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.

I write here with more questions than answers, and these questions were provoked by a tweet by Jennifer Crawford highlighting the extent some people may go to avoid architectural services.

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.

Here’s why it might be time to start changing the boundaries and narratives and why they matter.

Kodak developed the first handheld digital camera in 1975. They failed to…

Picture by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels

Patience in Slow Time

The practice of Architecture, particularly Landscape Architecture, is a slow march. The design and approvals process is always an extended period, construction takes time and once completed the design, as conceived, may not be realised for years, while materials patina or plants grow.

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…

Picture by Skylar Kang on Pexels [cropped]

Constraint by Design

How might we set constraints by design, in order to make practice better and easier for ourselves? Constraints to assist in decision making and assist us in the work we do.

One of the most widely published type designers, Matthew Carter, is keen on saying that designing type involves a billion possibilities. Asserting that you can halve the possibilities by deciding between serif and sans serif and halve it again by deciding the font weight and so on. After a few more decisions, style defined, letters oval or square, and so on, the possibilities may have reduced to the thousands…

Picture by Life Of Pix on Pexels

Thinking Around Corners

Even 35 years after construction, the lifts in the Lloyds of London building may still be the most seductive lifts of any in the world. They work not just because they’re the most elegantly resolved glass and stainless steel box slinking off the side of any building south of the arctic circle, but because they make sense of an irregular site and pander to pure rectangles of unadulterated floor space. Lord Rogers makes it look so alluring and easy.

It is less common for lift cores to be routinely glamorous. They disagreeably charge through the competing wrestlers of car park…

Picture by Ming-Cheng Wu on Pexels [cropped]

Sine qua non

Sine qua non: is an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient. It was originally a Latin legal term for “[a condition] without which it could not be”, or “but for…” or “without which [there is] nothing”[1]

As an architect I lamented (tongue in cheek) about the four ‘c’-words: Clients, Codes, Consultants and Councils. They led too often to the often onerous ‘c’-words: Conditions, Constraints and Caution. Tongue in cheek because there are two sides, their imposition is both blessing and curse. Architects often do their best work under considerable constraints, working harder to come up with more remarkable solutions…

Image by Ben Lodge on Pexels [cropped]

Design as Decision Making

It goes without saying that the design process is a decision making process but do architects make their important decisions by design?

Effective decision making is a process. A process with clear steps and like design, the outcome of the decision is not guaranteed.

  • Effective decision making starts with a level of uncertainty.
  • In response to uncertainty options are generated. They might be risky or extreme and complex.
  • An evaluation process of options follows. Assessing them in comparison to some boundaries or values that have been predetermined.
  • Feedback may be sought about various or all options, further informing the options…

Image by Gleb Vasylynka on Pexels [cropped]

Assimilation of the Design Brief

Without a good Design Brief you might as well make it up as you go along.

The Brief is central every design. It sets you up for success.

There’s a skill to assimilating all the client’s requirements into a comprehensive and coherent document. A good Brief covers the basic design requirements as well as high order requirements too. Becoming an evaluation and reference tool in the design process.

In its basic form the Brief might consist of three lists: the minimum requirements or Must Have, the Nice to Have and the In Our Dreams We Also Have (not to be…

Michael Lewarne

| Not inclined to stay inside the | lines.

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