Architects Beyond the Traditional Practice: ArchDaily Editors Talk

Graduating with an architecture degree is often met with the expectations of working a 9-5 job at an office. However, the reality is that many fresh graduates are venturing into diversified careers and exploring fields such as architectural photography, writing, rendering, set design, and project management. In this Editor's Talk, ArchDaily's Founder and Editor in Chief, Director of Software Product Development, Managing Editors, and Social Media Editor share their experiences of graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Architecture then finding themselves exploring different, yet very complimentary career paths post graduation, proving that there is a lot more to the architecture practice beyond designing built spaces.

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The talk was held during a video call among the participants. The text below is the transcript of the conversation. 

Dima Stouhi: Let’s start with getting to know each one of you. Who are you, when did you study architecture, and how did you shift into what you do now?

Romullo Baratto: I’m Romullo Baratto, I’m the managing editor of ArchDaily Brasil. I studied architecture in 2006 in South Brazil, in the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina. Since graduation, I have always been interested in cinema, it was part of my research work during my exchange program studies in Paris where I studied for half a year. I didn’t want to completely push architecture to the side so I worked at an architecture office there. So the mix of architecture and cinema became the subject of my graduation project in 2012 and my masters thesis. Then I found interest in still images and photography, which is very related to my work at ArchDaily which I started in 2012. So now I try my best during my editorial work to bring this passion of cinema and architecture to the topics I write about and my selection of people to interview.

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Courtesy of Romullo Baratto

Christele Harrouk: I’m Christele Harrouk, I’m an Architect and Urban Designer and currently the Managing Editor of ArchDaily’s English website. I studied Architecture here in Lebanon and I did my masters degree in Architecture. I started working in offices but I always knew that I never really wanted to build because I felt that we have enough buildings and that we really need to work on changing what we already have. I realized that most of our projects are actually urban challenges so after many years and travels I ended up getting my second Master’s Degree which was in Urban Design, also in Lebanon. I was always writing about architecture because I always felt that I like to reflect and write instead of build. So I started working for a magazine in Lebanon and got to interview Bjarke when he was here, and from there I knew that I wanted to get into this part of architecture much more. So I applied for ArchDaily as a Content Editor and now 3 years later, I am the Managing Editor.

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Christele Moderating the Future Cities Talk at Dutch Design Week 2021. Image Courtesy of Dutch Design Week

David Basulto: I studied architecture in Chile from 2001-2006 and during my education, I was personally very connected to technology and computers - it was always a hobby I never applied to computational design or anything like that. But through these networks and forming many online communities, I started participating in tech blogs. Then I met Davod, and he came to me one day and he told me that “the quality of life can be improved by information” and since I was already working with a blog, he believed that it was the time to highlight the changes happening in cities, especially since there will be a shift in the way information is produced. So that’s how Plataforma Urbana started, which was a highly influential website in Chile because many things happened in the country that year, like the change in transportation system, and many people were talking about our website. We saw that people are now having discussions about urban topics. I was more into architectural design - I was always collecting references from libraries, while Davod was into Urbanism, so I realized that this also needs to be entered into the information dynamic. I had a great library school and I thought that this should be digital. That’s how we created Plataforma Arquitectura.

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David Basulto and David Assael . Image © Daniela Galdames

Brandon Koots: I am Brandon, and I am a Social Media Editor at ArchDaily. I started architecture school back in 2016, and I will be graduating in July of this year. For me at one point during my studies I was not enjoying it at all. I started researching art studies and art careers instead, I was actually so close to dropping out because I was not enjoying it at all. Then I realized that like the research part of architecture, and not just the design, which is something that my faculty doesn’t focus on. So I started doing that on my own and started researching and then connected that research to my designs, and that’s when I felt more passionate about what I’m doing. So I started writing essays about architecture, which led to this path I’m on and made me realize that in the future I see myself pursuing a PhD in research-related topics or teaching and not designing buildings.

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Courtesy of Brandon Koots

Soledad Sambiasi: I’m Soledad Sambiasi. I studied Architecture in Santiago de Chile, at Universidad del Desarrollo, from 2008 through 2014, and I’m currently transitioning from Director of Technology to Head of Product. I’ve always been a very curious person. Initially it was all about science, statistics and facts, then it shifted to experiences and perception, psychology, and arts. That's when I decided to study architecture. During architecture school I was obsessed with human behavior; observing people and how they interact with themselves, with space, light, noise, and how their behavior changes when they are in different sized communities. I started to work in the backstage of ArchDaily’s software development team a year after I graduated, while working as an architect on the side. In the software development team I had to learn everything from scratch (which I love), once that was covered, I realized the essence of what I was doing was the same: I had to unveil the essence of how people behave, only this time the environment was virtual, the internet. And here, I could actually solve problems, fast, and with a huge impact in terms of how many people my solutions reached. This is when I realized I could have a much bigger impact creating digital experiences than creating physical ones.

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Courtesy of Soledad Sambiasi

Dima: When did you realize that you want to explore different aspects of the field?

Brandon: What I didn’t like, this is purely my experience, is that it was very much oriented into a specific thing we see architects do, so it wasn’t really broad as in, you have all these skills and knowledge but you don’t have many opportunities to design. So people were pretty much expecting everybody to go into the field of construction and design as soon as they graduate. It wasn’t something I was comfortable with, so I realized that this is not for me so that’s why I started looking into different programs, but eventually I just changed my perspective and looked at the many other sides of architecture.

Romullo: Just like Brandon, the university I graduated from was very oriented towards designing buildings. But I was very lucky that during my final graduation project, I got an advisor who was very open-minded and allowed me to explore different passions. I remember he told me once that “the main objective of the final graduation project is to bring pleasure to the student” which was something no other professor said. He really had a big influence on me and I always stress on that because I think that the people you meet really shape your life - if it wasn’t for him I would have probably done an architectural design project. I was very lucky in this sense.

Christele: For me it wasn’t about branching out or doing something different because I still consider myself first and foremost an architect. So I’m an architect who writes. I think the problem is that we only know one way of doing things, we are so used to the idea that architects build buildings. For me now, if you build a building without thinking of its context and everything around it, it’s the biggest mistake ever. That’s how urbanism developed, it moved from urban planning to urban design because it’s faster - it’s not 10-20 years, it’s 5 years, it’s more proactive. I think architects that don’t think about the bigger picture shouldn’t be architects. So it’s not really branching out, it's more like exploring different sides of it. Even with writing, we are exposed to so much content daily, so working in this fast-paced environment makes us much more creative and knowledgeable about architecture.

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David Basulto, co-founder of ArchDaily at the Moscow Urban Forum 2018. Image © ArchDaily

David: I wouldn’t say I’m branching out either because for me, this is architecture. If I chose to take the regular path, that would have discouraged me in some way. But I was lucky thanks to this early platform, so I was exposed to different paths like teaching, designing buildings, and working in online platforms, and these were all works of architecture and it was the evolution of people who did architecture magazines. But I was able to choose a path eventually because when we were building Plataforma, we realized that we can’t be doing two things at the same time, each needs all our focus. So what do we want to do? Plataforma. Okay, so now how do we live off of Plataforma? We just graduated so money was not a priority but we decided that this is our future, we need to make something out of that. And although we treated it as a company, a lot of architectural things were embodied in us, especially in our unconscious decisions. For example in a studio, you work on a round table in a collaborative way but it’s very different to a software development company, where each has his/her own desk and their own space. Until today ArchDaily is a work of architecture and that’s why I am very interested in this question we are proposing which is architecture beyond buildings.

Soledad: What shifted my attention away from traditional architecture practice is how little impact you get to see on the problems you are trying to solve. Not because they can’t be solved through architecture, but because it’s so isolated from other disciplines and so outdated, slow and bureaucratic. This became frustrating until I did not want to practice it anymore. You unveil a problem and go through a beautiful creative process to propose a solution, can envision how things will be solved and the impact you will have, you just need to validate if it works, until here, I love it. But them, reality comes in, the industry is very old-school, it’s filled with outdated processes which no longer work, you go back and forth trying to coordinate specialties, legal paperwork, get answers from manufacturers, get permits and approvals from government or state entities, and this becomes the 90% of your time and energy.

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ArchDaily Team. Image © ArchDaily

Romullo: I have a question for David, you mention this atmosphere of when you were building the website and being very close to the atmosphere of architecture offices, and you and Davod both had an architectural background. Now, in the ArchDaily content team, most of us, if not all, are still architects. The question is, do you think that it’s the architecture background that’s necessary because we could hire journalists. Do you think it’s this very complex mix of tools that we are taught in university and experience that is more interesting to ArchDaily?

David: Yeah this is a challenge because almost everyone on the team is an architect, and even studying architecture is different in each country, in Europe it takes you to a regulated profession but in the Americas education is much more open. So to answer your question, it was super interesting when Becky (Quintal, previous head of Content) was part of ArchDaily. And Becky always told me “David, I’m not an architect” and actually she had a very open study, she studied visual arts and journalism. She’s actually the one who created many of the structures of the editorial team today and I don’t think we would have had that vision if she didn’t come from this “outside world”, and I’m very happy that that happened. So I think it’s a challenge of how we can incorporate this external thinking, but at the same time have a team that has an understanding of architecture, and the shortcut to that is to have studied architecture - it can’t be exclusive, especially when we think if it’s just content that drives our audience or is it also the combination of product, projects, social media. Now with product for example, okay it is a different type of work but it is being done by architects too, so that’s how it fits into ArchDaily as a whole and I really love how this hybridization happens on all parts of the team.

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ArchDaily Content Team. Image © Daniela Galdames

Dima: What about you, Christele, Brandon, and Soledad? Staying in line with Romullo’s question to David, how do you think your architecture knowledge helped with what you’re doing now?

Christele: For me I think it’s also the fact that they gave us everything, whether it’s knowledge about structures, contracts, laws, etc. What I liked about my studies was the fact that at the end of the day, I got this big bunch of material and I can do anything with it. So this is something that I felt gave me the freedom to pursue anything and venture in any direction I wanted and create something that looks like me. I love Sole’s story because she got to create something that looks like her. And same for me, I wanted to talk about topics I care about and highlight them and I was able to do that while still being an architect. So I would say this combination of learning about different topics is what I took from architecture school.

Brandon: Yeah in a way it’s all these different subjects, and the one that I personally enjoyed a lot is the management course, which also includes planning and cost analysis. And I enjoyed it because it guided me towards project management which I didn’t know I liked back then. Even with the elective courses, you get to explore so many different subjects and it really influences the way you start to think. 

Soledad: I consider I’m an architect within the internet. In architecture school, they teach you to look at things deeply, go beyond the obvious and uncover the underlying truths of our environment. This is for me the most valuable thing I learnt as an architect. As Head of Product, I get to apply all of this, to shape the experiences that our community has on the platform and it’s different channels. The most important thing for me is the user experience, all new projects, features and initiatives start from a user need we’ve discovered, which can be discovered by having a constant open ear within the industry and asking questions. This also has its similarities with architecture, because you have a vision, and you need to coordinate thousands of variables and specialties for it to work (it’s just faster). Digital Product Managers work side by side with (software) engineers, to make the vision feasible and make sure we are approaching it with the best possible technology, and we also have stakeholders and budgets to put into the mix. If your team is built by the correct people, and you have a clear vision of who you are as an organization and what you want to achieve, this collaboration flows, there are no silos and cross-team constant input makes the final product even better than your vision.

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ArchDaily Team. Image © Daniela Galdames

Dima: Do you regret making this shift?

Soledad: No, I think the more complex our background, the richer our understanding of things. I love how having a different background broadens my perspective on things, and to be honest, I’m pretty sure I’ll be moving again to different fields in the future.

Romullo: I don’t regret it. I think I’m very close to the “core”, I really see myself close to architecture actually. I really like the territory I’m walking in nowadays.

Brandon: I don’t regret it at all, I still love architecture and I see myself teaching architecture.  

Christele: I don't see myself doing anything else. And that's coming from someone who applied to medical school in the first place, not even architecture. So I don’t think I want to or could be something else.

David: Likewise Christele, actually I think we’ll find out that many others applied to med school before architecture. But no of course I don’t regret it, I found an evolution to take into practice everything that I learned in just a little branch of architecture that can contribute to the others and see that strong relation. I am very happy that I studied at that place at that time, because if it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t have chosen this path.

This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: Architecture Without Buildings. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our ArchDaily topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.

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Cite: Dima Stouhi. "Architects Beyond the Traditional Practice: ArchDaily Editors Talk" 23 Feb 2022. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884


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