ×Search in: