What comes first: good architecture or good business?

There have been many good inventions, products and services which were never turned into commercially viable and sustainable businesses.

So it is with architecture. Good architects, capable of designing great buildings are languishing in a world of long hours, poor pay and continuous stress.

On the other hand, there are architects who are less talented and yet make an appropriate salary, work normal hours and who live a relatively stress-free life.

What’s the difference?

Put simply it is treating architecture the same as any other product.

Passion, creativity and good community intention are not the preserve of architects alone. I meet many plumbers, accountants and doctors who are equally committed to doing good work in an ethical and respectful way.

Somewhere in the history of the architectural profession, a connection was made that hinders many of the architects that I come in contact with. In essence they have been taught to believe that architecture is good, while business is bad.

Think about business like a simple game, let’s say snakes and ladders. I regularly play this game with my 6 year old grandson who takes it very seriously! It took me little time to explain the rules to him to a point where he is engaged, having fun and is determined to win.

Without my brief introduction and explanation of the rules, the story would have been very different. Yes, we could throw the dice and move the pieces on the board but the whole exercise would seem pointless and frustrating because we lacked context and a shared understanding of what was really going on.

That’s the scenario in many architectural practices. The business rules are lacking, there’s lots of activity but there’s little ‘glue’ to hold things together. Unfortunately, a shared desire to produce good work is not enough.

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