Just add water: architecture startups!

architect as owner. architect as builder. architect as architect.
March 30, 2014, 4:32 pm
Filed under: Startup

The NYC design firm SHoP has been working hard at redefining what an architect does.  Their office started with small boutique projects, kicking off one of the first innovative PS1 installations.  Since then, they’ve grown from doing small boutique projects to being their own developer, their own builder and of course, keeping busy as their own architect.  It’s interesting to watch their evolution and the possibilities that we as architects can make for ourselves.


Here’s an interesting article recently published about them:



A good fit
March 24, 2014, 6:05 pm
Filed under: Startup

shoelittle shoes

Since I started out on my own about three years ago, I had the motto “Say yes to everything” (corollary: say no, to nothing).  To my luck, the work that came my way were pretty similar in style and scope to the work that I was used to — ie: mainly modern, high-end residential.  That’s not to say, I didn’t wish the the budgets were healthier, or the clients less crazy!  but either way, I felt pretty comfortable with the type of work that was coming my way and was happy to be busy, bumbling along.

Recently, a potential client called me through a referral and the words “french chateau” in “Florida” came up in their wish list description.  hm. right…where to begin.  I’m trying to imagine researching stuccos that mimics limestone, and studying the best proportions for a Mansard roof?  It’s hard to keep the design snobbery at bay, but it’s just not what I imagined my portfolio to contain.  It also raises the other questions of not just being outside my skill sets (how the f* do you detail those ornate turret toppings?), but thinking of where I want to be in 5yrs? 10yrs from now? How do I stay on track to the portfolio I want with projects that are not leading in that direction?  Committing to this now may take a year or two out from projects that may be a better fit– and what are the risks to that?

Then there’s just the financial equation that comes into play.  Money is money- whether it comes in the shape of a Mansard or Flat Roof.

Have you guys been encountering this?  What were the issues you were debating between?


Pickin’ up new skillz
March 11, 2014, 2:04 am
Filed under: Startup

toolboxRunning an architecture firm requires being able to do a lot of different things — making presentation drawings (whether that’s making models, 3d renderings, handsketches, whatever the medium!) to construction drawings, to understanding contracts and scheduling to billing invoices.   It requires a lot of skills.  There’s a lot of great resources online to supplement those skills that you need to learn —

Here’s a few places that I’ve seen that are helpful:

Is there a place where you’re picking up new skillz?  Any sites that were helpful that you’d share with us? pls do!

*wince* the come to Jesus moment
March 5, 2014, 8:07 pm
Filed under: Startup

Today, I did the thing that we’re supposed to be doing regularly for the first time since I’ve started out on my own….I actually took into account all the billings vs. the expenses.  *wince*  It sounds ridiculous to only now just begin to look at the overall financial picture, but to be honest, I’ve been too busy working as an architect, and not as a business person.  While I wasn’t in the red, I certainly wasn’t making a lot of money last year.   I was continually getting paid each month with a reasonable fees that I deluded myself into believing that the net $$$ was all working out, peachy-keen.  The thing that I wasn’t really paying attention to is all the larger lump sum fees that you pay per year or the small things like your cell phone that really add up  your overhead:

    • Professional affiliation membership fees
    • Liability Insurance
    • Transportation
    • phone & internet (even if this is your personal phone used for business)
    • webhosting & email
    • health insurance
    • meals while at site visits, with clients, with potential clients…
    • marketting materials
    • rent
    • accounting services
    • lawyer fees, if any consultation

Soon you realize that being an architect seems to be less lucrative than working at the local drug store!  *sigh*  This was a good eye opener to really itemize all those bills and make sure that the future projections actually yield a profit.  (say wha?!)

This guy breaks it down for you: