What Building 50 Different Projects Has Taught Me as a Singapore Architect

Architecture in Singapore is one of the most exhilarating and challenging careers one can take on. There are many obstacles to face when working in the industry. From crafting new designs to coordination with numerous consultants and contractors and management of client needs, one can face a lot of challenges.

Indeed, it takes a certain level of grit, determination as well as passion to survive in the profession of architecture. The satisfaction of seeing one of your creations come to life as a permanent built structure is immense. Furthermore, there is much happiness the occupant benefits and shows appreciation for all your hard work put in as an architect. It makes the blood, sweat and tears that went into the architectural design, development and construction all worthwhile.

A lot has changed in my career since I began as an intern back in 2003. I have learned a lot about the profession – the up and downs of the work, especially the architectural practice in Singapore. With that said, let’s take a peek into my journey as an architect and see what you can learn from my experience!

1. Communication Really Is Key

Communication is vital in every aspect of life. It is especially important for architects, whose job requires the communication of our ideas. We need to find ways to communicate to our clients; and this often involves many tools such as drawings, renderings and even 3D models. Today these tools has evolved to using virtual models, walk-throughs and videos to allow clients to visualize and understand our ideas. Effective communication is also required in the coordination of many parties – consultants, contractors and sub-contractors to create the final product.

Of course, a certain level of training is required for architects to be able to communicate well. At times there is a lot of frustration in the field when problems arise due to poor communication. It is serious if this leads to misunderstanding and works on site are not done right. Indeed, it can be difficult to navigate problems when you have so many people involved in the process of producing a building.

So there is a steep learning curve when one graduates and joins the architectural profession, It is important to stay positive and learn from your mistakes and experience. Engage with seniors to learn from their experiences too. Finally, read widely and make use of the company’s resources to pick up as much as possible whilst on the job. Nothing beats practical on-site experience. This will make for a better working environment and ultimately make your work more enjoyable!

2. Learn & Evolve with Your Clients. Different Strokes for Different Folks

When you’re creating spaces, you have to work with many people. And when designing a building, you have to work with so many more. What’s interesting is how your client can impact your design in so many ways. Sometimes it’s frustrating because they don’t understand what you want to accomplish. In turn, this means that you must work harder to understand and convince them of your ideas and proposals if you truly believe it benefits them.

Other times it’s a blast because clients are excited to be involved and ready to work with you to create something even better than they imagined. They may be all-ears to your suggestions and this means ideas can flow smoothly from start to implementation! In any case, understanding what your client wants is paramount.

3. Respect the Budget

Your creative vision should never be stifled, but it’s always good to have a backup plan. Sometimes the budget is a major factor that holds you back in the design. Oftentimes, clients are not familiar with the building costs involved- so you’re left with a unrealistic budget to accomplish everything you need to do.

This can be hard because you know that it’s not always possible to do what you want. What I’ve learned is that this is just something you have to work with. And this is also the main challenge to your creativity as an architect in Singapore. How can you create good architecture that satisfies the client needs and still work within their budget? You will learn this through experience and resourcefulness. In the end, it doesn’t mean expensive materials or construction will equate to good architecture.

4. Be Creative and Candid

What I’ve learned about architecture is that it requires a lot of creative thinking. Sometimes you come up with something out of the left field and then find it to be perfect for space. Other times, you have to be really candid about how and why something isn’t working. Sometimes, you have to defend your choices if they aren’t what your client wants. You can’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. It’s important to know that not everyone understands aesthetics and architecture – and how it can affect function, ambience and livability, After all, architectural design is similar to art and it can be very subjective. Being creative will allow you to develop skills to understand and different solutions for different clients.

5. Deal with Criticism with Positive Attitude

It’s easy to take criticism personally, especially when you put a lot of effort into something. There will be a lot criticism from various parties – from your seniors and bosses to other consultants and your clients. While you may not agree with the criticism, it’s important to respond with a positive attitude.

Being polite and respectful will get you further than taking it the wrong way. If you don’t agree with the comments, it is important to prove your points effectively and respectfully. Of course, you should also approach all criticisms with humility and a willingness to learn. It is through this continued learning process, that you will grow as a matured and accomplished architect.

6. Keep learning, improving and evolving

No matter how long you’ve been in the industry as a Singapore Architect, there’s always something to learn. There’s always something new to explore and try out. Indeed, there is so much to learn in architecture. This includes the different building typologies – office, residential apartments, hotels etc and the varied aspects of architecture – design, construction detailing, project management etc.

As I continued to learn more about my craft, I realized just how much more there is to it. In fact, this is also the most enjoyable part of the job – learning new styles, methods of construction, types of materials and technology etc.

Related to learning and asking questions, you can check out our blog post about 5 questions that you always wanted to ask your Singapore Architect.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing more satisfying than watching your project come to life progressively with time. You can come up with something amazing and see it realized before your eyes. While being an architect in Singapore has its uphill battles, it can also come with excitement and feelings of great satisfaction!