As an architect, if you’re clueless about the business, you’re out
Architecture education was never designed to prepare you for the entrepreneurial side of running an office. In the minds of the creators who engineered the system that represents what you now know as the path to licensing, they were never destined to prematurely start a business in architecture. There is a code, a set of rules that make you obey and follow a one-sided vision of success.
However, the gap between the education you traditionally receive at university has never been more evident and problematic than it is today.
We live in times of the information revolution. Technology brought us connectivity and with it new business opportunities. Hence, left and right, we see emerging business models that have nothing to do with their traditional counterparts. All this potential, easily pursued by individuals in technology, business, marketing, personal development, sports and many other disciplines, has caused us as architects to re-evaluate our options.
In recent years we have seen an increase in entrepreneurial endeavors among young architecture professionals. But with that came the struggles of real-world challenges caused by a simple lack of business acumen.
In the last decades the built environment and architecture industry have maintained an inward-looking attitude, staying out of relevant conversations with others and overlooking opportunities and new territories to conquer. The future of the built environment will require leaders with an expanded and renewed vision of the field: leaders with the acuity and skills to identify real-world problems from a broader range of sources, able to transform them into innovative and impactful business opportunities that connect better with society and add value to it.
This situation challenges the traditional educational model of our universities and whether it actually enables and empowers new innovations or halts our progress.
Because think about it, there is tremendous potential for development and innovation in today’s society, and it shouldn’t just be limited to the tech industry. Architecture, building materials, construction and engineering require technology to advance. We are very keen to develop global innovation labs where research and experiments on futuristic design solutions are conducted. But the general approach to this development still follows completely outdated procedures from an entrepreneurial point of view.
We consistently see a trend where research, no matter how advanced, is retained as an academic study and rarely makes it to market as a viable business opportunity.
Why do you think this is such a common problem in our profession?
I would put it down to one thing and one thing only:
The traditional model of architectural education does not equip us for practice. It produces academics, thinkers, researchers, writers, designers, visionaries, but not business people.
And I’m sorry, but the harsh reality is that projects and innovations are only as good as the support and traction they get to bring it to market.
Commerce drives this world and yet many of us fail to capitalize on our innovations and keep the vision and solutions in the concept category.
Look at the progress we’ve made in the last decade alone. Entrepreneurship has emerged as the most compelling economic force the world has seen in recent decades.
Now more than ever, we need a new educational model to teach students how to innovate and compete in an increasingly outward-facing industry.
Systemic education revolution is absolutely necessary, but it cannot be limited to shaping technology with design thinking and calling it innovation. To make progress and create more opportunity and success in this industry, we need to teach entrepreneurship to the next generation of architects and designers.
It has never been the case that architectural education has to find a balance between the theoretical and practical aspects of the profession. Architecture courses must teach students to take a proactive role in building their careers. Without that, we are actively disabling our generation and contributing to fear and anxiety about the future.
An encouraging example of entrepreneurship in schools is the IE School of Architecture and Designthat has been developing leaders and entrepreneurs who shine in the world of architecture, engineering and construction for more than ten years.
My absolute favorite are the efforts of the Masters in Business for Architecture and Design which aims to help student entrepreneurs to realize their innovative projects and transform service concepts into viable startups, so that they remain already active businessmen with products on the market.
Because of their pioneering approach to education, I invited the program director Jerome van Schendel Erice May for the five-day virtual Business of Architecture Symposium TO DISTURB. His presentation at DISRUPT, titled The Entrepreneurial Designer: Why is Business Vision Crucial for Architects and Designers, will discuss the current state of affairs in the architecture industry and demonstrate the skills needed to create a strong next generation of young architects and… to shape designers and explore how the Masters program he directs provides an answer to this pervasive lack of business and managerial elements in architecture and design education today.
The first edition of Disrupt brings you SOM, Gensler, BIG, Snohetta, Perkins and Will, UnStudio, Zaha Hadid Architects, OMA-AMO, ARUP, Safdie Architects, Woods Bagot, Amanda Levete Architects, WallaceLiu, Simone de Gale and many others. get yours Symposium tickets now as they are only available until April 1st with a 50% early bird discount. Because if you are serious about your career and actually want to achieve it