The Village of Archville (Tales From Archville, Chapter 1)

Architect marketing isn't a myth. Visit the Village of Archville and take your first steps to find freedom as an architect.


Visit the Village of Archville and take your first steps to find freedom as an architect …

Once upon a time, there was an architect who needed to find a new place to live. So one day, he headed off for a walk through the forest and, because he was feeling adventurous, took a path that he had never been down before.

The further he walked, the more he lost track of time, until he came across a village he had never seen before.

As he walked towards the settlement he met the mayor of the village.

‘Hello! What are you doing here?' asked the mayor.

‘I need to find a new home, so I headed out for a walk and then lost track of time,' replied the architect.

‘Well, since you are here you might as well visit Archville … 

Funny thing is, our whole village is made up of architects just like you.'

The mayor continued: ‘The village of Archville is like any other village, with good and bad neighborhoods. The town is divided up into four quarters:

  • The Old Quarter
  • The Artist Quarter
  • The New Quarter
  • Sunshine Island

One of the quarters is a dire place to live. Two of the quarters have their pros and cons. The final quarter, Sunshine Island, is a place where the sun always shines and people are happy.'

The mayor offered to take the architect around the village to see if he could find the place where he would enjoy living.

The Old Quarter

‘In the village of Archville, The Old Quarter has the highest rate of divorce, death and depression in the entire village,' the mayor said. ‘The main street is called the Boulevard of Broken Dreams and almost every light on the street is broken.'

‘The people look so sad,' said the architect.

‘Well …,' said the mayor, ‘There are two very good reasons for that. Architects who live here have two crosses to bear: 1) They do not make a lot of money, and 2) they can’t win fulfilling projects.'

‘That is terrible,' said the architect.

‘It is,' said the mayor. ‘And if that weren’t bad enough, these architects take on any project, no matter how small or soul-destroying. Their clients are typically the worst in the land who will take advantage of their desperate situation. These low-end clients constantly complain about fees and expect free site visits and sketches.'

‘I don’t think this place is for me,' said the architect, squirming slightly.

‘No, probably not; you might find the next two quarters better,' said the mayor.

The New Quarter

The New Quarter in the village of Archville was a lot cleaner. Along the streets were newer cars and buildings; even the street lamps were well maintained. Yet, the architects walking around the New Quarter seemed a little depressed.

The mayor leaned over to the architect and whispered, ‘Architects who live here have only one cross to bear: While they do make a good money, they seldom get to work on fulfilling projects.'

‘What do you mean?' asked the architect.

‘While there are plenty of projects, the type of work available sucks the life force out of these architects. Some feel they are ONLY working for the money. They get addicted to the money, but never feel fulfilled. Financially stable, but emotionally bankrupt,' confessed the mayor.

‘Oh, my goodness, is there anywhere else for me to see?' asked the architect.

The Artist Quarter

The mayor pointed to a bridge and gestured for the architect to walk across. They crossed the bridge into the Artist Quarter. ‘Architects who live here, like those in the New Quarter, also have one cross to bear. They do fulfilling projects that they love, but they never earn the money they want.'

‘Kind of the opposite of the New Quarter … fulfilled, but poor,' said the architect.

‘You’ve got it,' said the mayor.

The Artist Quarter was a cool part of town with great design and color; the place had a really funky feel to it. The buildings were not maintained, though, and the cars were old and rusty.

‘The architects who live here love the work they do, but they are getting sick of being constantly underpaid and undervalued for great work. They are our ‘starving artists,’' said the mayor.

‘Better than the New Quarter,' said the architect, who was idealistic.

‘Well …,' said the mayor with a big sigh, ‘as they say, “all that glitters is not gold.”‘

The mayor explained that the starving artists see everyone else making the money from their expertise and creativity. Their families suffer and, ultimately, the artists resent being undervalued and under-rewarded.

‘To be honest, I am not sure Archville is the place for me,' said the architect in a depressed tone.

‘Hang on,' said the mayor with a wink, ‘we have the final quarter yet to see.'

Sunshine Island

Both men crossed another bridge and, immediately, the sun came out. The architect noticed how happy and healthy everyone looked. The building designs were as cool as those in the Artist Quarter, but in better condition. The lights in the street worked. Everyone drove beautiful cars and wore fine clothes.

‘I like Sunshine Island,' said the architect. ‘How do I get to live here?'

The mayor paused. Now the architect sensed that getting a passport to Sunshine Island was not going to be so easy.

‘Hmmm, these people are different; they don’t think like other architects,' said the mayor.

The architect was curious; he leaned forward as if to demand the answer.

‘You have to work two jobs,' said the mayor. ‘This is something that none of the architects in the other quarters ever get their head around.'

The Secret To Life On Sunshine Island

‘What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know.

It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.'

– Mark Twain

‘Their first job is as a marketer of architectural services … and their second job is as an architect,' said the mayor, speaking sternly as if it were the only thing he had said so far that mattered.

The architect looked shocked.

‘That is right,' said the mayor. ‘To live here, you need to sell and market your services, like every other business owner in the world. Architects are NO different. You will need to study sales and marketing as hard as you studied architecture.'

‘But I was told that if I did great work, that would be enough,' cried the architect.

‘That was a lie, but not one that the Sunshine Island residents believed!' exclaimed the mayor.

‘Why do so many believe this lie?' asked the architect.

‘According to legend, a long time ago, a highly respected teacher of architecture told his students that if they did great work, then they would never need to sell their services. The students who most feared the idea of selling became teachers. They continued the lie.'

‘Architecture is a business,' the mayor said, ‘and every business owner needs to master the art of marketing.'

The mayor explained it this way: ‘Effective marketing means having more opportunities than you can deliver, which means you can choose projects that you love at a fee that reflects your true value.'

‘So the original teacher that lied has caused the entire problem?' asked the architect.

‘No, the real lies that hurt architects are the other lies that they tell themselves. The architects in the Old Quarter are slaves to their clients because they believe their own lie that there are no clients who will pay more.

‘The architects in the New Quarter sell themselves for money because they believe their own lie that the only way to earn a decent income is to churn out buildings like a sausage factory.

‘The architects in the Artist Quarter believe their own lie that being true to their artistic integrity requires sacrificing fees.

‘The truth is that all of these architects can do the work they love AND earn a great income like the residents of Sunshine Island, but they need to master the art of marketing.'

And so ends our story, a parable for our time.

Which Quarter would you live in?

To learn how you can get to live on Sunshine Island, join us for our next training webinar on the Architect Marketing Formula.

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12 comments on “The Village of Archville (Tales From Archville, Chapter 1)

  1. AbouBaker on said:

    Really great!
    I could really learn a big lesson from this story.
    to be honest I was one of architects who live in one those quarters (not Sunshine Island).
    looking for close future to join you.

    thank you

  2. Eric Armstrong on said:

    Hello Richard or anyone who can answer,

    I’m not an architect, but how do architects separate themselves from “builders” (engineers)? I may be wrong, but I get the impression that “builders” try to make the need for architects seem unnecessary.
    I guess my question is, do clients need architects if engineers are the one that make buildings stand (physically/mathematically)? I am thinking about studying architecture, but I’m on the fence because I think that people respect engineers more than architects.

    P.S. I mean no disrespect to any architects out there; I’m just curious.

    – Eric

    • Richard Petrie on said:

      Hi Eric
      Great question.
      Have you ever been to Paris?
      That is a city where every morning you wake up, look out the window, and say ‘Wow’.
      What would Paris look like if it were designed by engineers?
      Architects job is to inspire people and make them feel alive in fully functional spaces.
      Paris is what happens when when enough people throughout its history value great design.


  3. John Jones on said:

    Perfectly told parable, Richard! This should be MANDATORY reading in every architecture school!

    • Richard Petrie on said:

      Thanks John, I just hope we can reach enough architects who say ‘Yeah I want to learn to market my services better’. Because those who do will be able to be more specific about who they attract, which leads to better projects and fees and earning what they are worth. Architects in my opinion get a terrible run. The industry wont help you, the AIA wont either, but you can help yourself. Everyone seems to think architects should be doing free work and then they think they are overpaid! Having worked with hundreds of architects I know you guys and gals are not overpaid. Only a few crack the code – lets make that a few more. And a few more and more. We can do this. The more who learn how to sell their true value the better it will be for all architects…. the 12th monkey.

  4. Marian on said:

    I recognised Gert’s country immediately. My heart bleeds for that country. It is ruled by politicians with their own personal agendas. Corruption is rife and uncontrolled. The work ethic is generally poor and the politicians have installed their cronies in higher places. The majority of these cronies are under-educated, inexperienced and only in the post for the money. There are, however, some bright lights in these positions and I am very thankful for them. These few are also depressed about the mess up made by the majority, but, there is one saving grace – an overriding optimism on the part of some of us that things will eventually come right in this country of resources and resourceful people .

  5. I think I knew this when I graduated college – for some reason I decided to ignore what I knew and struggle in this career for 20 plus years. I am ready to just enjoy what I do now, to get the best clients I can get or none at all. I appreciate what you are teaching. Thank you.

  6. Sharon on said:

    “You will need to study sales and marketing as hard as you study architecture” – You hit the nail on the head, Richard. I’ve been a student of architecture for 20 years and I can keep learning till I die. While I didn’t outright dismiss the work of my friends in business, marketing, and advertising majors and careers as fluff, I had no idea there was so much to it – depth, psychology, strategy, tactics, etc. As smart as architects are, we are clueless about some things. Yes, I am going to speak for everyone :). A year ago, I couldn’t tell you the difference between marketing and sales. Well, I’ve been studying and now I can. Now, it’s just about finding the time and resources to implement the strategies.

    • Richard Petrie on said:

      Hi Sharon
      Thanks for the feedback – you are a fast learner. By the way marketing is fun, even more fun than design. Richard

  7. Gerd Bolt on said:

    I know of a country where just about all architects need to read this tale. It is a country where the value of the architect is gauged by the willingness to offer the lowest fee in a system underwritten by the powers that be.

    It has become a sad place… far beyond the Village of Archville. Once upon a time there was reference to a rainbow… now obscured by the black smoke of burning educational buildings.

    • Richard Petrie on said:

      Gerd, I dont know a place where value is based on the lowest fee??? I hope you have that wrong.

      But generally every market there are clients who are cheap, clients who pay a lot and then a lot in the middle. Your job is to specialize in serving those for whom money is NOT their #1 buying criteria. Every market has this mix.

      If there are architects charging high fees in your land then that proves it is possible.

      Moving higher up the pricing scale requires a change in how you present yourself (marketing) and a mindset shift – so many architects have told me that my LCC strategy wont work for them and almost all were proven wrong. Clients will pay when things are properly explained. But the problem is clients are terrible at explaining their value. I have a course called the Petrie formula that helps with this. But the key is to talk about how what you do or what you know will impact their lives, of how by not doing what you do or using what you know can cause their lives a living hell. This is a skill.

      The last txt I received from my first architecture client Mona Quinn who was very resistant to increasing her fees for many false reasons when we started was ‘Just gave my most expensive fee proposal yet – it was accepted plus client happy to wait three months as I am too busy – I thought I had hit the fee ceiling but obviously not’ … I probably shouldn’t share personal txts but it may inspire someone else to lift their game.

      Marketing + mindset changes required

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