• Waiting for Your ‘Big Break’: My Two cents

A story is told of a hot-shot architect with the finest of designs, and greatest environmentally conscious material specifications. A Starchitect to say the least. He entered a competition and made it through the design stage. A presentation was arranged and all the finalists gathered. The judging panel had no architectural professor or equivalent ‘Starchitect’, it only had financial experts who knew very little about Le Corbusier or Frank Lloyd Wright. Mr. Starchitect smiled assured of his easy victory. After his last word he was asked, 
“So, Bwana Architect, what is the IRR on your proposal?” Question after question his concept seemed to be dismal and irrelevant. His masterpiece was a huge financial risk that promised little to no return.

What is the moral of Mr. Starchitect’s story? There is more than design and presentation skills to the real architectural world. Project management and sound cost planning is one of the most important attributes required by today’s client in Africa and around the globe. As the land rates and prices go higher and higher with each passing year, the construction

Industry has diversified its clients from the traditional single client with a dream, to the investor looking for maximum returns on his investment at the shortest time possible, the financial institutions keen on recovering their loans with assured interest and the investment groups aiming to create wealth amongst themselves, rather than creating masterpieces.

To understand the new breed of clients we need to step out of the studios, interact with practicing architects and determine what kind of client they address in their various firms. We need to speak to Real- Estate advisors, marketers and companies and see who is building what. We need to expand our networks and learn how to infiltrate other networks. Increasing our knowledge in the investment world and financial planning can be the key deciding factor for our growth as a profession.

The better option is to be a professional real estate investor yourself. That way, you get the profits incurred in your investment and you still get to practice architecture to your ‘Starchitect’ standards! This road allows you to create projects and from that, source funding from financial institutions. It certainly beats waiting in your office for Word of Mouth to reach the important clients. In this day and age, where we are almost over educated and Institutions are presenting a large number of graduate architects with the ‘power to read’ and where seasoned firms or even international firms are given preference because of their experience and vast work force, the up and coming registered architects with a dream to start their own practice should consider diversifying their client base. They should broaden their networks and improve their financial planning know-how in addition to their designs and concepts. Yes, our Mr. Starchitect may get the occasional residential house and perhaps with time and word of mouth he may land a huge project, but to make your BIG break into the new type of clients you need more than fine designs…

Jedidah K. Magare is a graduate Architect and C.E.O Investra Africa, founders of Africa Money Market Investment Cocktail Email jedidah@africamoneymarket.co.ke Website www.africamoneymarket.co.ke

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