Journey of an Architect is a blog started by Tim Ung to share his architecture and design ideas through speculative projects. His posts focus on his design process, thoughts, struggles, and successes throughout his journey.

How keeping in touch can lead to more architecture projects

How keeping in touch can lead to more architecture projects


After graduating from architecture school, I’ve made it a habit to reach out to my friends and stay in touch. This is usually accomplished through text messages, casual meetups after work, or lunch and dinner at a local restaurant. Through these casual meetings, both my friends and I are able to catch up on milestone events in our lives and we’re able to talk about our future goals. These usually range from starting a business to growing within their current company.

From these meetings, we’re also able to see one another’s work ethics, passion for our careers, and growing experience in our fields. These conversations help us maintain a strong friendship and build our trust with one another. Eventually, one of us will encounter someone else who might be looking for a trustworthy lawyer, doctor, masseuse, architect, or any other professional.

Depending on the professional that person is looking for, either your friends will refer the person to you, or you’ll refer the person to them. Once you’re done working on that person’s project, stay in touch with them and they’ll most likely recommend your firm to their friends.

Remember to be honest and genuine

Although it’s important to build positive and strong relationships with others, never pretend to be someone you’re not just to gain the trust of others. If you disguise yourself and befriend the other person, it might eventually lead to a project, but you’ll soon realize that they’re not your type of client.

For example, we’ve all encountered a situation where we meet a friend of a friend or a stranger at a conference and listen to them tell a joke. Let’s say they tell a derogatory joke and laugh. One by one, your friends begin to laugh with that person. Soon, you find that you’re the only one not laughing at the joke. What would you do? Join the crowd and laugh at something you disagree with? Or walk away and join a crowd that’s talking about a topic of your interest?

It’s easier for us to open up and talk to others who share a common interest. Oftentimes, this leads to the most genuine and strongest friendships that we maintain until the end of our lives. This deep understanding of one another allows us to engage in direct conversations with one another and share our thoughts about anything and everything.

These are the kinds of people and relationships that we most desire as our client.

Here’s a story about one of my friendships

In my junior year of architecture school, I met an older gentleman who became a colleague and a close friend. During our fall semester, we went on a road trip to our project site, which was located in Pittsburgh, PA, and we spent the entire car ride talking about relationships. At this time, I broke up with my girlfriend and my new friend shared stories of his past relationships.

From that road trip onwards, our friendship remained strong and I continued onto graduate school while he went onto working with his grandfather in a drywall framing company. Throughout the remainder of school and into my professional career as an architect, I remained in contact with my friend and we would meet up for food or drinks to catch up on life.

Then came a project with my friend

As time passed, I was learning so much at my architecture firm and I was constantly trying to gain more experience and my license to practice. At the same time, my friend was quickly learning about his grandfather’s company and was taking over the operational side of the company. We would meet up every month and have a mastermind session about our ideas for the future.

During one of these meetings, my friend spoke about a vacant building located down the street from his house that he was interested in purchasing and renovating. We brainstormed some ideas and came to the conclusion that it would be a fantastic project.

At our next meeting, he told me he purchased the building and asked me to come up with a conceptual design for this building.

Visiting Project 5x30’s site

Currently, the building is in very poor condition and it was actually on the verge of collapsing. It was vacant for the past decade and the previous owner removed most of the vertical structural framing members of the shear wall located at the center of the building. The owner also cut the horizontal framing members that hold up the floor joists above so that he could run a drain pipe to the basement.

Instead of going into detail about the existing conditions of the building in this post, I’ll leave you with a photograph and give you the opportunity to experience the existing space. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!

5x30 - Existing Conditions

The design brief for Project 5x30 – Restaurant and Apartments

During one of our meetings at our local bar, we began brainstorming ideas that would work in my friend’s building as well as fit into the surrounding context. The building is located in a low to moderate income neighborhood that’s usually viewed as having high crime rates.

While researching the neighborhood, we discovered that there’s a lack of grocery stores that sell fresh produce to the community. There was also a lack of restaurants and other amenities that would residents in the neighborhood to congregate and socialize with one another.

So my friend and I decided that the building should maintain its previous mix use program of restaurant on the ground floor and studio apartments above. In addition, my friend is looking into expanding the project by purchasing the adjacent building and adding a market that sells fresh produce, a greenhouse on top of both buildings to grow fresh vegetables and herbs, and additional apartments.


By fostering our friendships with others, we’re able to openly share our ideas and aspirations with one another and create everlasting connections. Eventually, opportunities will emerge and either our friends will reach out to us, or we’ll reach out to our friends and refer new clients to one another. In some cases, we may even be each other’s client in the future. So remember to keep in touch with your old friends, lend a hand whenever they need help, listen, and share your ideas and aspirations with one another.

The Power of Relationships for Architects

The Power of Relationships for Architects

What I Re-learned about architecture from a temporary exhibition

What I Re-learned about architecture from a temporary exhibition