ArchiTeam 2019 Conference – reflections


At the end of May 2019 ArchiTeam held its second, biennial conference in Melbourne. It was a complete sell-out, with 220 in attendance. It was a jam-packed day featuring architects Timothy Hill (Partners Hill), Prof. Flora Samuel, Jorge Ambrosi (Ambrosi Etchegaray), Mat Hinds (Taylor + Hinds), Dr. Peter Raisbeck and Chema Bould (Bower Architecture) who sat alongside Chef Ben Shewry (Attica),  Justin Kabbani (Hard Hat Digital), Ray Brown (ArchiBiz) and Frankie Layton (The Dirt Company). All presented or participated in panel discussions sharing their experiences and insights in entrepreneurship, business strategy, collaboration and disruptive innovations.

The following attended the Conference as our guests, we asked them to reflect on the day and let us know (honestly) what they thought and if there was any useful take-home information from our speakers.

Photographs of the day are available to view here. Thanks to Greg Briggs photographer for capturing the day.


Eugenia Tan, New Architects Melbourne (NAM)
The ArchiTeam Conference was bigger and better than ever with a star-studded line-up. The group of invited keynote speakers were carefully curated by a team of passionate and generous practitioners who wanted to ensure that the wisdom imparted on the day was inspirational and impactful. This was fabulously achieved. The day was thought-provoking. Despite not being a practicing architect myself anymore, I felt refreshed and empowered to head forth in my endeavour to be successfully self-employed whilst achieving my desire to make a powerful contribution to the building industry.

I have been a long-time fan of Timothy Hill since he came to my university to present during my 2nd year. During his keynote presentation, he reminded me of what it means to be an Architect with a capital ‘A’, a professional rather than a business. He articulated how we should reconsider the specifics of our fee proposals and on what basis we should be valued and engaged. i.e. How do we measure, charge and promote? How to generate value in what we do and charging sufficiently for it.

Professor Flora Samuel provided empirical evidence relating to the value or architects / architecture. A key element to the future success of practicing is to implement research as a priority. This is so design value equates to environmental, economic and social value.

Ben Shewry from Attica, one of the top 20 restaurants in the world advocated the importance of empathy with his team in order to bring a better symbiosis between staff members to create a harmonious and happy working culture.

The eloquent Mat Hinds did not hold back as he expressed the reality of the exploitative nature of the architectural profession. He stated that money is a conscious measure of value, yet architects do not know what value really is.  He encouraged us to propagate quality – as there is no point to be quick and wrong.

During the panel discussion, Ray Brown addressed that business is deceptively simple – made up of 1. Operations, 2. Finances and 3. Sales / Marketing.  Chema Bould of Bower Architecture shared intimately about how life-changing it has been to prioritise business planning / development in her practice, the importance of a financial buffer to weather tough times, how cashflow stress is the worst type of stress.  The panellists shared that you should strive to be better than your competition in the business while caring for the things you need to care for – joy, health.

Justin Kabbani from Hard Hat shared his various productivity hacks in order to build a resilient creative business. ‘Don’t treat others the way you want to be treated, but treat others the way they are wired’.

Lastly, besides my initial preconceptions of the business name, the Dirt Company is not about gardening but actually about eradicating dirt…in the form of clothes. The laundry detergent start-up is Frankie Layton’s baby – and she was generous and open about her journey – coming up with an idea that could make the world a better place. She shared how critical it was to understand the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’. In her case the ‘why’ was expressed in her mission to make products do less harm, and create a better choice for everyone.

Brodie NorrisLunchbox Archimedia
After five or six gruelling years of all-nighters and numerous Stanley knife injuries, plus another two years of practice and yet another exam before registration, you’d think young graduates would emerge fully prepared for a career in architecture, right? Wrong. There’s one lesson that’s sorely lacking – how to succeed in the business of architecture.

This year’s ArchiTeam Conference, Making a Living, made fantastic inroads towards changing that and proved you don’t need to suffer for your art: that great architecture and good business can go hand-in-hand. Bringing together speakers as diverse as the founder of a laundry detergent startup (Dirt – sign up if you love environmentally responsible products) to the chef and owner of one of Australia’s most renowned restaurants (Attica), the conference showed us how to bring creative thinking to our businesses, too.

Making a Living was an expertly curated and timely (if not overdue) day full of constructive lessons and inspiring ideas to improve our collective business-savvy. Because, ultimately, successful practice is key to a successful profession. Thanks for a great event, ArchiTeam!

Bec Kempster, Archibiz
Can you make a living from architecture?
This critical question formed the theme for the recent ArchiTeam Conference held at the Melbourne Museum.  With a stellar line-up of keynote speakers and panellists, including Attica’s Ben Shewry, and author of Why Architecture Matters, Flora Samuel, it was a day loaded with inspiration, aspiration, humour and at times despair. We heard varying perspectives, both local and international, from within the industry and outside about the business and professionalism surrounding the practice of architecture.

So, can you make a living from architecture? Absolutely.

We know this, because we work with architects who have successful businesses doing good design work. Here are our key takeouts from the ArchiTeam Conference on how you can do it too…

  1. Understand, and concisely communicate the value of architecture.
    Design value = economic value + environmental value + social value – Flora Samuel, author of Why Architects Matter
  2. As the business owner, the buck stops with you. Take responsibility and don’t blame others – Ben Shewry, Attica Restaurant
  3. Taking care of your people is key to running a successful small business – Ben Shewry, Attica Restaurant
  4. Learn the rules of business. Put aside time to focus on business education because good design alone, doesn’t make for a good business – Ray Brown, Archibiz
  5. Use plain language when communicating with your clients and other stakeholders, not archispeak – Flora Samuel, author of Why Architects Matter
  6. Attach a monetary value to savings you are making for your clients – Timothy Hill, Partners Hill
  7. Free concepts and designs teach society not to value the contribution of architects. Charge for the value you provide – Matt Hinds, Taylor and Hinds
  8. People learn in different ways. Take the time to understand if your staff are Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic (movement) and communicate appropriately – Justin Kabbani, HardHat Digital
  9. Value exchange needn’t purely be monetary. What can’t you normally access that can be exchanged for fair value? – Jorge Ambrosi, Ambrosi Etchegaray
  10. Developing your business requires expanding your network.  Meet one new person per month for coffee that isn’t a potential client – Frankie Layton, Dirt Company