6 Types of Architects Will Lead Architecture in The Future

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As a seismic shift is changing the design and construction industry, the design skill alone is not enough anymore to lead architecture. The industry is looking for a leader and the future architect is in the best position to be one.

In this post, I will present three major categories of leadership in architecture: design leadership, educational leadership, and project leadership. In each category, you will find at least two ways to lead architecture.

Does leading architecture mean being an star designer or is there more in it?

These questions can be debated until the end of the time; However, for this post, I will advocate that although the design itself is a pretty broad field, architecture is much more than that.

In my opinion, leading architecture is about the delivery of a built environment to serve the users’ purpose.

To elaborate on the delivery of a built environment- it encompasses funding, site acquisition, programming, procurement, design, construction, and commissioning of the project within a certain time frame and a budget.

If you disagree, please do me a favor- share your good thoughts in the comments section below to start a conversation.

Someone said that design represents about 10 percent of the entire body of architecture. I will reveal who said that later on in this post as an incentive to read this article.

If the architect is doing 10 percent of architecture, who is doing the rest?

I hope you won’t be shocked to realize that 90% of architecture is anything but design and mostly lead by the people who wanted to be the leaders. These leaders comprise the owner, the construction manager, and the design-builder.

Interestingly many of these leaders are also architects and really passionate about design.

Since architecture includes matters from funding to commissioning, it needs many experts and stakeholders to be engaged and managed. Therefore, whoever wishes to deliver an architectural project must know how to lead the experts and stakeholders collaboratively.

Here are the six ways to lead architecture in 2020 and beyond that, the future architect may choose from:

A) Lead Architectural Design As a Star Architect

The most likely reason you want to be a Star Architect is that you want to take on design leadership. You want to be known for a certain design style or strategy and that is a great goal as an architect. Many students of architecture dream about being a Star Architect, and you may be one of those.

It certainly needs extraordinary talent and hard work to be a Star Architect!

Some may say the Star Architects are born not created. Arguably, that may be true for Super Star Architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Richard Rogers, or Zaha Hadid, but it’s a different story to be a Star Architect at the local level or even national level.

There are certain traits you will find common among Star Architects and if you can figure those out and try to master them, most likely you will succeed.

While you are in senior year in school or just graduated, that is the time you should start planning to build yourself as a Star Architect.

The first thing you should do right out of the gate is to work at one or two Star Architects’ offices for a few years and learn as much as you possibly can.

Second, once you feel that you have learned enough from the Star Architects you worked for, open your own firm and start building your own brand. If you continue working for firms, you will never be a star architect. Because in order to build your brand, you will be doing a lot of design experimenting above and beyond normal practice that firms do not have the budget for.

Third, learn how to market your design to clients. Get published. There is a funny article about how to become a famous architect that was published a few years ago in Architect’s Journal. You may learn some fun tips on how to get published, but don’t take this article too seriously. Here is another article from Archinect on how to get published.

Lastly, enter in a lot of design competitions until you figure out how to win. This will give you a moral boost. Last year Arch Daily magazine published an article on how to win architectural design competitions, it’s a good read.

Keep in mind that trying to be a Star Architect comes with an equal amount of financial risks and rewards.

B) Lead Architectural Design As Collaborative Design Architects

If you are looking for a sure success path to be a design leader, be a collaborative one that takes advantage of design input from the contractor and the owner. You could do this by having your own firm or working for firms. You can be a collaborative design leader anytime in your career, but sooner you can start preparing for it is better.

The first thing you need to do is to learn about leadership. Know that a good leader creates followers, but a great leader creates new leaders. You need to do the latter. In order to lead, you must be able to promote other designers and their ideas and provide due credit where they belong, instead of competing with them.

Second, find out opportunities for collaborative design. You will notice that the typical Design-Bid-Build delivery model projects do not offer this opportunity. Design collaboration among architect, contractor, and owner mostly happens in Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and in Design-Build.

For IPD insights, you may read this book titled “Integrated Project Delivery” by multiple expert authors and also read LeanIPD blog site by James Pease.

Look for architectural or construction firms that work in these two delivery models offer for this opportunity. During the interview, you must ask these questions to know what you are signing up for.

Third, learn public speaking. You will need this skill to make design presentations at client and community levels. he easiest way to achieve this skill is to be a member of the Toastmaster Club in your locality.

Lastly, learn collaborative decision making. It will be handy while you are leading design charrettes and making a lot of design decisions. A great book you can read about the subject is written by Sam Kaner and titled “Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making”

Indeed leading collaborative design is one of the great ways to lead architecture.

C) Lead Architectural Education As a Professor

The most brilliant students become educators, and they help build new generations in society. That’s why the future architect can be at the highest level of leading architecture by teaching the things the other future architect needs to learn and shine.

The first thing you need to do is to get some real-life experience on various project delivery models by working for architects’ offices or have your own practice.

Secondly, research on project delivery models to know the challenges and opportunities for the future architect. Collaborate with the school of construction management if possible.

Thirdly, research on design leadership and how can someone be a collaborative design leader. I mentioned one way in this post, but there must be more than one ways to lead design.

Lastly, develop and deliver career and leadership related courses to guide the future architect.

One could also follow the path of Professor Mark Anderson of UC Berkeley who is a licensed architect and contractor.

D) Lead Architectural Education As a Blog Publisher

If you know a lot about anything in architecture, you can spread your knowledge and wisdom by writing and influence the future architect! Writing is a great way to lead the leaders of architecture. The writers are regularly presenting the future architect with news and opinions on design innovations, trends, technologies, management, leadership, etc. They get to interact with the owners, architects, and contractors at national and international levels and learn about their practices and what makes them successful.

The first thing you need to do is what is it that you a lot about. You may be an expert on multiple things in architecture, but you really need to focus on one or two areas that will benefit other architects.

Secondly, you need to learn how to blog. There are many free and paid resources online that you can learn from. You need to learn how to get a domain name and hosting service, build your site and write content. You may be interested to know how to make passive income from your blog. Wealthy Affiliate is a great starter for learning; it has both a free and paid membership options.

Thirdly, offer content on your blog that helps architects in career growth in whatever way you see fit.

Lastly, You should connect with industry blog publishers, invite them to write guest posts on your blog and also offer to write guest posts on their blog. These activities will not only open your eyes about blogging, but guest posting will also generate additional traffic to your site. You will also have a better ranking on Google.

Here are three architect writers, Romullo Baratto, Han Zhang, and Monica Arellano, who joined Archdaily magazine and writing full time about architecture to help the future architect. ArchDaily editor the future architect Han Zhang thinks most people would be surprised to learn is that it is only 10% of architecture is design. According to Zhang, a successful architect is someone much more than a designer; he or she is a salesman, a technician, and a negotiator. 

Did you hear that from an architect before Zhang said it? I didn’t.

E) Lead Architectural Project As a Design Build Architect

The contractor led Design-Build delivery model is taking over the industry. Project owners are finding it to be a more attractive way to control scope, cost, quality and time during design and construction. Contractors too like this model as they get to drive the design and make more profit. Naturally, architects don’t like it, but the future architect must embrace it and find a way to take on the leadership.

The first thing you should do is learn the basics of construction management through personal reading, taking a few online courses, or a certificate program. Get in touch with the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) to stay tuned on what’s happening in the industry.

Secondly, you may consider learning about the Design-Build delivery model by taking certification from the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA).

Thirdly, start your career in Design-Build by working for contractors who do it well and respectful to architecture. You may stay with one of them and climb the ladder to the top or set up your own architect-led Design-Build team.

Lastly, like a collaborative designer, you should learn collaborative decision making. This will help you support your diversified very talented team to make decisions wisely.

F) Lead Architectural Project As an Architect Owner

Being the owner is another way the future architect can lead the full body of architecture, starting from funding, through design and construction, and ending in commissioning. This way, you can exert the most influence upon all parties and lead them in the right direction. You can do this by either working for a private developer or a government agency.

The first thing you need to do is learn project management through personal reading, taking a few online courses, or a certificate program. Get in touch with the Project Management Institute (PMI) to stay tuned on what’s happening in the industry.

Secondly, become a Project Management Professional (PMP)®. You will need to take a 35 hours training provided by the PMI’s Registered Education Provider (REP) and have 3 years of experience before you qualify to write the test. If you are a beginner, you can write the test for Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)® right after you take the training from a REP.

Thirdly, think like a project owner. Once you are the owner, you choose the delivery model and hire architects and contractors to work for your project. You will facilitate their work and provide them guidance in design and construction as their success will be your success.

Lastly, look out for jobs in government & developer firms as a project manager. You can always become a developer of your own. Easier ways to work line an owner is to seek a position in local, state or federal government or with private development firms.

There are many architects are working as an architect, project manager, project director, construction manager, director of project management or director of facilities in federal, state, and local governments, school districts, and private construction management and design-build firms.  

Among the many ways to lead architecture, I chose this one and I’m so happy about it.


In keeping up with the seismic shift occurring in the design and construction industry, the future architect is now reclaiming the leadership that was lost along with the disappearance of the master-builder.

The new role of the future architect is diversified; however, there is one thing in common among them- the future architect is a leader who will lead architecture in 2020 and beyond.

The final tip- no matter which path you choose, always build your network of like-minded architects and other industry professionals like construction managers and design-builders to bounce your thoughts and ideas and you will shine!

If you know some other ways to lead architecture, please share your thoughts for the readers to learn from. 

I am planning to offer training courses on a few areas especially, how to lead design as collaborative designer how to lead project as an owner. So, stay tuned!

From own experience, I have written on the benefits of being a PMP, or Project Management Professional, in this post- “How Does Project Management Help Me as an Architect?”

If you want to know about the great contributions the future architects are making to fight COVID-19, read this post- “COVID-19: How Architects are Taking on The Challenge.”

You may also be interested to read my first post- “The Future of The Future Architect.”

Don’t forget to drop your comments about this post!

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