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Manual for Emerging Architects

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In an uncertain world, this could be just what you need to take the right step forward, writes Kay Hughes, principal of Khaa

The coeditor of this book, Silvia Forlati of Share Architects, grabbed my attention at The Architecture Foundation’s seminar ‘And the winner is’ in March.

At the same seminar, Jeremy Till berated the RIBA for competitions that demanded, he estimated, more time to be spent on entries than the value of the commissions’ build cost. But Silvia, with a mix of research and down-to-earth analytical evaluation, was more optimistic – despite a Wonderland survey that revealed practices spent an average of 569 hours per competition.

Her editorship of this book has led her to a seemingly wary but realistic view of the issues faced by emerging architects. Gathered from a wide range of sources, the book is a mix of firsthand advice, surveys and practice information – a pragmatic guide to the realities of running a small architectural office in the 21st century.

Wonderland is a group of small European practices that want to share knowledge. This book provides a snapshot of the status quo from the ‘easyJet generation’ of architects emerging from the 1990s.

It begins with the macro considerations of where, and how, to set up. For example, avoid Italy – it has the highest density of architects in the world! A ‘What to Do’ section offers guidance on the top 10 things that go wrong (No 1 was office financing in case you’re wondering) and how to deal with mistakes, while the third part ‘How to Keep Up’ gives useful advice on promotion, media presence and specialisation.

A mix of tough statistics and helpful firsthand advice from the Wonderland network, this book neatly sidesteps the current domineering project management take on practice. Instead, it uses colourful diagrams and graphics alongside authentic experiences and playful thinking.

Easily navigable, it offers real-life advice on areas often glossed over in education. What are the chances of getting a commission by winning a competition? Personal contacts are actually much more effective. What about losing a client and the rude awakening as the euphoria of a commission wanes and blame steps in? Or crisis communication? Yes there’s advice on that too.

The book opens a platform for informed decision making in a changing world. Follow the white rabbit and you will find relevant facts and thoughts from your peers.

Manual for Emerging Architects
Ed. Wonderland, Silvia Forlati, Anne Isopp
Springer; 2012, 352 pages, hardback, £33.28


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