welcome to our first-ever ra50—the short list of architects whose work we admire. We know and appreciate a great number of other residential architects, but this collection comprises the ones whose names keep rising to the top—of our design awards programs, of our case studies waiting for a place in the magazine, and of our roster of cover profile subjects.
There are some practitioners here who’ve come to our attention through sheer talent and dedication alone—well, maybe just one: Glenn Murcutt. The rest have combined undeniable talent with hard work, and, yes, self-promotion. That self-promotion may only take the form of entering—and winning—design competitions, but that effort wins our attention.
Good marketing is an imperative these days. Architects can no longer get by with just a listing in the Yellow Pages, as one well-known practitioner once told me he did. Come to think of it, his practice has largely evaporated.
Very few architects have clients lined up at their doors anymore. But it’s quite possible people are already Googling you as part of the screening process. When was the last time you updated your website? Is your most current work there—including your on-the-boards projects? Do the photos enlarge, or are they tiny thumbnails no one can see? Do you make your visitors chase phantom images before they can click on anything (i.e., have you abandoned Flash yet)? Is everything organized in a coherent, accessible way?
Your website is your gateway to new clients. As such, it should convey important clues about the personality of your firm, your aesthetic, and your values—not politics and religion, but mission and philosophy. And if your client base is largely first-timers, I’d also suggest a primer on process—the phases of design and how (if not how much) you are usually compensated.
I also like bios and photos of the principals and staff. Architecture is such an intimate business, you want to personalize the team behind the work. Especially with residential, I think it’s appropriate to put forth a warm, casual image. So, go ahead and include the office cat or dog. This is your best way to self-publish, with full curatorial control over the image you present to the public.
Another way to self-publish regularly is to start a blog with an online tool like WordPress. You can link to it from your website or incorporate the latest blog entries on your site using an RSS feed. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are easy ways to publish as well. I like Facebook for its nimble handling of photography—a prompt, visual way to promote your work. With Twitter, you can establish a tone and buzz about your firm, and often get the attention of other media. Some firms have left these tasks to their young associates or interns. That’s fine, but you need to make sure they’re representing the firm appropriately.
LinkedIn is a good way to get our attention as well. We have our own group for residential architect and, at the request of our members (more than 900 of them), we’ve limited it to actual practitioners so frank conversations can take place.
We all have to think beyond our comfort zones these days. We have skills and add value to whatever we take on—as long as we give it our best effort. But the first step is letting everyone know you are out there and what you can do.
Comments? E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.