Click to enter complete search
The future of the Architect
Jorge Ponce
28th November 2018

We have all seen the reports anticipating how different professions will be affected by the digital tsunami.

All this analysis concludes that workers with fewer qualifications will be directly replaced by machines - something that is already happening.

We can see this in McDonald’s with food now being ordered directly from a screen and in a couple of years, presumably, taxis will be replaced by autonomous vehicles and what then for taxi drivers?

So how is this process going to affect Architects?

Apparently highly creative professions will be more resilient and their employability rate will resist the worst effects of digitalisation. Despite this, many young architects are desperately upgrading their skillsets rather than choosing to develop their creative attitude. The reality is that being like machines is not the right way to beat them.

Although it is quite true that architecture is a hybrid discipline between creativity, science and technology, the latter is a natural field for machines, and I’m convinced that it is here where we will find the biggest professional replacement. Architects wanting to survive the digital tsunami must reinforce the creative side of the profession. Having this premise in mind, here are my seven tips to last a bit longer as an Architect – although of course, I have no idea for how long!

#1 Be a specialist in one field of design

Architects training tends to follow the Renaissance model, therefore we usually think we are capable of developing all kind of projects. What is really happening is the market is getting tougher every day, and developers demand a very specific knowledge in each sector. If we lack specialisation, we will not be able to go that necessary step beyond.

Given the competitiveness among studios and the pressure on fees, it’s fair to highlight that there are specific sectors in which specialisation is a must. In my case, retail specialisation has been crucial to assure the continuity of work and our visibility in front of other international studios.

#2 Domesticate your ego

The star architect, prototype of the Renaissance, died in the 20th Century. We are heading now towards more collaborative, flexible and horizontal ways of working where humility is the most important personal principle. It is imperative to recognise and assume others works and ideas, and to conceive projects as collective efforts in which we are only one part of the solution.

#3 Make freehand drawings – use your humanity

In this era of CAD and BIM renders, it becomes impossible to know who did what. The human track has disappeared beneath a mountain of vectors, layers and families. All drawings have the same author: the machine. In this context, the Architect, keen to take a marker in front of the client and to start drawing by hand a design solution, becomes the king of the party and gains the client’s confidence forever.

Universities are no longer encouraging drawing skills and subsequently young professionals tend to identify architecture with new technologies and eventually feel incapable to face the fear of a blank sheet of paper.

In our studio, projects start with a design workshop, developed in situ. It represents two or three days work, in which designers make freehand drawings until we arrive at the option preferred by the client. Workshops are intensive sessions with two objectives: to establish the basis of the concept design and to drive the relationship with the client to a level of understanding that makes the rest of the phases easy.

#4 Your team is your best project

I do believe that the difference between a good and a bad project depends on the human team behind it. To create an integrated team, with the necessary specialists within, is the best guarantee for succeed. An architect on his/her own has not enough knowledge to satisfy all the requirements a project demands.

The work of interior designers, landscapers, graphic and lighting designers is essential in the architectural process. It’s also very important to arrange an agreement with an engineering firm providing a wide scope of services. And, finally, to have a good technical architect, transforming ideas into costs and ensuring good constructive solutions, is critical. To have a team like this is the most important project of every architect.

#5 Build your personal digital brand

The digital world is absolutely focused in feeding the mainstream with content. Every day architects produce information that might be interesting for other people. A sketch, photo or detail are enough to create a post every day, and to gain presence and reputation.

An especially important network is LinkedIn, where it is easy to connect with an audience of like-minded professionals and receive real-time feed-back. The only requirement is to establish a daily routine. The results will come immediately with unknown people commenting your work because of the posts you have uploaded.

#6 Keep training forever

To keep professionally updated and to be interested is an endless process. It’s not only a matter of postgrad studies, a good option for recent architects or young professionals when they have the money to pay for it. We have many options to follow courses on line and to learn absolutely everything. The main reason to be awake and updated is to maintain a curious and reflexive attitude in everything we do, combining this with a daily routine of reading.

We’re living in a time of changes and uncertainty. Our clients are also worried about their business continuation in a volatile environment, bombarded with disruptive technological innovations. In a context like this, answers are required, and the one who knows how to illuminate the road with new ideas and thoughts is rapidly adopted as an influencer by his/her professional circle

#7 Keep laughing

Above all else, we are lucky because a week of toil always culminates with the weekend. That is the moment to relax our minds and let our imagination fly. In my case, I get transformed into “Smart Architect”, a character in a saga of graphic e-books with whom I enjoy subjecting to everything from humour to Surrealism.

Have a read and hopefully by Monday we can laugh together. That way no robot will ever beat you.

*Jorge presented his ideas on the future architect at an event at the Roca Gallery in Barcelona