10 New Year’s Resolutions for Architects

Goodbye, good riddance to 2020! These resolutions should motivate your mind and provide fresh inspiration for the new year.

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Hands up, everyone that is happy to see the back of 2020? Yup, us too!

The optimistic vibes brought on by the new year will be felt more strongly than ever, given the tumultuous 12 months we’ve all been through. Of course, architects will be quick to remind you that, despite the welcome arrival of 2021, their daily professional challenges remain. As Monday brings with it more Zoom meetings with clients, consultants, contractors and everyone in between, not to mention late night Revit revisions and the traditional tidal wave of caffeinated beverages, it might feel like a big ask to hit the ground running this new year.

Well, fear not: There’s nothing like a good new year’s resolution to focus the mind and stoke one’s motivation once more. Consider this your guide to injecting fresh impetus into your work, and here’s to a healthy and prosperous 2021!

1. Use 2020 as inspiration for your designs.

The past 12 months have been primarily about survival — as an individual, as a family, as a company. Still, that hasn’t stopped architects from flexing their creative muscles to generate new design solutions, aiming to provide healthier, more robust and more flexible spaces for society.

We’ve seen adaptable apartment layouts to aid those working from home, mobile medical units that can be rapidly deployed to where they are needed, and public spaces that take advantage of our evolving urban landscape. Even as the pandemic subsides, try to maintain your spirit of innovation, exercising those create instincts to that, when the next crisis hits, you are well placed to pioneer positive solutions through design.

Last year’s One Photo Challenge Winners: “Philadelphia Wasteland” by Chris Hytha (left) and “Women Gather” by Bruce Engel (right)

2. Enter a competition … and win!

Design competitions offer an outlet to experiment with radical designs and different modes of representation, providing architects and students alike with an opportunity to break with their usual routine and feel inspired. Three such competitions are hosted by Architizer, with each one asking a simple question: Can you tell a powerful story about architecture with a single image? Register for updates on the competition of your choosing below:

These competitions offer combined prizes of some $15,000 for the winners, as well as global publication for hundreds of the best entries.

3. Keep drawing by hand.

By now, it has become something of a clichéd rallying cry, but the assertion that “drawing isn’t dead” remains as true as ever. Computer renderings have their place — despite an awful lot of bad press in recent times — but for the fluid articulation of ideas and the communication of concepts to clients, nothing beats a good, old-fashioned drawing. Sharpen those pencils and make sure everyone in your studio has one, from director to intern.

Further to this, consider entering the next One Drawing Challenge, an annual drawing competition that lets you rekindle your love for drawing — and potentially win $2,500 in the process! Click here to register for updates.

Upcycled Tiles by Pretty in Plastic, 2020 A+Awards Jury and Popular Choice Winner in the Building Envelopes & Cladding category

4. Experiment with new materials.

With climate change now a constant presence in the minds of designers, it’s critical architects keep abreast of emerging materials and products that help to reduce the environmental impact of construction. Last year’s A+Award winners included acoustic panels made from coffee sacks and shingles crafted from plastic waste, and this year’s program is set to showcase even more material innovations.

Continually research these interesting (and often beautiful) materials, and make sure to impart this newfound wisdom on to your clients. The more they are informed of the environmental impact of their project and the options available to them, the easier it will become to convince them to break with convention and build with something new.

Left: Zaha Hadid Architects’ original proposal for the Tokyo National Stadium courtesy of Methanoia; right: Kengo Kuma’s replacement courtesy of the Japan Sport Council

5. Listen to your local community.

Given the year we’ve just navigated through, it’s more important than ever to listen to our stakeholders. Listening to the views of community groups and local residents will help architects better understand the changing needs of populations as their living and working conditions evolve in the upcoming months.

In a digital age when everyone’s voices can be heard, design is becoming increasingly democratic, and architects will retain their cultural relevance by taking all viewpoints into account. Join your local community groups on Facebook, follow YIMBY, and attend local planning meetings online wherever possible — you’ll be amazed at what you can learn, and how it could inform your designs, particularly in relation to public spaces and civic projects.

Coal Drops Yard by Heatherwick Studio, London, United Kingdom, 2019 A+Award Jury and Popular Choice Winner in the Engineering category

6. Become an adaptive reuse expert.

The pandemic has forced people all over the world to rethink how they live and work — often within the same space. Meanwhile, with many companies shifting to a work-from-home state, millions of square feet of office space have been left vacant. These radical shifts have presented developers with difficult questions — what kinds of homes will dominate future markets, and how can they make those commercial high-rises financially viable in the long term?

It’s up to architects to help their clients turn these challenges into opportunities. Research the world’s best adaptive reuse projects and hone your expertise in this field. Understanding how to transform existing spaces will give you a competitive each in urban centers around the globe — and inform your designs for new constructions, as well.

7. Be a social catalyst.

Many of the world’s crises — from climate change and water scarcity to political and social unrest — impact vulnerable populations that rely on support from international organizations. Be inspired by the work of firms like MASS Design Group and nonprofit ARCHIVE Global, and explore initiatives that have a positive social impact this year. Who knows — perhaps your efforts can net your firm an A+Award in the Architecture +For Good category (sign up for A+Award updates here).

Design Like You Give a Damn 2: Building Change from the Ground Up by Cameron Sinclair, Architecture for Humanity

8. Read more.

With the working hours that architects tend to keep, it can prove difficult to keep your eyes open long enough for a bedtime read. However, if you can allocate only 10 minutes of quiet time to flick through a few pages at the end of each day, you’ll be amazed at the new ideas and fresh inspiration that can be found. If you’re not sure where to start, check out this list of 10 essential books for architecture students — these should be on the bookshelf of every fully-fledged architect as well.

9. Speak up for what you stand for.

The best architects tend to let their designs do the talking, and will undoubtedly continue to do so throughout 2021. However, there is also great value to be found in conversation, whether that is via a live stream on Facebook, a virtual seminar hosted by your local university, or even a TED Talk by the likes of Thomas Heatherwick, Bjarke Ingels or Architizer’s own Marc Kushner.

Architects can communicate their values and promote great design by telling stories, encouraging people to ask questions about the built environment that surrounds them. Sometimes — just sometimes — it’s good to talk.

High Line, New York, USA; photo Studio Dubuisson

10. Embrace local architecture.

2020 ruined the travel plans of people around the world, and architects — being afflicted by wanderlust more than most — will have felt this hard. Thankfully, with COVID–19 vaccines on their way, the prospects for travel are looking brighter, for the second half of 2021 at least.

Until it’s safe to go further afield, take time to explore local architecture on foot. Beyond the well-known landmarks, cities like New York are full of hidden gems just waiting for you to cast your critical eye over. Start with a simple walk around the block, and hopefully you can take flight later this year!

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Top image via The Huffington Post

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