How to be an architect and still have a life

How to be an architect and still have a life

A short blog from Clare Nash about why we work differently from other architectural practices.

When I mention the title of this piece, ‘how to be an architect and still have a life’, it often brings a chuckle. Yet it is exactly on this basis that I set up my own firm and it is the same sentiment that underlies every decision on building a team.

Architecture affects every single aspect of what we do, how we live, how well we live, even how easy it is to meet others. I feel that life experiences influence how we design buildings a great deal.

But if we are stuck in offices all day churning out construction drawings or cramming in multiple meetings and then trudging back to the office in order to ‘visibly complete the working day’, there is not much time left for those valuable life experiences. Let alone any creative thought.

The key things that enable us to operate as ‘architects with lives’ are:

  • Efficiency
  • No Office
  • Variable Hours
  • Flexible Mindset


There is a lot of wasted time spent commuting. Not least the waste of resources and carbon emissions to do so. Our office model means that we do not spend time commuting to the office and then travelling to a meeting in a different direction.

No Office

For the past 5 years, we have all worked from home or a local co-working space, then we meet up physically once a week in a café. It is here that we brainstorm ideas, work on design or construction problems together. We discuss where the business is going, where do we want it to go? In between meetings we use Slack (like WhatsApp for teams) to communicate, Google Drive to share files and Trello for project management. It is all very fluid and makes designing buildings so much easier.

Variable Hours

We benefit from inspiring and motivating meetings, while having plenty of time alone to really work through projects and problems. Flexible hours mean that work fits around our lives rather than the other way around. This is very motivating and liberating. Childcare or elderly care is far less of a problem. We can take advantage of off-peak swimming in outdoor pools, we can work on the Eurostar, or from Italy.

Flexible Mindset

This flexible mindset affects our design work in a positive way. We are a very creative bunch and refuse to accept rules for their own sake. This way of being is an ethos for life, work and who we are.

For some reason this flexible working model is to be expected of pioneering tech firms. But not so, the dustier image of the ‘professional’. Well we are creative, and we are ‘tech’, why shouldn’t these models work for us too?

Finally, I have been asked “how can you trust your employees if they are working from home”. I always respond with “why would I employ people I didn’t trust?”.

I have taken a lot of care in building up a team of passionate, intelligent, creative individuals. We all care about making a difference in the world and improving people’s lives. With that mindset and the business model to allow it to flourish – there is no stopping us!

Listen to Clare talking to RIBA Radio about setting up her practice in an inclusive way…