• Want to be a Starchitect? Come, Sit Down and Listen

As architects we are all speculators, admirers of the greater of us, the ones that make the rest of us look bad. The Starchitects. They are the ones with all the answers, the pristine, wrapped up in magic adorned solutions to simple problems and complex ones. Whilst they seem more connected than ever to the architectural profession, the rest of us seem more atomized and dislocated than ever. These are Francis Diebedo Kere, David Chipperfield, Kunle Adeyemi, David Adjaye, Zaha Hadid… So what is the secret? What makes an architect and an architectural practice successful? And how is this success measured? Here is a step by step guide to making it in the architecture world.

Enter at least 1 competition per year.
You cannot win if you do not compete. The Architectural Practice Snøhetta of Denmark had an early convergence of events in 1989. Kjetil Thorsen in Norway and Craig Dykers in Los Angeles had independently discussed working on the Egyptian Library of Alexandria Competition together with their mutual colleague Christoph Kapeller from Austria. This group then agreed they would work on the winning entry of the Egyptian Library of Alexandria Competition together as a team. So get into competitions. Its free publicity, costs little and engages the design prowess of the firm. If nothing it may just confirm your ranking in the food chain.


Create Marketing Plan .
As architects we are taught against all our bones not to market our profession. Well I say market, market, market. Plan to attend atleast 1 marketing course per year.Engage in a project that will raise the profile of the company and with that marketing the company indirectly. Kunle Adeyemi has Makoko Iwaya Waterfront Project, Francis Kere has the Gando School. Hold talks and events for the firm like Bjarke Ingels, Thomas Mayne and other notables (read TED Fellows)regularly does. If I do not know who you are, I will wait for a referral to come to your office. So refer me to your office.

Project Publications and Press kits.
In Africa especially, we are culprits of bad library techniques. Have a press kit of any project that passes through the office. A press kit is a package of images, sketches, and brief written description of a project that can be submitted to a media house for publication on moment’s notice. Make sure all projects are well archived and packaged for ease of information dissemination. Also endeavor to publish at-least one publication per year, not a company profile, a publication outlining the practice’s endeavors and philosophies for the year.


70% staff satisfaction. Above all else make sure your employees are happy with you. Yes, no boss is loved, hence the 70 percent lovability margin. Smart is the Partner who irks the associate today and appeases them the next. It is a continuous cycle of love and hate that should in all essence confuse your associate into loving their work without reaching breaking point. That is the trick.

Submit A project per year for an Award or Publication.
See where the press kit thing comes in? This is self-explanatory.

Sign Strategic Partners in Design Build.
A strategic partnership is a formal alliance between two companies, towards a common goal. In short if two architectural firms collaborate in a project, then this forms a strategic partnership. Bjarke Ingels Group, BIG and Jakob Lange recently collaborated with Kilo founder Lars Larsen and Creative director Jonas Hartz in completing the ‘llama‘ a new dining establishment in the Danish capital of Copenhagen. So did Morphosis Architects, Kenya and Lexicon + ION in the College of Insurance Competition and the long standing collaborative relationship between GAPP Architects in South Africa and ARUP engineers. This raises the status of the firm and furthermore infuses new spirit into the firm.

Set a standard Revenue in annual fees. Be ambitious.Say what you want to earn in fees before the year ends. It goes without saying those who want, wish.

Acquire 1 Design Job Worth three times your biggest project. Work towards this. I don’t know how but it goes without saying that it will always keep the firm striving for more, right?

70% of the projects to be delivered within 80% of the design budget.
Seems like a no brainer, right? Whilst most starchitects and successful design firms would want a high paying design job, here is something that goes against that. Give your client a project that is 80percent the cost of what they thought it would be with the same standards they expected. And do this 70percent of the time.

Teach. It is said that a successful individual spends time with people thirty years above and below his age once in a while.Be involved with a design institution, if not directly then circuitously. Many great architects are lecturers in Architecture and design institutions including Francis Kere, Herzog de Meuron Partners, Morphosis Owner Thomas Mayne as was the founding fathers of modern architecture Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus movement and Frank Lloyd Wright with the summer school in Taliesin. Involvement with the student community and occasional lectures keeps one in touch with a different aspect of generational balance.

Sticking it out. You will be surprised how much plans for success we make in a year and what percentage of that we actually stick by. Plan to stick it out because at the end of the day it is all about implementation of these plans.


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