There’s a certain rare feeling that all architects share once they leave school: they don’t know what they know. Design? Not really. Technical details? You’ll need a specialist for that. Can you build this from scratch? I still need some practice. So, what do you really know?
In this article, we’ll share six skills that you learned as an architect that you probably aren’t even aware of.
The Ability of Abstraction
To even begin a project, you need to have the ability of completely abstract spatial reasoning to get a clear idea of the tri-dimensional components needed to fill an empty space or to undergo a remodeling. You can see this way of thinking in any architectural design that contains a considerable quantity of information. It’s a challenge for many people to grasp abstract thought, but for architects, to create an abstract idea of physical space, put it on paper, and be able to explain it is all in a day’s work.
Understanding the Multi-Dimensional Quality of Life that a Space Can Offer
There’s a world of difference between the basic refuges of our ancestors and the dwellings of today. Living spaces per se don’t satisfy all of our needs, and as architects, we understand the quality of life as a multi-dimensional analysis. Everything from lighting, placement, scale, proportions, colors, materials, ventilation, isolation, structure, and textures are taken into consideration. The same goes for urban planning as well: a plaza won’t serve by just being a plaza, but because there are a number of invisible variables considered by all involved to ensure its success.
The idea of the all-powerful architect has done us a lot of harm as professionals. It was a burst of confidence, rather than ability: the capacity to integrate different disciplines and stages, to understand that a good design doesn’t stop: to sell your idea, to plan your construction, to understand your design, and to combine specialties. Sure, this was a way to lift the self-esteem of architects of the past, but today we know that this kind of talk doesn’t get you anywhere.
Society won’t give you a pass just for being an architect. Architecture is as much about negotiation and integration as it is about creation. You need to converse with clients, builders, and specialists. Every one of them brings something important to the table and this is why architects need soft skills for presenting projects, integrating ideas, and accepting modifications.
If you’ve talked with someone from the business world lately, it’s likely they’ve mentioned design thinking to you without even knowing that you’re an architect. It’s a concept that comes directly from our line of work. “Maybe it’s the way of thinking and integration -what we call a project- that includes an enormous quantity of information that begins with a single blank sheet. This is what makes us the object of observation from other fields,” said Spanish architect Juan Herreros during a visit to Chile in 2016 in his talk about “Design Thinking,” a methodology that can be found throughout the field of innovation.
Last, but not least, is design. You don’t have to be Leonardo DaVinci to come up with an impeccable design, but it is fundamental that an architect be able to illustrate their concepts via layout, be it by hand or computer; however, knowing how to draw offers a multitude of benefits, especially when paired with technical thinking. The two are fundamental throughout the design process, from the blueprints to the first laid cornerstone. Furthermore, it’s always a plus for clients to see hand-drawn work. It makes your idea look even more brilliant!