I think I am the only Professor of Architectural Communications in the world. Each February and July I spend an enjoyable week lecturing to a very bright group of international students who are taking a Master’s Degree in Architectural Management at the IE School of Architecture in Madrid, run in conjunction with the top-ranking IE Business School.
The basic idea behind the course is that entrepreneurial and business skills are essential for architectural practice and, contrary to what many designers seem to think, do not necessarily hamper creativity - indeed such skills can give practices greater opportunity to release their creative juices.
In my experience - which now goes back some 40-odd years - most of the successful architects I know have been good at communicating what they do. When I was a young editor at Architectural Design magazine small practices like Foster Associates, Richard Rogers and Partners, Farrell and Grimshaw were knocking at our door to get their projects published. The way they presented their work showed that they understood the essentials of communications and marketing. They came in with top quality photographs, drawings that would reproduce well and well-written text that we could understand. There were other, equally talented designers, who did not have the same understanding, about whom one hears little these days.
Successful architects clearly need other skills as well, but I am convinced that the ability to communicate is key to getting new work, winning pitches, maintaining a high profile and explaining proposals to critical communities. I am continually surprised that it does not form a more significant part of most architecture school’s curricula.
A few years ago the IE School held a round table with senior partners of large London practices in order to promote the MAMD course. At the end of the presentation there was a unanimous response from the assembled architects that they needed such a course themselves as they felt they were short on sophisticated business skills. Yet despite this response, despite the fact that students attend the course from around the world - Venezuela, Uruguay, New Zealand, Syria, Lebanon, Canada, Belgium and Germany - the number of UK offices supporting their staff to attend has been virtually non-existent. Which is a pity.
I often feel that architects here look down on commercial skills, rather than embracing them and using them to get themselves better jobs and to enjoy the freedoms they bring. Maybe I’m not the only Professor doing this stuff, but if there are any others they haven’t communicated the fact to me, yet.