Architecture and architects have evolved so much over the years since the institutionalization of architecture as a field. Gone are the times when architects were kept for patronage work by the wealthy, architecture now is a thriving business which like any other business has to reach out to potential clients, users and peers. In the early years architects were not allowed to advertise their services through media and sign boards, but in modern day architecture, advertising and reaching out to clients and the consumer is mostly allowed and accommodated for in all Architect’s Professional bodies, albeit with caution and sensitivity.
This brings us to our architectural landscape in Botswana. There are well over 25 practicing ‘architects’ firms registered in the local phone directory. For a country of less than 2 million people with a small private sector, this can be assumed as some good indicator of prosperity in the industry.
The profession however is rather anonymous. Apart from the name and address in the telephone directory, it is hard if not impossible to find anything about most of this firm’s work, or at least what their ethoses are. In the age where professionals have international outreach, our local architecture industry is nowhere to be found in the web for example. Of the 25+ firms in the directory, only less than 5 do have any presence in the web. Googling any of their names brings a blank on the search results. Of those that have presence, at most 3 come up anywhere in the top ten of the google search when you search phrases such as ‘Botswana Architects’. In the 21st century, this is not a winning strategy. A practicing architect needs to be accessible and needs to hold their firm presence in the web sphere. Websites need to be seach engine optimized (SEO) to be able to find them using search engine. Otherwise there would be no point in having a website one can not find in the web.
Other avenues of promoting ones presence in the industry exist especially to attract potential clients through active marketing. In previous years, active marketing was not an acceptable practice for architects except through a brass name on your door stating you as an ‘architect’. Most professional bodies prohibited it, but this has since changed and large international firms such as Gensler, Atkins, Fosters and others actively buy spaces in international magazines to put full spread adverts. Therefore there is nothing amiss with firms, especially our local anonymous ones embarking on a regional marketing strategy to expand their reach beyond our limited client base.
Some simple direct active marketing strategies include:
- Architect’s sign boards: It is very common in Botswana to walk into an architect’s office with absolutely no signage anywhere near their vicinity. In fact, firms not represented in other parts of the country can and should explore reaching out there through carefully placed signage’s to attract clients.
- Lectures and articles: Architecture is a profession which offers service to the consumer and should therefore be in touch with the consumer through social commentary and other professional scholarly writings on the public press. This in Botswana is only again done by only a handful of architects. Architects such Mr Goitsemodimo Manowe of Pinagare architects, Jan Wareus of Wareus Consult, Leta Mosienyane of Mosienyane and Partners are probably the only actively visible both in the print and radio media. Public lectures in other countries are a critical part of the industries outreach and has been entrenched as part of a practicing architect’s Continual Professional Development (CPD).
- Brochures and business cards: Architects deal with visual media and clients can easily be wooed by amongst other things visually good brochures and leaflets showcasing what a firm can and has done. It is a direct and simple form of reaching clients and the consumer alike which local architects need to explore to maximum effect.
- Exhibitions: Architects are a part of the art fraternity. Architecture is a form of art which should still be able to find its way to the gallery, or public functions through exhibition. It is the only other way that a firm can easily curate their work to specifically sell their talent to the client base. Also this is an assured way of celebrating and showcasing success of service overtime, which can also have positive recognition from previous clients. In Botswana, in the past two/three years, only one firm did stage a very well received exhibition of their work and again that is Pinagare architects. Where are all the other architects firms?
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