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The ULTIMATE inspiration for Architects | Strom Architects | EP7

In this episode of the ArchAdemia podcast, we invite our first ever guest and it's a cracker!

Magnus Strom is the founder of world renowned architecture practice Strom Architects. They are the studio behind iconic pieces of design such as The Quest, Barcelona House, Meadow House & Superhouse.

Podcast write-up

Table of Contents

In this podcast Magnus Ström, founding director of Ström Architects, discusses his journey into architecture. He grew up in Sweden, where modernist and functionalist architecture influenced him from an early age. Despite facing challenges in getting into architecture school in Sweden, he eventually studied in the UK. He emphasises that one’s path to becoming an architect can vary, and what matters most is determination and finding mentors. Magnus also highlights the importance of setting goals for both personal and professional development, emphasising that having a clear destination is crucial for success in architecture. The discussion encourages aspiring architects to pursue their passion and not be deterred by traditional pathways.

Jack, Adam and Magnus discuss their experiences in the field of architecture. They mention the advantage of attracting clients with a strong portfolio, share their positive experiences during their education, and reflect on their career progression. Magnus discusses his journey from studying architecture to working in practices, touching on the importance of hands-on skills and the evolution of his architectural style. HIs signature style of focusing on construction, details, materials, and spatial design developed over time, emphasising both pragmatism and aesthetics in his work.

Architectural Philosophy and Niche Practice: A Journey to Success

Magnus discusses the importance of a consistent architectural style and philosophy. He emphasises the significance of recognising a common theme in building designs and how it defines their practice. He advises that having a recognisable style and philosophy can lead to a more focused and defined approach in architecture.

Magnus also shares his journey in establishing his own practice, highlighting the challenges he faced during the 2008 recession and the decision to specialise in one-off houses. He stresses the value of becoming a niche practice, which builds trust with clients seeking expertise in a specific field. This niche specialisation has enabled his firm to expand into larger projects and housing developments.

The conversation delves into the transition from being solely architects to becoming businesspeople, where networking and winning projects becomes critical. Magnus discusses the importance of having the desired type of work in one’s portfolio to attract potential clients.

Magnus offers insights into the evolution of an architectural practice, the importance of a clear philosophy, and the strategic choices that have led to its growth and success.

Magnus then talks about the strategies he employed, including rapid publication of architectural projects, the creation of a fictitious project called “Super House,” and the importance of social media, particularly Instagram, for brand awareness. He also mentions a successful project called “Quest” and the value of winning awards. The discussion touches on the challenges of competing in architectural festivals and the importance of investing in brand exposure. Additionally, the he emphasises the mantra, “slow is steady, steady is smooth, smooth is fast,” as a guiding principle when managing clients and projects. These strategies have contributed to the success and growth of his architectural practice.

Magnus discusses his approach to project management and client collaboration. He emphasises the importance of having a structured system in place to ensure efficient project progress. He mentions the use of a platform called Monday.com for project organisation and how they have preset boards for various project actions. He also highlights the need to establish a clear workflow and the challenges of getting client buy-in for the right project approach. He emphasises the value of storytelling to convey the importance of their methods to clients. Additionally, they all discuss the benefits of flexible fee structures based on monthly retainers rather than fixed fees tied to project stages to ensure cash flow stability for the architectural practice.

The podcast underscores the significance of having a well-defined process and effective communication with clients in the field of architecture.

Architectural Practice and Future Directions: Insights from an Industry Leader

They all discuss the intricacies of architectural project management, fee structures, and the evolution of their practice. They explore the challenges of capping fees when projects encounter delays, emphasising the importance of flexible contracts to accommodate changes.

They touch upon their approach to splitting Stage Four into 4A and 4B, explaining its benefits in terms of regulations, pricing, and project coordination. This division streamlines the process and minimises design conflicts.

They delve into the necessity of segmenting projects based on specialised packages like interiors and highlight the advantages of early tendering for shell and core costs, which can lead to cost savings. They also stress the significance of reducing contractor design portions.

Magnus moves on to discuss the expansion of their architectural practice into the hospitality sector. With an eye on financial security and international markets, they aim to leverage their expertise and reputation to take on larger projects and gain a more extensive global footprint.

The conversation provides valuable insights into the dynamic world of architectural project management, fee structures, project segmentation, and the future directions of architectural practices, emphasising adaptability, flexibility, and international reach.

Magnus discusses the international reach in architecture and his strategy for gaining recognition. He mentions the importance of niching down in the field and creating a fictitious project in his desired niche to gain a portfolio breakthrough. He emphasises the value of sticking to your architectural vision and being selective in the projects you take on. He touches on the idea of branching out into other sectors but notes that his focus remains on architecture. He describes the rewards and challenges of various projects and highlights the power of essentialism in architectural design. Magnus then discusses the impact of a particular building in Barcelona on their team.

They all discuss the rewarding aspects of their profession, emphasising the creation of awe-inspiring spaces. They stress the significance of delivering exceptional experiences to clients and motivating aspiring architects. The conversation touches on favourite projects and architects highlighting iconic designs like the Farnsworth House and contemporary Brazilian architects mk27. Magnus expresses difficulty in choosing favourites due to the unique qualities of each project. Finally, they offer key success factors: defining a clear destination, specialisation, surrounding yourself with talent, seeking outside advice, maintaining a strong portfolio, and being resolute in your vision.

They move on to discuss architectural philosophy and client relations. Magnus discusses the importance of maintaining integrity in design, even if it means refusing certain client requests. He highlights the significance of sticking to your principles and how it ultimately leads to positive outcomes, despite short-term challenges. The discussion also touches on the balance between non-negotiable aspects of design and accommodating personal preferences. Magnus acknowledges the importance of working with clients on a human level and the challenges that can arise. In conclusion, the conversation underscores the value of clear communication and alignment of expectations in architectural projects.

Links to Strom & Projects 

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