Eight Independent Architects Taking the Lead

River FlagThese past weeks, before and following the AIA Convention in Denver, I have heard from many architects seeking solutions to the crisis in which we architects find ourselves. Many small firm architects and sole proprietors have declared Repositioning a failure before it has even begun.

This August will mark my twentieth year in this profession. In all honesty, I have been listening to the same complaints and criticism since before my first position as an intern. I am tired of the bemoaning and blame thrust upon others in hope that change will come.

It is time we stand up and TAKE the lead.

When I write the word, “we”, I don’t mean “they”. I mean “we”… as in you and I. It is time that we stop waiting for others to rebuild the profession of architecture. It is time that we stand up and lead the profession ourselves, in the direction we believe it should be moved. It is time we lead ourselves and others out of this crisis and depression and find new ways to succeed.

Make This July 4th YOUR Independence Day

It is time we take the lead and celebrate OUR Independence Day; the day we commit to making our own success. The day we no longer rely on others to fix the problems around us. We’ll decide to learn what we need to know to make our own small firm successful, then teach others to do the same. We must find our strengths, develop them with pride and share our knowledge with others. It is time we take the lead.

When we lead the profession, it will become what we want it to be. All others, including the professional organizations, will be required to follow us.

I believe professional organizations serving architects all have good intentions and I do support their efforts… but the big ship will take much time to turn. We can no longer wait for others to fix the things limiting our success as small firm architects.

I encourage you to support the efforts of the American Institute of Architects and other professional organizations. I hope that you will be active in their membership and help to influence their role in the profession for all current and future professionals. It is time now though, to take matters in our own hands and lead this profession back to greatness. The sun has set for the way it has been. Bureaucracy is not the solution. The individual architect is the solution. YOU are the solution.

As I have mentioned several times in the past, the revolution has already begun. There are hundreds of individual architects who are tired of waiting for others to fix our problems. Entrepreneur Architects throughout the world are standing up and taking the lead in the profession.

Below are eight independent architects who have found their strengths, developed their purpose and have taken the lead in architecture.

Lira Luis

If you are an architect active on Twitter, I am quite certain you have bumped into Lira Luis. She’s a Taliesin Fellow, Principal Architect at her Chicago-based eponymous firm, Atelier Lira Luis, LLC, an educator, blogger, speaker and one of the most credentialed professionals I have known to date. Lira contributes articles as a resident blogger in Chicago Tribune’s ChicagoNow, Benjamin Moore’s Expert Architects, the AIA KnowledgeNet Blog and speaks on the topics of Design, Social Media for Architects, Sustainability, Organic Architecture as well as on the topic of one of the original Entrepreneur Architects, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Evan Troxel, Neal Pann and Cormac Phalen

This past winter, three architects, Evan Troxel, Neal Pann and Cormac Phalen, all friends through Twitter and having not ever physically met, decided to join forces and share their experiences as individual architects with the world. The Archispeak Podcast “is the show that dares to peek under the architectural kimono, exposing what architecture really is, what it is that architects really do, and show you why we are passionate about our chosen profession.”

Jes Stafford

Jes Stafford is the founder of Big Time Small Firm (BTSF), a Google+ community for professionals practicing architecture in small firms. BTSF is a great place to share ideas, discuss best practices and position your team for healthy growth with outstanding results. Each week Jes hosts the BTSF Google Hangout where he invites small firm practitioners to join him and converse live on video about practicing architecture with a small firm. Join Greg LaVardera, Neal Pann (of ArchiSpeak Podcast) and me on BTSF this July 19th at 2PM ET as we discuss the unique practice of residential architecture.

Bob Borson

Partner at Michael Malone Architects in Dallas, Texas, Bob Borson is taking the lead through writing and connecting architecture with the world. Chair of the Digital Communications Committee for the Texas Society of Architects, Bob works to guide and expand the voice of Texas architecture. His personal blog, Life of an Architect, is one of the most visited blogs on the web written by an independent practicing architect. For three and a half years, people throughout the world have learned much about the life of an architect through Bob’s entertaining and often humorous weekly posts.

Tabitha Ponte

Tabitha is co-Founder and President of the the Integrated School of Building (InSB), a not-for-profit professional development institute in the city of Chicago. Founded in 2011, the InSB is the first school of its kind, representing the transformation of the mindset of architecture, engineering and construction. Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is the inspiration for the school and Tabitha believes IPD to be the most desired, yet underutilized form of building delivery and contract structure in the field. Serving the current and next generation of working professionals, the InSB is preparing students to lead, manage, and create projects, taking charge of their own futures and developing leaders in the profession.

Enoch Sears

Enoch is the founder of BusinessOfArchitecture.com. Devoted exclusively to helping small firm architects turn their business into a “client attraction magnet”, the site offers ways architects can make more money and use time more effectively. Every month Enoch hosts a video podcast featuring an interview with a successful professional. The lessons learned through Enoch’s conversations help architects take their own architecture businesses to the next level.

This Thursday is Independence Day in the United States. It’s the day we honor the brave men who signed the Declaration of Independence and celebrate the moment in our history when this nation broke free from the tyranny of a corrupt and unfair government  Let this July 4th be YOUR Independence Day. Break free from the belief that others will lead you to success. Commit to leading the profession out of dispair and choose your own path to success.

Are you making a difference in the profession? Do you know someone doing extraordinary things to improve the lives of others? Let’s talk. Post a comment below and let the world know what you think.


Image: You may have noticed that I am a collector of sunsets. This shot is taken at one of my favorite places; Mom and Dad’s summer cottage at Fishers Landing, New York in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River. If you are celebrating this week, I wish you a week of summer happiness doing the things that truly matters most.


  1. says

    Thank you, Mark. You know, if it weren’t for that inspiring Wednesday night at a #EntreArchitectChat long ago, Big Time Small Firm would have never been conceived. So, the community owes it’s beginning to your leadership and ability to attract and gather the best in our profession. I appreciate all that you do.

    Thanks also to the others you featured here. They are all a great source for inspiration, leadership, education and great examples for other architects. Keep it up!

    • Mark says

      I agree Jes. If we all take up a leadership position, we will make progress toward the profession we wish architecture to be. Incremental progress results in massive change.

      • Piotr Nabzdyk says

        Thank you Mark for these words. It’s obvious that we architects need to show everybody on many occasions, what the architecture is, how the building should look like. and so on. Many investors unfortunalety don’t have a clue what they really want. We need to make them realize what good is for them. Here in Poland, the architects are very depreciated. Many estate agents are taking the role of architects during revitalisation of many old town houses and build without a building permit. On Internet, your Clients find many ready-made projects of the houses being sold for 1/3 or 1/4 of the price of the project made by architect (houses never fulfill their expectations in 100% and they are always redesign). I am personally convinced that architetcs must do their work from the basis of the society to convice people that is really worth to invest in real good architecture (not only white wash and ceramic tiles like usual). One more time thanks for the post, Mark.

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