Hits: 39




Marketing is a relatively new field in architecture because of the restrictions placed on any form of advertisement by most of the earlier code of professional conducts of the regulating bodies virtually all over the globe. Schools of architecture expend all the time teaching on how to do the job with no course on how to get the job. This over reliance on how to do the job has perhaps compounded the problem of how to get the job because architects tend to get too confined to the technical aspect of architecture forgetting that architecture as a profession is also a business. There is therefore the need to focus on this all important aspect of the profession now that how to get the job can even be more tasking than how to do the job. This article aims at raising issues on the marketing of architecture as a catalyst to further contributions.



Marketing is one area professionals rarely want to touch or discuss in seminars, not even the Continuous Professional Development Program (CPDP) programme organized by the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA). This may probably be due to fear of stepping on ethical issues due to the provisions of the Code of Professional Conduct. The fear is justified as according to George Wright, FAIA “an Architect who writes, or attempts to write about ethics is like an architect walking through a mines field’ (Andy Pressman, 1997). There are always many explosives all along the way. Perhaps one other reason for apathy in discussing marketing issues could be the competition itself. Architects may not like to share their marketing strategies with others if only to control large junk of the market. Whatever the case may be, part of being a professional requires boldness and also the sharing knowledge with the public.

The importance of marketing cannot be over emphasized as one of America’s best known Architects Phillips Johnson, has stated severally “the first principle about Architecture is ‘Get the Job’” (Eugene Kohn, 1997). Without the job a brilliant architect may never have the opportunity to show his brilliance. Like a popular saying goes “a genius is a crackpot until he hits a jackpot.”


This paper therefore sets to examine this very vital aspect of Professional Practice with the view to stimulating ourselves of the fast changing world of competitive job speculation. It is also aimed at stimulating the professional body to consider the review of some of the provisions of the code of Professional Conduct so as to reflect the realities of today. To this end, a brief historical background of the practice market of which the current code of conduct is a product of, is reviewed. Changes over the time in the Nigerian practice climate are discussed and outline of some important steps to take or to avoid in marketing are proffered.



Job prospecting in the 70s was really never a task for the Nigerian architect. We all remember those UPE years, when it used to be the jobs seeking for the architect instead of the architect seeking for the job. Projects often “knock” at the doors of firms. Some firms could afford to be selective with regards what type of jobs they accept. The task before the principals in those days was just limited to design management and site control, both of which are purely technical in nature.

That informed the curriculum of most early schools of Architecture, which became the role model for the new generation schools. Marketing was never thought of as part of the training even at seminar level.

It was also at the background of this the present (1985) Code of Professional Conduct was formed.

Even where curriculums in schools remain stagnant, the fear of stepping on a ‘minefield’ perhaps makes the CPDP pay little or no attention to this very important aspect of today’s reality.

The events of yesterday have always got as way of influencing today. The ease with which jobs were picked in those days made architectural profession a very lucrative one.   Some firms often chewed more than they could swallow. Rushing over projects with little or no attention to details, culminating into scanty specifications and consequent abandonment despite the availability of funding in some cases.

It was obvious where the architect submits four sheets of drawings and accompanies them with his scale of fees, the client would prefer the same four sheets from a draughtsman for a fraction of the architect’s scale of fees. Many clients could not see the rationale for opting for an Architect. Perhaps this could be responsible for one of the first marketing challenges NIA faced – the battle to sell an architect to client instead of draughtsman. Up to now, this could be the reasons why architects are not just competing against themselves, but also against the draughtsman.

Seeing that architecture was a lucrative professional attracted many young men into the profession, thereby swelling the competition for job making the marking aspect more challenging.


Today, architects witness the changing mode of commissioning.   When it used to be at the pleasure of just the schedule officer or head of organization, the classmate, Alma or town’s man syndrome used to play the major catalyst in securing commission. Nowadays most commissioning decisions become board issue. Even where the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) could have been mandated to take such a decision on behalf of the board, contacts by competing architects through known faces on the board mounts unbearable pressure on the CEO. New modes of commissioning through a Project Manager is fast gaining ground, thereby putting in more knowledgeable hands into the decision making of project commissions.

Marketing architecture today is therefore not limited to the schedule officer or CEO of the organization, it even gets as far as the legislative arm of governance.  House Committee members are pressurized to bear weight on the organizations up to the extent of threatening budget suffocation.



Let us try to understand the restrictions of the Code of Professional Conduct, raise issues arising, before discussing ways of marketing within its restrictions.

The NIA Code of Professional Conduct demands with regards to mode of marketing that :


“A member may make his availability and experience known by means of direct approaches to individuals and organizations provided that the information given is in substance and in presentation factual, relevant and neither misleading nor unfair to others nor otherwise discreditable to the profession. A member shall not advertise consulting services by any public means nor shall he give monetary consideration for the publication or exhibition o his work.” (NIA, 1985).


By this provision, only direct contacts are allowed to individuals or organizations assuming all facts being presented are reasonable, advertisement by public means, or paid publication or exhibition are prohibited. The critical issue to clarify is what can be considered as “public means or not?” Does a website constitute a “public means”? If the answer is positive, can’t a Nigerian firm have a website?  If so how can a firm fare today without a website? Since websites are paid for to be maintained, does exhibition of ones project in a website constitutes a breach of giving “monetary consideration for the publication or exhibition of his works”. If these questions are in affirmative, does it mean having a website by a firm is a breach?  Or is a website owned by an architect or architectural firm considered as “architectural media” for which the clause on advertisement makes an exemption? There is probably the need to re-appraise the code in the light of today’s reality. Pending when these issues are addressed, let us examine the various options to marketing architecture.


Quality work is surely an imperative to the marketing of every product. There a couple of firms who really enjoy patronage due to the mark they made on quality in design and post contract handling. There are however many other firms who even though they maintain high quality works, have not made a mark in the Nigerian practice terrain. This goes to confirm that quality work alone cannot sell a firm. It requires some marketing touch. Grant it that no amount of marketing can fix poor quality job. Brilliant design is only a dream unless the designer can get along with the client, meet his deadlines and cost targets.


Marketing architecture itself is like plucking the unripe fruit, one has to give it time to ripe. The results of marketing are not instantaneous. It takes quite some time to yield results. Marketing is not an end in itself but only a means to an end in that it does not seal the deal. Marketing only places the architect in the right position to convince his client of his technical competence, thereby putting a seal to the deal. Should a firm therefore decides to appoint a marketing expert that is not an architect or is an architect too young to convenience a client of the firms technical competence, the principal of such firm should make himself free and available to attend cocktails, private dinners, outings, yatching or golfing as arranged by the marketing expert. The ability to put a seal to the deal rests squarely on the principal. It is therefore not workable for the principals to think that once they set up a marketing unit in their firm, they just sit and expect projects to flow.


One of the problems encountered when a firm sets up a marketing unit is the fact that the marketing experts are not allowed free hand to practice what they know best. This is because more often than not such marketing units are headed by a much younger person than the principal, who often sees himself as the master diagonist of the firm’s ailments.


Every endevour that is expected to succeed should commence with a strategic plan. This is more so in marketing because of its speculative nature. Without strategic planning, a lot of time, human and material resources may end up being spent without any tangible result. Architecture being a regulated profession, or a “parity product” (Jane Kolleeny et al, 2001), its can be reasonably produced by any of the registered firms and at the same scale of fees. Perhaps the best strategic plan for a firm therefore is for it to find the edge it has over every other firm. This edge is the advantage the client will derive in deciding to place his project in this firm, and it therefore has to be glaringly obvious. Surely every firm has a specific clout which gives it its unique charisma. It is this identity that the marketing machinery must identify and promote as the firm’s ace over others.


In the Nigerian architectural practice arena, there are firms where the principal that seal the deal in getting a commission is given special financial inducement for doing so. This is thought to encourage every principal to strive and bring new jobs to the firm. While such practice may in some cases advance the course of the firm, it could also be responsible for the collapse of many other firms. There could be situations where two or more principals of the same firm are placed towards picking the same commission for the firm. The financial inducement tends to make them compete against each other. Consequently they may end up working against one another. This opens to the client the fragility of the partnership and often leads to loosing the job, because the marketing teams have not been working as a team.


Having touched on some characteristics and peculiarities of marketing, let us try and summarize this article by listing the marketing dos and don’ts as a food for thought for firms thinking of delving into aggressive marketing plans:




  1. 1.Andy Pressman, AIA,(1997). Professional Practice 101: A Compendium of Business and Management Strategy in Architecture. John Willey & Sons Inc.
  2. 2.Eugene Kohn, FAIA, RIBA, JIA (1997). Professional Practice Article. John Wiley & Sons Inc.
  3. 3.Jane Kolleeny and Charles Linn, AIA. The unsung heroine of successful architectural practice (a marketing article ) - Architectural Record –Feb.-2001. McGraw-Hill.