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How to become a famous architect


It may not bring you riches or provide a gateway into high society, but if fame is what you truly want, the procedure is quite simple

Becoming a famous architect shouldn’t take too long, but don’t expect too much. It’s not a passport to riches, nor an introduction to high society. But if it’s what you want, here’s how to do it.

First, pay a visit to any well-stocked newsagent. Buy one copy of each design magazine you see there. You will use these to find out what not to do.

Now go to your local remaindered-book store. Buy a copy of a design book with lots of pictures. Not only is the remaindered store cheaper, but its stock is between 10 to 15 years old. These are the least fashionable and so most shocking of all styles. You will use this book to copy your new designs from.

A name that is punchy, arty, and a little stupid should do

On the way home, choose a name for your cutting-edge design firm. Something punchy, arty, and a little stupid should do. There are not too many rules about this but make sure it doesn’t include ‘urban’ or ‘studio’. Your name will present an efficient image, suggesting an office in a fashionable part of town and a committed workforce. No one will know you are really operating out of your bedroom.

Now that you have a name, you need a project. It must be a radical design of a house, and it needs a catchy title. Pick a popular word or phrase, then add ‘house’ to the end of it. If it sounds good, it is good.

Scan in some of the pictures from your new book. Scan in some other pictures you like. Stick them together in the latest version of Photoshop. Play around until you get a nice picture that you can believe in. Check that it doesn’t look too much like the pictures in your magazines.

You won’t have to design a building for at least 10 years

Now it’s time to develop your mystique. This is all-important, because it is what you are selling. Remember, you won’t have to design a building for at least 10 years, and in this time you will live off your mystique – so make it good. Mystique is what you say, and the way that you say it.

If you come from continental Europe, great. If you don’t, pretend you do. Mystique should also suggest revolutionary politics and French philosophy. Don’t talk about these things directly as it never makes good copy and will only confuse you.

In order to alert the media, you must write a press release. This should be full of your mystique, good copy, and have your telephone number on it.

Design journalists are desperate for anything interesting

Know your audience: journalists. It’s important to remember that design journalists are desperate for anything interesting. This is because architecture is mainly boring. So be interesting. Make outlandish claims; tell them everything they know is wrong. Most of all, be prepared to have a radical opinion on anything that may crop up in conversation. They will print it and thank you.

Remember to insult the great and the good of the architecture world. No, it won’t win you any friends, and they’ll bear a grudge till the end of times, but it makes good copy and contributes to your mystique.

Email your press release to the magazines.The addresses will be in the magazines you bought earlier.

No rest yet, because you must now prepare the packs that you will send out. You will be too busy answering the inevitable calls over the next few days, so do it now.The pack should contain your new picture and a radical design statement (see how useful developing that mystique was!)

When the phone starts ringing, you know what to do: use your cutting-edge firm’s name, your exciting new house title, and your fascinating mystique to full effect. When the phone stops ringing, make a digital folder of your project packs and Wetransfer them out.

Now it’s time to relax. Head on down to a fashionable architects’ bar (you will recognise it by its converted industrial look, expensive bar snacks, and people wearing strange glasses). Enjoy yourself, but remember your mystique! All you need to do now is remember to buy the magazines that you feature in.


Readers' comments (7)

  • Guys guys! you've forgotten a few key points:
    1. Be in London - anywhere else will see right through you, especially the North.
    2. Be born into an upper middle class family, preferably in Camden or such, have parents who are in publishing, media or academia.
    3. Have friends who work in media - at least AJ and AR, Channel 4 and it doesn't hurt for your kids to go to the same lovely organic bijou private playgroup as commissioning editors for BBC2 and 4.
    4. Marry well....at least the daughter of a multi millionaire, (Even better - one who owns an original Piet Mondrian bought when the artist was starving for a song of course). Aristocratic connections are good too.
    5. Try and lose sh*tloads of money and go spectacularly bankrupt at least once - but, and I cannot stress this enough, you still need to live in an expensive mews property through the generosity of friends (clearly not in architecture - after all they need to have money!).

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  • Don't forget to mention 'Award Winning' on your website - I'm amazed there are still three UK practices who steadfastly refuse to say this....duh!

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  • Paul, give yourself a break, take the dog for a walk, maybe. Have a holiday or do a bit of gardening, you'll feel better.

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  • Wow - thanks for the sage advice Alan. Maybe you should become a counsellor or therapist, you've clearly got a gift for empathy and insight.

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  • The most amusing thing about this article are the comments from Paul Iddon, who either assumes that all architects are male, or that readers of the AJ are all male..

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  • Mark - Only a man could make such an assumption ;-)
    ps have you actually read what I said....maybe Irony is not part of the architect's vocabulary any more?

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  • I'm sure AJ is only too happy people are actually reading it.

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