Going it Alone

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Travelling from Walthamstow to East India Dock wasn’t a joyous commute and an hour into the early morning journey I was questioning my reasons for signing up to an event about starting an architecture firm. I’ve no intention on setting up an architecture firm. It seemed to be a curious choice on my part.

‘Going it Alone’ was the first event by Start Arch. a group led by White Red Architects with Trampery Republic to discuss some of the issues facing emerging practices. I wanted to understand how start-ups approached branding, luckily for me this was a recurring theme. The room was full of driven people offering advice to their peers and what’s not to like about that?

Dicky Lewis of White Red Architects, Julian de Metz of DMFK and Adrian Friend of Friend and Company shared their top tips for those ‘going it alone’. Here are some key points:

  • Go to architecture events – the architectural community will offer advice and a good network will share jobs that others are unable to take on
  • Form an environment that makes you happy – do you dream of being a sole practitioner working in a loft studio or are you planning to create a large international practice? Create a business with your preferred working environment in mind
  • Think about your branding early – some start-ups hire branding agencies before they have completed a single job. Your messaging should reflect how you wish to be perceived
  • Be experimental when working on small-scale projects – ideas developed on small jobs can be revisited on large-scale bids and competitions
  • Don’t shy away from PR – new work can come from the most unlikely places, get as much exposure as possible
  • Value your design work – low-fee exciting projects can help build your brand but make sure they are worthwhile
  • Take on a range of projects – even high-profile architects take on boring projects, they just don’t shout about them

When I hired architects many people from outside the industry thought it was extravagant but Grey Griffiths Architects saved me money long-term. I’m interested in seeing how the next generation of architects build their brand and how, as an industry, we communicate the value of good design. ‘Going it Alone’ emphasised that architecture is not just about buildings it’s about people, branding and business too. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next from Start Arch.

Start Arch was held at Trampery Republic workspace. Photographer: Robyn Leonie

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