We all have those moments in our professional life when we ask that question from ourself : “Am I happy in my current career?” The answer to this question could be a big realization. We might already know that there is another project or job that we are passionate about or we just know that we need a change! And obviously it feels safer to stay in our comfort zone and keep going with the area that we’re more experienced and feel more secured financially. But it is important to know that it pays off to take sometime off and give ourself time to figure out a purpose and update our skills. It is even more important in professions, such as architecture which are ever evolving with the advances in technology. Also we often don’t get the chance to work on a passion architectural project that we’ve been long developing in our mind either in practice or in academia.
This year I decided to give myself some time and invest in developing a more strategic plan for my architectural career and focus on practice practice-based research projects. At first it felt daunting financially and professionally to give this time on starting these projects from scratch and try to update my digital skills. After few months of dedicated work on different areas of my short and long term plan and while I’m still in the process of getting closer to my long term plans, I can now see how this time has already improved my professional skills. As the future of architecture education and practice is changing with a fast pace, I’m really glad to have invested this time on my academic and design skills as I can now use this invaluable experience in my architectural research, teaching and practice. In this blog, I decided to share some of my findings so far, which I hope would be as much helpful to you as they have been for myself:
1. Find out where your passion is;
If you don’t already know what type of project or job inspires you and makes you a better professional, take sometime to figure that out. You might even find out that your passion exists in a different field outside architecture but trust this calling and follow your intuition. It is also important to make sure that our interest benefits the wider community, either public or the in architecture and develop a “We” mindset. That is where the true satisfaction will come from and you will receive as much as you contribute.
I already knew my deep interest in practice-based research in architecture and based on my previous experience in architecture, sensory and atmosphere, I was interested to find out how such alternative strategies can be implemented in multi-residential design and impact the mental and physical wellness of the community. Coming from a Persian background with ancient heritage, I am also deeply interested in the role of pre/historical narratives and heritage in shaping contemporary architecture practice. And in fact these two areas became my main drive for developing my current practice-based research projects.
2. Develop a vision/ strategic plan and communicate it;
We often get asked about our plans for the next 3 to 5 years in job interviews and may have to come up with a standard type of response to convince the employers about our suitability for the role. The exciting thing about working toward or in something that you are passionate about is that you can easily draw a purposeful vision board and translate your ambitions into strategic moves for development of the project. So, think of different channels for moving the project forward, such as publishing, networking through social media, speaking and attending in different events, voluntary jobs, etc. Remember to always write down your ideas and keep revising your Mind-maps for short and long term plans. Because of my interest in practice-based research I needed to communicate my ideas with industry, government and other academics as well as the wider community through networking, speaking and attending in conferences, symposiums and public events, blogging and doing voluntary jobs.
3. Find mentors and ask for help;
It is important to find the right people and ask for help. So, find mentors who inspire you and you find them successful in the areas that you’re interested in. You also learn how to be more vulnerable and talk about your ambitions and weaknesses with others. And always remember to be appreciative and grateful and offer help to others instead. I have been lucky to have great mentors such as Professor Hannah Lewi, Dr. Kirsten Day, Dr. Peter Raisbeck and Dr. Heike Rahmann and many other helpful colleagues and friends in architecture or outside the field. I am truly grateful for their help and advice and hope I can be as generous as them to others as well.
4. Update yourself with the latest in AI Technology;
We all know about the revolutionary impact of AI and the BIM technology in architectural design and construction. While programs such as Revit and Archicad have been around for a while, we may have varying levels of familiarity and weaknesses that we know needs improving. Coming from a CAD generation, I could witness the massive change a software such as Revit has made, for instance in informing the design process with construction detail and certain regulatory requirements. I had to improve my BIM skills, particularly due to my focus on practice-based research. While it took me a while to update myself with the latest technology but I found how it has sped up my drawings and diagramming and made my time actually more productive. With this updated knowledge, I am sure it will be even easier and more helpful to communicate and help students with their design projects.
Another super helpful tool that I have been teasing out with, particularly for my conceptual and speculative design and modelling is the Architectural Applications available on iPad and on most other tablets. Below is a list of Apps that I’ve been using recently and enjoying the ease and pace of drawing with them.
- AutoDesk Sketchbook
- AutoDesk Archisketch
- Autodesk FormIt
- PlanGrid construction (great for construction documentation, 30 day free trial)
I still love drawing in paper-based 2D architecture, but have been practicing using digital tools to generate and develop design ideas from scratch. This experience has saved a lot of my time, particularly when working offline or on site where you don’t necessarily have access to your desktop computer and softwares such as Revit or Adobe Suite. While these apps have a different application but they can be pretty useful for quick drawings, diagramming, mappings and viewing or editing conceptual models.
5. Listen to Podcasts;
It has been absolutely motivating for me to listen to podcasts about architecture or to other inspirational speakers. There are many different architecture Podcasts available for free but these are couple of them, which I follow up consistently:
6. Develop a business mindset;
It might be quite challenging financially during this time when you’re still in the process of developing your own projects, so it is important to develop a Business mindset. Try to think about passive sources of income using your skills and expertise, which I have to admit I haven’t been that good at but have been trying to use my skills in other areas of design. Also, save up some money by using free resources such as public libraries, free Workshops, free online training and Youtube channels, etc. It’s also quite refreshing to be immersed in a local community environment, like libraries, where you can understand more about the culture, the quality of space and the way people live in space. A better understanding of the culture of living in different environments is another invaluable benefit of offline working.
7. And finally, look after yourself;
Eat well and do exercise because your mind and body are tightly connected and a healthier life style leads to a stronger brain and gets you closer to your purpose.
If you have any comments or other tips, I would also love to hear about your experiences.