Beginnings in Architecture- Advice from Nick Tobias of Tobias Partners (Part 2)

Image source: Beautiful, Home. 2016. Nick Tobias, principal of Tobias Partners. Sydney, Australia.

In the previous article, I spoke to Nick Tobias of Tobias Partners about starting a career in architecture and in particular the issues surrounding the use of the word ‘architect’ which as a student of architecture or graduate architect can be confusing. This week we discuss the business of architecture. Nick, who launched his career whilst still studying as a 22 year old has guided his firm to success both architecturally and financially, he is an award winning Sydney-based architect willing to share the secrets to his success, I revisited the conversation below to share a few quick fire tips for those embarking on their own architectural business journey.

Image source: Partners, Tobias. 2016. Whale Beach House, Sydney, Australia.

Why do you do what you do and what are you trying to achieve?

One of my biggest passions is to design and create; architecture gives us the opportunity to leave lasting impressions. In an architectural sense I’m striving for design excellence in every one of our project, to make a reasonable living whilst doing so allows us to strive for design excellence.

What do you wish you knew at my stage?

That before getting into a professional relationship with a client, consultant or builder (etc) it’s important to have a ‘vision’ match. In particular with a client there needs to be a cultural fit in terms of values, ethos and desires. We use this as a type of screening tool on projects, which is also beneficial for the client; the success of a project rests on this and it also saves valuable time. Once there’s a vision match we then take an initial deposit before beginning any pre-design work, this ensures the clients commitment, reiterates the value of our time and allows us to allocate the required resources.

What about for someone in my position that may not have the luxury of choice?

To make a start on your own projects you may have to create long-term leverage by doing things early on without expecting a lot in return. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ though, create the leverage in the areas you wish to work. Granted that might be difficult at first but where possible only take on projects you’re passionate about as you could be spending 12-24 months on them. If you have to start something on the side or continue working at a firm to get through then do it.

Image source: Partners, Tobias. 2016. Vision Statement, Sydney, Australia.

In summary:

  1. Quality design takes time and involves rigorous exploration, to achieve design excellence the compensation must be adequate, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’.
  2. Ensuring a cultural fit by applying a ‘vision’ match from a projects outset is a vital tool. Once there is a vision match acquire a deposit before beginning any works.
  3. You may have to create leverage when starting out, short-term pain for long term gain.

The above is a small sample of a number of vital business tools not currently taught in the majority of formal architectural education systems, exaggerating the disconnect between architecture and business. To ensure the long-term success of our profession in a rapidly changing world, the divide between the two must close.


Image source: Partners, Tobias. 2016. Whale Beach House, Sydney, Australia.


Tobias, Nick. 2015. Interviewed by Tim Viney, 2017, Surry Hills, Sydney.

  1. “Australian Institute of Architects.” AIA, accessed 29 August, 2017.

NCARB, Eric Reinholdt. “Thirty x Forty “, accessed 4 September, 2017,.


Beautiful, Home. 2016. Nick Tobias, principal of Tobias Partners. edited by Nick Tobias- Landscape. Sydney, Australia.

Partners, Tobias. 2016. Tobias Partners. Sydney, Australia.





Leave a Reply