If you were to start an architecture practice from first principles, what questions might you ask? What other questions might be helpful?

A building under construciton. With very visible basic elements of concrete and support structures.
A building under construciton. With very visible basic elements of concrete and support structures.
Image by Pixabay on Pexels

If I was to start a new architectural practice, I’d take it back to first principals. That requires asking some hard questions in a process of reasoning. Here’s what I’d consider, imagine you’re being asked these questions by someone that doesn’t know a thing about architecture or architectural practice.


The work an architect does evolves over time. This work often defies expectation. It also involves new skills that must often be learnt.

Balloons soaring through the sky after much preparation.
Balloons soaring through the sky after much preparation.
Image by Julia Volk on Pexels

An architect is not made in 6 days. An architect is not even made in 6 years of study. Architects evolve over decades of hard work and experience. They’re not born flying, but over time they may learn to soar.

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Upon graduation an architect’s office responsibilities are pretty limited. They’re just beginning to walk and it’s likely that most of their time will be spent drawing. They might be required to look…


It can be really challenging to make change happen within architectural practice. This is inertia. What might we do to change things up?

This apple has no inertia. It’s sitting on a table and resisting any change to its velocity. We need to do something to it before it’s inertia will change.
This apple has no inertia. It’s sitting on a table and resisting any change to its velocity. We need to do something to it before it’s inertia will change.
Picture by Ashutosh Sonwani on Pexels

When the apple boinked off Newton’s head, this was inertia (and the effect of gravity on the apple). In physics, inertia is the resistance of an object to change its velocity. In life, inertia is the tendency to do nothing or resist change.


It’s easier to maintain assumptions than challenge them. What might architects miss in doing so?

An astronaut, apparently in earth gravity, taking a big fall. Used as an analogy fro the fall that may happen when assumptions are not questioned and alternatives considered.
An astronaut, apparently in earth gravity, taking a big fall. Used as an analogy fro the fall that may happen when assumptions are not questioned and alternatives considered.
Picture by Pixabay on Pexels

The practice of architecture is predicated on a level of critical thinking in order to advance the quality of the work. Questioning if a building achieves the standards we hold to be of importance, such as environmental standards, aesthetic, commodity firmness delight, standards of economy, and so on? There is no correct standard and they’re ever changing. All are fair game in critical consideration. Yet the profession is less often concerned with appraising itself more critically.


How trusted is the architectural profession when it comes to their work and how might they become more trusted?

Trust is like a fire stair, it helps you to feel safe and it’s built step by step.
Trust is like a fire stair, it helps you to feel safe and it’s built step by step.

This post will be full of gross generalisations. Inevitably, however, the profession is most often perceived through a generalised prism. We should also acknowledge, whilst a profession may be viewed through this prism, we each have agency to individually challenge and change perception.


People are not swayed because you are right. They’re going to be swayed because they are right.

A large public space scattered with pedestrians heading in all sorts of directions.
A large public space scattered with pedestrians heading in all sorts of directions.
Picture by Ryutaro Tsukata on Pexels

Architects often talk about their value. That’s self talk about the value they deliver in their work and how they need to be better at communicating this to their public (the public they seek to serve). I question this approach and I’m curious as to whether talking about value is a form of hiding. Hiding from the hard work of leadership and the enrolment that’s required to bring their public along on the same journey that they’re on. It’s easier to hide behind…


What are other ways to think about the architecture profession that might help it to bring new perspective to architectural practice and propel it forward?

An elegantly presented fresh oyster as part of a fine dining experience.
An elegantly presented fresh oyster as part of a fine dining experience.
Picture by Taryn Elliott on Pexels [cropped]

Architects have long wanted to compare themselves with other professionals. They suggest, for example, no-one goes to a butcher for surgery but instead to a qualified doctor, or that lawyers charge by the hour so architects should too. That’s all well and good, but an analogy needs to be a good fit and lead to insight and I’ve never found those professional analogies overly helpful in furthering the consideration of practice or the profession.


Architects love stories about an architect that’s found success in another profession by utilising their architectural skills. We rarely hear stories about how architect’s have used their architectural assets and skills in order to deliver better practice, better leadership or better culture. It’s time to start writing those stories. It’s time to start creating those stories.

A framed view of what is likely a cubic Mediterranean hillside town.
A framed view of what is likely a cubic Mediterranean hillside town.
Picture by Luke Webb on Pexels

The architecture profession is predisposed to prescribe boundaries around the work they do. Constructing narratives about what type of work is done by an architect — it’s by and large we design and assist in the delivery of buildings. It’s a scope of work that has remained relatively unchanged over countless decades, albeit increasingly diminished. These narratives act to further instate boundaries preventing alternatives and possibility in the work they do.


There’s often a focus on how architects have utilised their skills in other careers. Architects can also leverage those skills in better architectural practice. This is the tenth in a series of articles about this possibility.

Barcelona, with the Sagrada Familia visible in the middle of the frame. It’s a building that will take a millennia to complete, with Anotnio Gaudi always aware he would not be alive to see it at completion.
Barcelona, with the Sagrada Familia visible in the middle of the frame. It’s a building that will take a millennia to complete, with Anotnio Gaudi always aware he would not be alive to see it at completion.
Picture by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels

I visited La Sagrada Familia over 30 years ago. I have a distinct memory of standing in the empty roofless volume that would become the church, my mind blown by how long they had been building and how much more they had to go. I recall thinking I will never see this finished. Of course I hadn’t foreseen the changes in technology and a motivation to speed construction, that may now prove me wrong. Yet the patience of Antoni Gaudí, of his clients and the builders just boggled my mind.


There’s often a focus on how architects have utilised their skills in other careers. Architects can also leverage those skills in better architectural practice. This is the tenth in a series of articles about this possibility.

Road barriers. Sometimes these constraints might lead us on a new and better path.
Road barriers. Sometimes these constraints might lead us on a new and better path.
Picture by Skylar Kang on Pexels [cropped]

How might we set constraints to make practice better and easier for ourselves? Constraints that assist in decision making and all the work we do.

Michael Lewarne

| Not inclined to stay inside the | lines.

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