The 5 types of Archtivists. Which one are you?

Social, Environmental, Economic, Technological or Entrepreneurial – what’s your way of making an impact? Discover which Archtivist you are.

Ever felt like we should be doing more in the building sector to address today’s global challenges? And that there’s more to you as an architecture industry professional than your degree or title? 

If it’s a resounding yes, then chances are you’re an Archtivist. Arch-ti-vist. The delightful blend of Architect and Activist.

Essentially, Archtivist is a term I’ve coined for architecture and building industry professionals who drive and inspire reform to foster positive changes in society and within the profession.

Essentially, Archtivist is a term I’ve coined for architecture and building industry professionals who drive and inspire reform to foster positive changes in society and within the profession.

If architecture is about building up, Archtivism is about breaking down. Breaking down the status quo. Breaking down the industry’s walls and barriers. Breaking down the existing systems that govern our profession to build back better — towards a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient future.

The architecture field is begging for change. I believe that Archtivists could be that missing link to creating the changes we so desperately need in the built environment.

Does any of that strike a chord?

Without further ado, here are the 5 Archtivist types that push the boundaries of what it means to be an architect, each representing one approach to tackle today’s greatest challenges. Which one(s) do you most identify with?

Nyasha Harper-Michon - Social Archtivist
Nyasha Harper-Michon - Social Archtivist

The Social Archtivist designs with empathy

If you’re a Social Archtivist, you strive for everyone’s voice to be heard. Essentially, you design with empathy. 

Historically our cities have been designed by and for “reference man” or Le Corbusier’s le Modulor. And it’s a wonder that we continue to design space based on this 6ft-tall heterosexual able-bodied white man as it completely disregards women, children, the elderly, people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities—just about anyone who doesn’t fit into this “ideal”.

When designing, the Social Archtivist practices curiosity. “How does a mother encumbered by a stroller and groceries easily circulate through her building? How can the design of a school building discourage children from bullying others? How can we ensure our elderly people have shaded places to rest along their way to the market on a hot summer’s day?”

The Social Archtivist’s definition of good design starts by designing with, as opposed to for people—ALL people that is—and takes into account the full array of human uniqueness.

The Social Archtivist seeks out, listens to and addresses people’s lived experiences through observation, participation, co-design and the involvement of citizen advocacy groups in projects. These are all tools of social design and engagement.

On the whole, it’s about drawing on the full range of human diversity. Diversity in end user groups, design teams, decision making parties and let’s not forget those who build and maintain our buildings and spaces.

If your definition of good design starts by designing with, as opposed to for people—ALL people that is—and takes into account the full array of human uniqueness, then there’s no doubt you’re a Social Archtivist. 

Social Archtivist hashtag examples: #SocialSustainability #Diversity #Inclusion #Accessibility

Nyasha Harper-Michon - Environmental Archtivist
Archtivist-illustration-Nyasha HARPER-MICHON_05

The Environmental Archtivist designs with nature

If you’re an Environmental Archtivist, your overarching purpose is to reconcile humanity with nature. You’re a fervent believer in designing with nature. 

Since the advent of industrialization and urbanization, it’s clear we’ve distanced ourselves greatly from nature. As a result buildings and construction together account for nearly 40% of energy-related carbon emissions today and we’re knee deep in a climate emergency.

For the Environmental Archtivist, humanity’s distressing prospects are a call to action to reconnect and harmoniously synchronise the natural processes with how we live, work and play. Nature need not stop at the city gates but rather should penetrate deep into our living environments. 

For the Environmental Archtivist, humanity’s distressing prospects are a call to action to reconnect and harmoniously synchronise the natural processes with how we live, work and play. 

As an Environmental Archtivist, your day dreams are filled with buildings with smog-eating facades that clean the air, rewilded spaces with native grasses and critters that offer kids neighborhood ‘safaris’ and cities where otherwise untapped surfaces are home to energy-producing solar cells.

Are you convinced that for the sake of our planet, our well being and that of future generations, we need to make a habit of designing with nature? Are you constantly obsessing about every last corner of our built environment needing to be energy-savvy, biodiverse, resilient and healthy? If it’s a yes, you’re undeniably an Environmental Archtivist.

Environmental Archtivist hashtag examples: #Sustainability #EnergyPositive #CarbonPositive #Biomimicry

Nyasha Harper-Michon - Economic Archtivist
Nyasha Harper-Michon - Economic Archtivist

The Economic Archtivist designs for disassembly 

If you’re an Economic Archtivist, you’re passionate about designing out waste and focusing on long-term value creation. Designing for disassembly is your modus operandi.

For far too long, our economy has been based on a take-make-consume-waste model. As we make the necessary shift to a circular economy, we need to find ways to decouple economic activity from the consumption of finite resources. When it comes to construction and the built environment that means keeping building materials in use indefinitely. Closing the loop.

In the eyes of the Economic Archtivist, that means prioritizing reuse of existing structures and materials as well as designing for disassembly by connecting building components through dry connections. By documenting building products through material passports and seeing buildings as material banks, you ensure future uses that extend far beyond the original building’s lifetime whilst preventing asset depreciation.

The Economic Archtivist’s vision of the future is one where building parts migrate throughout cities over the years, just as people do. Building parts are disassembled, traded and reassembled creating new structures to meet society’s changing needs.

Your vision of the future is one where building parts migrate throughout cities over the years, just as people do. Building parts are disassembled, traded and reassembled creating new structures to meet society’s changing needs.

You’re well aware that if we want to achieve the necessary carbon reduction targets, we need to fundamentally change how materials are designed and used in the built environment. If you regard this as a call to action to account for future scenarios, then you’re by all means an Economic Archtivist.

Economic Archtivist hashtag examples: #CircularEconomy #DesignForDisassembly #ReduceReuseRecycle #ModularDesign

Nyasha Harper-Michon Tehcnological Archtivist
Nyasha Harper-Michon Tehcnological Archtivist

The Technological Archtivist designs by harnessing new technologies

If you’re a Technological Archtivist, your trademark is designing by harnessing new technologies to uncover original design solutions to today’s greatest challenges.

The 21st century has brought about unprecedented technological advances and disruptions. The building sector, although slower than other industries to catch on, has a whole lot to gain in this digital era.

Ever ask yourself: “How could we leverage 4D printing to help our buildings withstand natural disasters? How could artificial intelligence and machine learning increase the climate resistance and future-proofing of our buildings? How could virtual reality and smart sensors enable us to optimise our design processes?”

The Technological Archtivist dreams of a world in which the built environment is continuously evolving, much like software; constantly being updated and optimised with technology and data to meet and adapt to changing conditions and demands.

Beyond the technologies themselves, data offers the built environment immense opportunities. With today’s explosion of data, we designers can feel empowered by the fact that we can make informed design decisions. And coupled with experimentation-enhanced testing and modelling, data can contribute greatly to the optimisation and future-proofing of the building and construction experience.

If you dream of a world in which the built environment is continuously evolving, much like software; constantly being updated and optimised with technology and data to meet and adapt to changing conditions and demands, then you my friend, are none other than a Technological Archtivist.

Technological Archtivist hashtag examples: #DataDrivenDesign #ParametricDesign #SmartCity #ConTech #PropTech

Nyasha Harper-Michon - Entrepreneurial Archtivist
Nyasha Harper-Michon - Entrepreneurial Archtivist

The Entrepreneurial Archtivist designs the business of architecture

If you’re an Entrepreneurial Archtivist, you love to explore and create different business models and revenue streams. Designing and reinventing the business of architecture sparks joy for you.

The world of business is evolving fast and so should the practice of architecture. The classic architecture business model is outdated and many argue the profession is on the verge of extinction. If we want in on the future of the built environment, we’re going to have to embrace new ways of working.

You’ve probably heard the saying that the key to entrepreneurial success is to work on your business and not in it. That’s exactly what you do as an Entrepreneurial Archtivist. Rather than taking the ‘boom and bust cycle’ of traditional practice as a given, the Entrepreneurial Archtivist uses that same creativity and design thinking we use when designing buildings to develop new business models and revenue streams to stay ahead of the game.

The Entrepreneurial Archtivist lives by the saying that the key to entrepreneurial success is to work on your business and not in it. 

Can we shift from ‘selling time’ to offering result or value generation services? Can we push the limits of scalability and offer Architecture as a Product? Can we develop subscription models to create steady income?

Do you get a kick out of strategizing and implementing innovative business models and interdisciplinary lean startups? Or cultivating a people-oriented company culture based on experimentation and values? Or finding creative ways to remain relevant and communicate your brand and value as an architect in a way that resonates with clients and users?

Then you’re an Entrepreneurial Archtivist through and through, paving the way to the future of architecture practice.

Entrepreneurial Archtivist hashtag examples: #LeanArchitecture #AgileArchitecture #ArchitectureAsAProduct #FirmCulture

Which Archtivist are you or aspire to become? Maybe you’re at the intersection of different Archtivist types. That’s the beauty of it. We all have different profiles and strengths. Although we all are passionate about the built environment, we all strive to bring about positive impact in different ways. 

Get off the beaten path of ‘Architecting as Usual’ and explore. Find your happy place and be an Archtivist in your very own way. There is no one way to contribute to tackling today’s greatest challenges. 

The magic happens when we collaborate with fellow Archtivists to complement our strengths in order to create greater impact. 

Social, Environmental, Economic, Technological and/or Entrepreneurial Archtivist.

Whichever you are, embrace it, join forces with fellow Archtivists and together make the change you want to see in the world.

Join the discussion.

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