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Playing "Architect" : The Story So Far

It's been 4 years since I said farewell to being over worked and underpaid as an architect. I made no money during the first year on my own - "until that one project". Sounds familiar? I assure you, this is NOT that story...still waiting on that 'one project'

 

Hello my friend...


Today was one of those mornings where I caught myself lost in thought. You too ? Have those days where even the beautiful tiles of 'the gram' can't seem to pull you away from your own thoughts ? It's mid Covid pandemic (will this ever end ?) and more importantly right at the center of the worst economic crisis Sri Lanka has seen. I am certainly alone in constantly reflecting on the past and dreading this uncertain dystopian future ahead for all of us.



I woke up Like This...


I woke up and saw my wife off to work, tidied up the bedroom (this is more or less the only room I live in now), pulled up the old rattan arm chair (one of the few things my father actually owned when he was alive) and set up the little table that rests perfectly on the arms of the chair and converts this whole space into my home office in just under a minute (I'll share some images of all the places that become 'my office', But that's a post for another day).The image below is a quick sketch I did of the space.

Your Everyday Architect home office sketch plan hand drawn ink
A sketch plan of my home 'office'

As I open up Notion to check on my tasks for the day I sat back and looked around at the space I was in - I never thought I would be here, working for myself and running my own small architectural practice. I immediately pulled up my journal and decided this was what I wanted to write about as my first post on Your Everyday Architect.



Architecture is slow...


4 years, in my opinion, is a fairly small amount of time for an architectural practice starting from scratch. Here by scratch I mean absolute zero. My Business partner (and close friend) and I did not have the wealth to invest in a space for the practice, let alone hire anyone at the onset. Architecture, in general, is a slow profession, if you are passionate about the craft and not solely motivated by profits (It takes time to create a anything that truly ticks all the boxes). We started in the living room space of his parents home with the 2 PC's we had used for our final year projects at architecture school. What did we work on? A more-or-less Pro Bono renovation project and the idea of taking part in architectural competitions.


We made no profits during the first 2 years (barely enough to pay ourselves) and this first project remains incomplete 4 years later (I will be sharing this and other 'failed' projects in detail, so stay tuned....yes! I plan to get in the weeds with these future posts.


Not the fairy-tale start to an architectural practice you hear from everyone eh ? yeah...didn't think so.

The start of an architectural practice is rarely ever 'cool' like the story of BIG or Tadao Ando. It's most often a couple of like-minded individuals who are willing to put in the time and effort into their passions, while expecting nothing in return, for a long period of time that manage to build something really great - and will probably still remain unknown to the world at large.


Today, vastly due to the Easter Attacks, Covid -19 and now the Economic Crisis, the practice remains a 4 person team with around 4 projects completed and several others slowly grinding along at a snail's pace (lack of materials and exorbitant price hikes are making construction the playground of the *super* rich right now). Most would see the decision to move out on your own a failure as this point but that truly depends on how you measure success.



What being successful means (to me)...


Success is subjective and very personal. While there are very real notions that are accepted by society at large (some uniquely 'Sri Lankan' notions too : wife-car-house-baby-doctor-lawyer-engineer, you know the drill), I have always very strongly believed that success is a state of mind. If living like Drake - popping bottles and models and driving big cars is your state of mind...by all means...you do you! For me this notion is other worldly *I am an absolute 'alien' in Sri Lanka for my thinking... any other 'aliens' out there ?*



My 'Cutting Edge' formula for architectural success...

Your Everyday Architect Formula for success sketch drawings ink

I put this idea down consciously a few years ago. Looking back now I realized I have always assessed work and life this way. When a new project comes along, I look at how much I would enjoy working on it and how much happiness it will bring me. Next, I look at the budget of the project and the fees that I would like to charge, that would make me happy to work on it *and having to deal with the heartache of client changes.... gah!* - Ok! let's face it, none of us ever get paid the figure we wish for.


traditional work ethic sketch diagram ink
Traditional work ethic

Now, comes the obvious - does this project make me happy enough to be paid less than I would like - If the answer is yes then we move ahead and you (the client) and I are both happy. If it's a no - then this is awkward.... and we part ways.


Now, you might be thinking - 'this is formula for disaster' specially for a young practice, and your probably absolutely right. However, there is more to the 'happiness' component that is most likely a 'just me?' thing... and here it is - I am a minimalist. I own very few things, and everything I own or purchase has a very specific purpose in my life and brings me joy to own it. Cutting out materialistic clutter from one's life has the kind of profound mindset change that has to be personally experienced to truly understand it. Looking back, I have been unconsciously becoming a minimalist over the past few years, possibly out of sheer necessity. Around 3 years ago I made conscious effort to realize this to a great extent. I plan to elaborate more on this in a series of future posts on practical minimalism.

Your Everyday Architect work ethic sketch diagram ink
The Your Everyday Architect work ethic

I understand that this is quite a polarizing subject, and what I am saying here is not to devalue the importance of money. We all love money! *dollar signs*. However, in my opinion, thinking about how we get to that money is as important as the money *bags*. Taking an alternate path that considers 'happiness', helped me realize that the quantity of 'bags' needed is significantly less. I sincerely hope you consider this too. Now, go make your money bags !



And that's the story so far...


It's been quite a tough and slow process, but I believe slow personal growth is always more sustainable in the long run.


Our small architectural practice (Island Studio), myself and the other good people of Sri Lanka are facing the worst economic crisis as I write this *things are literally burning on the streets*. Seated in my dad's old rattan arm chair, it's hard to be certain about where this story will lead. Personally, I have taken this as the 'now or never' opportunity to try the things that were on hold for so long. Island Studio is at a juncture where we are working on exploring new avenues and paths for the future. I can't help but see how all of this *truly* is the journey of life.


 

I wanted to share a small slice of my story so far with you *fellow traveler* in hopes that it sparks some thoughts in you *however small*. Even if it doesn't spark anything and falls way off from what you were searching for, I appreciate that you made it to the end of this - my first steps through Your Everyday Architect and I hope that you come back to find something that you truly connect with. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss out on any future content. I've got a lot planned for this space.




I would love to hear your stories too! What quirky traits do you make everyone around you put up with?


Leave me a comment below with your thoughts...or just say hi...Let's have a good old fashioned conversation.


Cheers my friend,

Your Everyday Architec sign off hand written






 
Your Everyday Architect monogram sketch ink

Your Everyday Architect

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15 Comments


Rabindranath Refuge
Rabindranath Refuge
May 23, 2022

Roven! Not only are you a fantastic architect, it appears that you are are also an exceptional writer!! I love your work life philosophy.

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Roven Rebeira
Roven Rebeira
May 23, 2022
Replying to

You and Nirmali definitely are like minded in this work life philosophy that I've written about - of that I'm certain. Thanks for the encouraging comments! ✌

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nirmalif
May 23, 2022

This is great Roven ❤

Yes.. success is definitely a state of mind..

And we are aliens too.. aliens that have been made "happy" by your architectural skills 😊

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Roven Rebeira
Roven Rebeira
May 23, 2022
Replying to

Yes! Wish more people were aliens though right? I'm glad there's 'life out there! . Good architectural skills are nothing without good clients 😊. So thank you !

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Hasulie Dias Abeyesinghe
Hasulie Dias Abeyesinghe
May 22, 2022

Ro, this write up is amazing! You are really on point about our journey towards minimalism and happiness. 100% relatable 👽 Cant wait to see more incredible writing/sketches/thoughts!

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Roven Rebeira
Roven Rebeira
May 23, 2022
Replying to

Thanks so much Has! More aliens out here 💪. I'm glad you found something that's relatable in my writing. Means a lot ❤

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Yonathan Rommel
Yonathan Rommel
May 20, 2022

This was really inspiring! I'm glad I went through this! Putting happiness first ♥

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Roven Rebeira
Roven Rebeira
May 20, 2022
Replying to

Who knew, Happiness would be a key ingredient to measure professional fulfillment through work. I'm glad you resonate with the notions I've share here. It's great to have you share your thoughts too. Stay safe my friend.

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Natashya Chamba
Natashya Chamba
May 20, 2022

Love love it Rov! Always loved your writing, and just super proud and happy to see you doing what you love. Can't wait for more! ❤

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