Do Less Better

Recently I listened to a PODCAST that interviewed an architect who fell ill during her architecture studies. Despite her ongoing condition she still manages to run a successful practice and raise a family. To prevent her illness from becoming debilitating she paced herself and developed a work life balance that sustains her well-being and practice. Her practice focussed solely on single residential projects that allowed her and her business partner to fine-tune the process and deliver projects to an exceptionally high standard. By using their resources wisely and managing the practice well – they created efficiencies in the process that allowed for more time to be devoted to the design of their projects.

Listening to her story made perfect sense. She knew that she could not sustain projects in multiple sectors, nor did she want the burden of running a larger practice and having many mouths to feed. She also wanted to avoid the treadmill of needing to constantly win new work to sustain a practice of a certain size. In this context doing less means doing it better. Doing the work to a higher standard makes far more sense than taking on too many projects and neglecting other parts of your life. It is more satisfying and we can deliver a better outcome for the environment, our clients and the contractors who implement projects on site.

My new catchphrase sounds like a contradiction but said slowly makes sense. Doing less means more time to devote to the task at hand. And the outcome is a better for the attention to detail and time devoted to the work at hand. From a sustainability stance we need to invest into the fabric of buildings to reduce energy consumption. We need less bling and more substance. We don’t need to add energy harvesting devices – we need to make better buildings, more energy efficient spaces, with better insulation, windows that are designed to last , fresh air, sunlight and good design that enriches our well-being. The idea also means being efficient with design language, less materials, less details, and less space so that building projects can be less of a long term burden in terms of ongoing maintenance.

Nothing is straightforward. The economics of doing less conspires to reduce revenue and make it more difficult to sustain architectural practice as a business venture. This is the way it is, however, we can’t ignore that the virtue of architecture lies not in the newness of ideas – but rather the places we create and inhabit for ourselves, our clients and our communities.