Advice to graduating architecture students

Everyone is free (to practice architecture)
An adaptation of Baz Lurhmann’s sunscreen song: Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen) by Loza

“Architecture students of 2015: Continue sketching

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sketching would be it.

The long terms benefits of sketching have been proven by architects, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own architectural experience …

I will present this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your architecture; oh never mind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your architecture until you’ve been in practice.   But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at your dissertation and recall in a way you can’t juxtapose now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous your theories really were …

You’re not as dull as you imagine.

Don’t worry about planning permission; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as submitting a planning application without drawing elevations.   The real troubles with your planning application are being considered by a planning officer who has no understanding of what good design is or whether it looks any different at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.

Design one thing everyday that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other architect’s designs.   Don’t put up with architects that are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time forever designing;   sometimes your design is great, sometimes it is not.   Practising as an architect is long and in the end, who knows if you’ll be a ‘STarchitect’.

Remember the awards you receive, forget the criticism.   If you succeed in doing this tell me how.

Keep your old drawings.   Throw away your student loan statements.

Self crit.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what sector you want to work in.   The most interesting architects I know didn’t know at 22 what sector they wanted to work in.   Some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of CPD.

Be kind to your pens, you’ll miss them when they are gone.

Maybe you’ll practice, maybe you won’t.   Maybe you’ll have LLP, maybe you won’t.   Maybe you’ll be sued at 40, maybe you’ll dance at the architect’s ball after graduation day.   Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either.

Your awards are half chance, so are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your designs.   Use them every way you can.   Don’t be afraid of them or what other people think of them.   They are the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Paint, even if you keep the canvases for yourself.

Read the building contracts, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not look up the young architect of the year nominations, they will only make you feel unable to design.

Get to know your clients.   You never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your contemporaries; they’re your best link to your past and most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that clients come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on.

Work hard to design the spaces between buildings because the more you practice the more important it will seem than before you were qualified.

Visit New York City once, but leave before it makes you modern.   Visit Florence once, but leave before it makes you classical.


Accept certain inalienable truths: fees will rise, planners will miss good design, you too will get old.   And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you qualified; wages were reasonable, planners were helpful and staff respected their mentors.

Respect your mentors.

Don’t expect anyone else to like your designs.   Maybe you’ll win an award, maybe you’ll have a successful partnership.   But you never know when one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your designs or by the time you submit it will look in keeping.

Be careful whose architecture you support, but be patient with those who design it.   Architecture is a form of history.   Designing is a way of flicking through a Banister Fletcher, picking out a few pages, tearing out the bad design and re-modelling the good like it was your own.

But trust me on the sketching.”




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