I started designing buildings in 2008, “Teoalida’s Virtual City”, originally a hobby of graphic design and 3D modeling in AutoCAD, but a fully functional housing system (virtual city – because I do not have capital to build what I design). Dozens apartment block models, constantly improved, imagining being president of a country or manager of a housing corporation, with mission to offer quality housing for at least half of population, like what does HDB in Singapore (I am fascinated especially by public housing around the world). Since 2010 I also landed housing complexes and single family homes.
The “Virtual City” has impressed many people, from random individuals dreaming to have a home, to architects and housing developers, turning my hobby into business in 2012. I started learning architecture, to make construction drawings similar with professional architects, but I never enjoyed working for customers as much I enjoyed drawing for hobby. I has been contacted by few hundreds customers, but 9 of 10 were not willing to pay my services, and the paying customers wasted me too much time for little payments. My other hobby of making databases, which also turned into business in 2012, hit my target of $1000/month in 2015, making me to retire from architecture.
Having a job under an established architecture company could have turned my life into a different direction, but did not had such chance until it was… too late.
This page shows my early career, archive and scraped ideas, useful for students and friends to see how my hobby-business began. These projects may contain errors.
If you want to view my latest and BEST projects, look in House Design and Apartment Design instead, because the errors may be already repaired in newer projects. Do not say that these drawings are a piece of shit! I already know, these are shits compared with newer projects! You know… I never could design high quality housing if I not started with crappy housing!
May 2008, I imagined a virtual city with oversized apartments such as 105 and 115 sqm for 4-room (internal floor areas, excluding walls and balconies), 25 cm load-bearing walls (other walls 12.5 cm), 4×4 m bedrooms.
Late 2008, I decided to use Singapore’s HDB as main source of inspiration (notice that, like HDB downsize in late 1990s, I have downsized my apartments in the following years).
March 2009, I finalized first set of rules, switched to 12.5 cm walls, 3×5 m bedrooms, 3 classes (approximately 115, 105, 95 sqm for 4-room, similar with Singapore sizes) because I realized that my past projects had oversized rooms, and introduced 5-room apartments to keep average apartment size around 100 sqm.
August 2010, I designed first landed houses, beside apartment blocks. Inspired from Singapore, Malaysia, Europe and Mexico.
March 2011, I studied Hong Kong for 3 months and realized that people can live in apartments smaller than my ones. I designed few tiny apartments, for the first time I used decimal metric system instead of binary metric divisions.
Late 2011, I realized that my normal apartments are again oversized as the Singapore apartments are measured with walls and balconies too. Most of new apartments followed Class C size (95 sqm internal for 4-room, 3x4m bedrooms) but better than older bigger Class A / B apartments.
January 2012, I found software to chat with website visitors and this helped website visitors to contact me to ask for consultation or design services. Too bad that 90% of these people want free plans and are not interested in a full architecture drawing (and pay for it).
March 2012, I added a series of even smaller, low-cost apartments, inspired from Latin America (Mexico and Brazil).
August 2012, first paying customer… another hobby turned into a business! I lost the interest for the “Virtual City” so now I concentrate on working for customers. Most of customers are from Philippines, so during 2013 I designed many houses inspired from this country (first houses in decimal metric system and imperial system, instead of my binary metric system).
Late 2013, I decided to use decimal metric system for all projects including hobby ones, I remade all rules, 4-room being 90-100 sqm for normal projects, 60 sqm for low-cost ones suitable for Latin America, India or other third-world countries, now I will specify both gross and net floor areas to align with what most developers are doing.
2015, after 3 years of business, architecture still did not turned profitable, while my other hobbies did. So I decided to leave architecture and do new projects just occasionally.
My dad was working in AutoCAD since long time ago, I learned myself AutoCAD since I was 9 years old, he did not taught me, I learned by watching him doing engineering drawings. Nobody in my family or friends is working in architecture or construction.
I started designing own buildings in 2001, when I was just 12 years old, without having internet connection or any help from friends, I had limited access to information.
In 2001-2003 my concept was to make buildings without concrete, with standardized metallic pieces like LEGO bricks, joined with screws and other things, building an apartment block in several days and change internal layout everyday, also allows to disassemble a house and move to another location. I designed concepts of both landed houses and high-rise apartment blocks, but all was simple and monotonous and drawings themselves were simple with just wall axis and door placement. Example: a 7-bedroom house designed in 2002 (photo).
Between 2005 and 2007 I gained some interest to study housing in my country (Romania), I explored nearby cities in real life, by walking around, also explored other cities from former communist countries via internet, I gained some architectural knowledge, I designed city maps and floor plans of many existing blocks. Most blocks in my country are rectangular with 2 to 6 units per floor. Still, no interest for design my own housing models.
In 2007-2008 I practiced my urban planning talent in The Sims 2, where I built 3 cities with nice-looking but non-functional blocks.
In early 2008 I had a dream to design myself a functional city using AutoCAD, with 4 and 9 storeys blocks. I made several floor plans in Paint, most still inspired by Eastern European architecture, and several 3D experiments in AutoCAD. No finished project.
The early 2008 architectural designs
In mid-2008 I started to explore the world using Google Earth, studying architecture of various cities, and make random searches on Google Images like “apartment floorplan“. I became fascinated by Asia where I found apartment buildings with one row of identical apartments placed along a balcony-corridor. Or crazy-shaped buildings with identical apartments mounted on a variable-shaped core.
I noticed the advantages of corridor-style: can create blocks in various shapes with variable number of units per floor without risking to have rooms stuck in middle of block, without ventilation. No more limit to max 4 units per floor due to central staircase like in the previous european-communist designs.
The New Generation in Teoalida’s Housing Design begins! Modern apartments with entry directly in a large living room, semi-open kitchen, one large common bath and one small bath for master bedroom, for the first time I include furnishing layout in my drawings. A concept totally different from my past projects inspired from Eastern Europe.
The floor plan is based on a 4×4 meters grid, so overall it is nicely proportioned and versatile. Identical types of 2-Room Middle, 3-Room Corner, and 4-Room Corner End, placed in a row along a common access balcony, can form various block shapes that are 10 meters wide. All living rooms and bedrooms have windows on outer facade. A 4 roomer have a built area of 128 square meters, exactly double than a 2 roomer. The internal area is in fact more than double, because the balcony eats same amount of space regardless of the apartment size. The usable space is built area minus 4 sq m (balcony) minus 12% (walls area). Let’s try a 72 by 32 meters S-shape with 16 units per floor on one single staircase…
Other projects included a square tower block with 4 units per floor, with 3 and 4 rooms, had advantage of windows for all bathrooms. Later was derived in a trapezoidal block. I also wanted a triangular tower block with 6 units per floor, but I not succeeded a good floor plan.
Maisonette Alternate – WEIRDEST block designed by me
In August 2008 combined three ideas: double-storey 5-Room apartments inspired from Singapore maisonettes, external access corridors, and alternating (mirroring) the floorplan every two floors, to create the weirdest project in my career. Despite of crazy-looking with weird layout of windows, is fully functional, on each floor 2 apartments shares a single pipe column for kitchens and bathrooms, but the layout is not efficient (much space is wasted). Later called Maisonette Alternate and redesigned in Trident shape for a surplus of craziness.
In September 2008 I tried again to design a triangular block, but with 12 units per floor and 3 staircases. In fact, I merged three Trapeze-like blocks around a central courtyard, to create another weird shaped building. Two different types of 3-Room, closed kitchens with blocked views, service balconies at kitchens (for the first time), but no windows for bathrooms.
Little & Simple
Meantime, I concentrated on improving my first project, I criticized myself for incorrect flat size proportions, 2-room being smaller than half of the 4-room. I tried to design other versions with increased block width to 12 meters.
So in September 2008 I launched the successor, called Little & Simple. Three standard versions: I-4 (32 by 12 meters), L-6 (36×26 meters), U-8 (40 by 26 meters), can be joined to form various shapes, for example a S-36 (36 units per floor) in 132 by 52 meters, pictured here. Due the block layout, the two-room units always represented 50% of total number of units.
Designed as walk-up block, staircase integrated inside, open kitchen design and better relation between flat sizes: 2-Room Middle (70/72 sq m), 3-Room End (96 sq m), 4-Room Corner (120 sq m), gross floor area.
Regulated facades for enhanced aesthetics
Everything was careful calculated to create nice visual proportions in facade design in AutoCAD 3D renderings. Floor plan follow a 4-meter grid, and by having 4 meters frontage for each room and 3-meters floor-to-floor, a nice 4:3 ratio was created. Windows are tall like half of floor height, and width 1.5 meters for kitchens, 2.5 meters for bedrooms, and 3.5 meters for livingroom-balcony. Bedroom windows are grouped two with two, and are separated by a 0.5 meters column, 0.5 meters beams are also placed on basement and roof, so will remain 1.5 meters of vertical wall between windows, 1 meters of horizontal wall between windows and columns, and also between first and last storey window to horizontal beam.
The colors were not randomly chosen, but to provide maximum contrast rather than realism. For windows I choose cyan because reflects the sky, the small elements like windows sills or balcony frame and glass were cyan-blue, while balcony backwall be yellow to be in contrast, the walls used the remaining light color: green, while for columns and beams I choose magenta to be in contrast with green. Later I eliminated balcony backwall color, all external walls became yellow.
I had more projects, at least sketched (wall axes). Some did not followed the 4-meter grid rule and dimensions with decimals. Some were influenced by Eastern European apartments, with entry to a central hallway rather than to living room (what a waste of space!), some were influenced by Japanese apartments, with one bath per apartment but separate toilet and shower, some were influenced by South Korea, China, or Hong Kong… But the 4-meter grid-based designs proved that are still the best!
The late 2008 development boom
After researching architecture from countries like Singapore, Japan, South Korea, China, and Hong Kong, I recognized Singapore as the best city of the world, mainly because of the HDB public housing programme and urban planning. So I choose to follow Singapore typologies and lifestyle of HDB flats.
The average apartment size should be around 100 square meters, 4-Room should be dominant, hallways must be reduced at the minimum, even eliminated, the living room may be placed centrally, and every bath should have window for ventilation. Also I decided to make all bathrooms with bathtub (stupid rule). This caused a boom of new projects for the next 3 months.
My first modern project was again improved and re-launched on October 2008 as New Generation, 12 meters width, now 3-Room and 4-Room were dominant, staircase is well integrated inside block, external glass lifts. Bigger apartments with closed (but easily to open) kitchens, opposite to previous versions. In the first version bathrooms still not had windows. In November 2008 I adapted it to the new rule with bathroom windows, but the 4-Room Corner (105 sqm), became badly shaped, so I tried several reshaping until in December when I decided to use for Corner same apartment type 4-Room End (115 sqm).
On the first version I created a new, linear facade design with full-width windows (left photo). I had a dream several days before with a block with horizontally continuous windows that made me to love this design for a moment. Later proved that was the ugliest block, so I switched to more regular design like the one seen in Little & Simple (as in lower photos). In December I experimented a new facade design (right photo), inspired by some 1990s blocks from Singapore (Taman Jurong blocks).
Beside the standard versions (I-4, L-6, U-8), in November 2008 was also designed a crazy version with 26 units per floor on 4 staircases (lower photos). The 3D design is not finished, missing ground floor and lifts.
In fact, this was first block named New Generation, and with it I created the naming system: Model – Shape – Number of units per floor. Previous, all projects were considered “The New Generation of Housing” and were named only by shape and dimensions, for example U-block 64×24, S-block 72×32, Square block 24×24.
Other projects November 2008
Square Small – 4 adapted easily to the new rules, can have 2 versions, one with four 3-Room and one with two 4-Room on one half.
Little & Simple cannot be adapted to the new rules, so I returned to its own predecessor, now called New Generation Narrow, only 10 meters width, improved with windows at all bathrooms.
Trapeze – 6, a tower block with non-equal wings, 3- and 4-Room apartments developed by mixing the horrible Trapeze – 4 with the never-finished Triangle – 6 that will had only 4-Room apartments.
Other projects December 2008
Old Generation, designed in classic asian style with living room facing common corridor, block width 14 meters, 8-meter width 3-Room apartments, bathrooms on airwells, and 4-Room apartments on endings. Was simple, very ugly monotonous facades, and had a lot of problems. But the land usage efficiency was good.
Polygons where somewhat circular blocks with internal courtyard and unfortunately had only 4-Room apartments.
Zig-Zag Large – 4 and Rectangle Small – 4, tower blocks with only 4-Room apartments but one room is smaller than a regular bedroom, like a study room.
Square Large – 4, was inspired by the 25-storey point blocks built in Singapore between 1970 and 1985, I designed it as soon as I saw a floor plan of these blocks, it was my first block with real 5-Room (4 bedrooms) regular apartments (non-penthouse). .
Other projects January 2009
Rectangle Large – 4 had the biggest apartments, separate living and dining plus three bedrooms.
Triangle Small – 9, my first symmetrical block with odd number of apartments per floor.
Later I derived it into a Triangle Small – 12 and a Triangle Large – 12.
A new Maisonette Generation was designed.
The era was closed with this AutoCAD 3D masterpiece (February 2009)
The 2009 high quality housing design
Because of deeply research of Singapore housing, I realized that my projects are badly designed. Walls are too thick, apartments are too big and will be even bigger with thinner walls. I need to design new apartments with smaller but more rooms. I imagine families with 2 parents and 1 children could not afford a New Generation 87 sqm 3-Room apartment (including walls would be 96 sqm, which is average size for 4-room in Singapore), some 3-person families wants 4 rooms, one extra room for study.
I started to review every rule, and in March 2009 I finalized a full set of new basic rules for ideal housing. The biggest changes were: walls must be 1/8 meters thick, 4-meter grid is eliminated so the rooms can have more variable sizes, master bedroom must “grow” like living room, depending of number of rooms, common bedrooms will be better to be 3 by 5 meters rather than 4 by 4 meters, to reduce space used on facade, the 3-Room apartments can have common bathroom with shower.
I created a new AutoCAD color scheme in January 2009, used also on late 2008 projects, and with constant improvements, on all 2009 projects. The color scheme was inspired by Singapore 1990s designs: red, orange or yellow brick walls, with white horizontal stripes. Again, colors create contrast with the blue sky and windows.
I made my first personal website www.teoalida.webs.com in April 2009 and published my works for first time.
Old Generation and New Generation series
I started thinking how inefficient is if even the smaller 3-Room apartments in New Generation Narrow use 12 meters frontage on both sides, because of the stupid 4-meter grid. I really need to design new blocks, wider blocks with shorter apartments, with narrow rooms! Also I found that apartments with rooms facing to common corridor are not so undesirable in Singapore as I thought.
So… in March 2009 I started development of 2 new projects, both 12-meter width:
Old Generation, living rooms facing to access corridor, is based on the 9-meter length 76.70 sqm 3-Room, with 4-Room on the endings. 6-meter length 46.70 sqm 2-Room were also designed (right photo, facade design partially inspired by Tampines block 497).
New Generation, living rooms facing opposite to access corridor, is based on the 12-meters length 104.20 sqm 4-Room, but can have many apartments types, ranging from 84 sqm 3-Room to 133 sqm 5-Room, slanted apartments for non-90 degree blocks.
Both are mainly my designs, not based on any existing block in the world.
The original Old Generation from November 2008 was redesigned in a more nice shape, block narrowed to shrink apartments sizes, airwells eliminated and bathroom moved to facades, but I still did not liked it.
Old Generation Sharpback was designed in June 2009, 14 meter block width, 7-meter length 3-Room apartments. Based on the mst common block type in Singapore’s 1970s and 1980s. The previous Old Generation was scraped because have no advantages compared with Old Generation Sharpback. A larger version with 4-Room 11-meters length apartments was also designed, but quickly scraped because of many disadvantages compared with 4-Room 12-meters length apartments in New Generation, in 2010 I added it back in lineup.
Hexagon Concave Tower
Designed in March 2009, with 6 apartments per floor which had some similarity with Rectangle Small, this block may be my WORST design. Problems: too small staircase/lift lobby, no ventilation, unaligned walls which do not allow a solid core, and odd living room shape.
After almost 1 year from original idea, I finally designed Triangle Tower in May 2009. The key of success was reducing bedrooms size to 3 by 4.5 meters and pushing bathrooms towards living room. The photo on right shows the original design before July facelift (current design in Apartment Design page). Hexagon Concave was trashed.
Rest of projects
Rectangle Small, Square Large, Trapeze, Triangle Small / Large, were more or less redesigned and adapted to the new rules.
Squares Tower which dates back from December 2008 was redesigned, it is also based on Singapore old blocks.
Polygons, Rectangle Large, Zig-Zag Large were completely scraped.
Zig-Zag Small was developed by mixing 3-Room apartments from Trapeze Tower with the shape of Rectangle Small. Is similar with the previous Square Small which was scraped.
Two new towers, Square Small and Square Large were designed in May 2009, based on my New Generation.
Segmented Generation was designed in June 2009, based on Singapore’s 1970s blocks.
The high appreciation of Triangle Tower within my circle of friends, leaded to development of a new project called Freedom Generation in late 2009.
New naming system
I had 14 finished block models, of which 7 contains Generation (I named in this manner all blocks with variable (non-fixed) shape. Clearly too many and confusing! New names proposed:
Old Generation > Linear Small
New Generation > Linear Large
Maisonette Generation > Linear Maisonette
Unnamed Generation > Linear Studios
Old Generation Sharpback > Sharpback Small
Segmented Generation > Segmented
Freedom Generation > Freestyle
Sharpback Large and Sharpback Maisonette were also designed but not published considering them bad designs.
As being closer to perfection, the evolution inevitable slowed down. I was also busy with my family and other things and I take little time and attention to design 3D apartment buildings in AutoCAD for fun.
I have in plan to design a BIG CITY of about 1 square kilometre, with streets and some landscape, streets based on a REAL city, but this is a hard mission and takes a lot of time, and no time right now. Until I do it, enjoy rectangular symmetrical neighborhoods such as these ones made in late 2009:
The 2010-2011 diversity, source of inspiration spread to other countries
During 2010 I paid little attention in designing new apartment buildings, but in the second half of year I started to design landed houses. I studied many other cities from different parts of world, to make diversity both in floorplan and facade design.
An iconic project, CentralLiving was designed in November 2010, own concept with no inspiration from anywhere.
I spent first 3 months of 2011 studying Hong Kong tiny apartments, to create my own series of 6 Hong Kong-inspired projects, but finally I designed 8 projects. Who the fuck needs a 100 sqm apartment? Now I prove that with a good design, a family of 4 can live comfortable in a 60 sqm 4-room apartment.
Google launched StreetView in Brazil in late 2010 and this leaded to a high interest to study Brazil real estate, I had interest for Brazil before too, I love how floorplans are made with dimensions, apartments itself are quite small but living in an apartment is seen as progress.
But I will never stop loving and studying Singapore! It remain the best city in the world!
During 2011 I designed numerous new projects, I realized that my apartments are still too big so the 2011 ones were again downsized, common sizes now are 70 sqm 3-room, 95 sqm 4-room, 120 sqm 5-room. Such sizes are not new, I had designed 95 sqm 4-room since 2009 (check Linear Small), but not so often.
New rules: 3×4 m bedrooms (rather than 3×5 m or 3×4.5 m), while for master bedroom the minimal size is 3×5 m for 3-room and 3.5×5 m for 4-room (rather than 4×5 m), because these are common sizes in developed countries (I saw some cases of bedrooms small as 2.5×3 m in Western Europe, but I decided to not downsize further my international series).
Beside international series, I designed also a series of low-cost apartment blocks, inspired from Latin America, with sizes suitable for developing countries.
The 2010-2011 expansion to Landed Housing design
Since 2009 I planned to design landed houses in the future. But I was self-trained to design only apartments.
In 2010 I started studying landed houses of Singapore (previously I paid attention only to HDB blocks) and I designed my first project, Terrace Housing, having 6 m width and 14 m depth for first 2 floors and a 3rd attic-style floor. 5 bedrooms, three en-suite bathrooms and one common bathroom which lacked window.
Then I realized that if I eliminate one bedroom I can have windows for all bathrooms, even more, I can provide all bedrooms with walk-in wardrobe and en-suite bathroom. The floorplan was reduced to 13 m depth, 3 full floors plus basement parking, it was to became the Terrace Classic project.
The original 14-meter depth Terrace became the Semi-Detached project, with 5 bedrooms, shown here:
Soon I feel the need of diversity, and I studied the opportunity to add a lift. I had 2 floorplans, one 12 m depth space-optimized and one 13 m depth which allows lift, and 2 possible design themes, the already-made Neoclassic one with 3 floors and sloped roof, and I also wanted a Modern one with roof terrace on 4th floor.
Dilemma: which 3D theme to use for each of these floorplans? Theoretically the 4-floor design should have the floorplan with lift, but that floorplan did not allowed any room on 4th floor due to lift, being placed on opposite side of stairs, I did not like to have the lift serving only 3 floors.
Solution: I lengthen the house depth with 2 m (to 15 m) and I placed the lift on same side with stairs. The floorplan was finalized, but the Modern 3D theme was very ugly in my opinion, since I love classic styles (I insisted to design something against my tastes), I played a lot with color schemes and textures until… I finally published Terrace Modern on february 2011, and surprisingly, it became most appreciated project made by me.
Terrace Classic was improved with lift too, while the 3D design was totally redesigned, now in a condo-style complex of 80 houses and shared pool.
After this, I designed few additional landed housing complexes inspired from other countries of the world.
The order of landed housing projects
July 2010 – Semi-Detached, inspired from nowhere; Terrace Classic, luxury housing inspired from Singapore.
August 2010 – Quadruplex-Terraced, inspired from Europe / United Kingdom.
November 2010 – Terrace Airwells, another medium-luxury housing, typical in Malaysia but using Singapore rules.
December 2010 – High-Density, low cost housing inspired from Mexico.
February 2011 – Terrace Modern, luxury housing inspired from Singapore.
Quarter-Detached, was planned for March 2011 but abandoned due to ugliness.
And the list continue in 2012…
Possible revival of “Virtual City” 3D graphic design artistic hobby
A flow of customers started coming in 2012 so I concentrate on architecture services for customers (house builders) who are paying me, plus other money-making projects, such as car database in Excel!
I done a lot of changes in graphic design rules, although I may not have time to any 3D architectural design as hobby anymore.
– Late 2013, I decided to use decimal metric system for all projects including hobby ones, I remade all rules, bedrooms 3×4 m, 4-room being 90-100 sqm for normal projects, 60 sqm for low-cost ones suitable for Latin America, India or other third-world -countries, now I will specify both gross and net floor areas to align with what most developers are doing.
– April 2014, I changed floor plan drawing style, making each room in different color (living room yellow, bedrooms orange, bathroom blue, etc). Also new floor plans are rendered at 20 pixels per meter instead of 40 and 32 pixels per meter. All 2-pixel wide lines are now 1-pixel wide, so the proportion is similar, but lower resolution would discourage people to print floor plans and use them without my approval.
– May 2014, I bought a bigger monitor and after this I studied screen resolutions, realizing that most screen resolution are multiply of 320 and only 1024×768 and 1366×768 are the exception, surprisingly these two were most common screen resolutions. For a period I wanted to continue doing 3D render at 2048×1536 which is displayed at 50% size on the mainstream 1366×768 laptops, but in late 2014 I decided to do 3D renders in 1920×1080 and 1440×1080 because most of my architectural 3D images do not require widescreen.
Whenever I will have time to redesign my old projects or make new projects for artistic purposes, we will see…
2012 – architecture hobby turned into business
In 2011 one of my friends asked me a house design, you can see it posted in House Design page as Split-Level house. So I announced that I offer design services to everyone.
The real SUCCESS came after I found chat software in January 2012. I started being contacted by people from various countries. Initially I did not know how to deal with them to turn into customers, but this opened a new reason to learn more.
I found that the lack of customers in 2008-2011 was unclear introduction of website. I got comments like “Thank, great collection of plans” or questions like “Do you also design houses?” and “Wow these houses are designed by you?“. Conclusion: people confused my PERSONAL website with the numerous architecture websites who just collect photos and house plans found on internet and do not offer services, example ArchDaily.
Even worse, contact info and service offered were on Home page, but people landed from Google in House Design page which did not clearly stated that I can design houses for people.
In early 2012 I was not confident that I can make customers happy, thus did not charged money for designing a floor plan in 1 hour, I was planning to ask a payment for 3D design which would take few hours. Everyone were thankful for floor plan, and nobody was interested in 3D design. I did not complain for not earning money, because I earned knowledge about foreign countries, that will be helpful to offer better services.
Some customers told me that real architects do not even say a word without getting paid first. So, after several happy customers, I started charging money for floor plans too. Most people said “thanks, I have no money”. Later I realized that most people contacting me were actually STUDENTS, NOT profit-making house builders. Sadly, beside these students, been contacted also by a builder of terraced houses, he could be my first real customer but I treat him like students and did not charged him money.
First collaboration offer
In June 2012, an American architect said that my house designs are impressive for my age, offered me to promote my services on his website, a directory of architects. I accepted thinking that this will start a professional career in architecture. But actually he was an idiot and put me on wrong track, into a career that I NEVER enjoyed.
What I was doing, was a hobby, 3D art in AutoCAD, concept drawings NOT made for submission to government for building permit or contractors. I was aware that, to build a house you will need higher-detailed “construction drawings” but I did not know how to draw them, as I had NO intention to provide “construction drawings”.
At that moment, I was charging $20 for 1-hour floor plan. The architect suggested me to charge 5% of home value, meaning $5000+ per project, without informing me what drawings need to be included in this price. Having no degree in architecture, I was promoting myself as “graphic design & 3D rendering services“, but he suggested to change into “architecture design services“. The idiot misleaded me thinking that the concept floor plans done in 1 hour are enough to build a house. Read full story.
Meeting more architects and choose my business strategy
In late 2012, I meet more architects from Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and India, telling me to price concept drawings (sketches) and construction drawings accordingly. I started learning how to make “construction drawings” to be able to offer real “architecture services“.
I returned to the strategy used before meeting that idiot architect: offer the first sketch for FREE in PNG format to show that I have imagination of making nice floor plans, then negotiate price for construction drawings, or sell the sketch in PDF / DWG format. Price for construction drawings: $2 per sqm which raised complaints from Indians who build big but cheap houses, so in 2013 changed to $50 × number of rooms. First paying customer came in late 2012.
Moving from teoalida.webs.com to teoalida.com in December 2012 and further improvements in website design promoted trust and seriousness, more and more people looking for architecture started contacting me, not just students looking for free concept plans. I met also architects to collaborate with, in case my customers wants drawing signed by a licensed architect. However most customers choose to find themselves an architect in their country to sign the designs got online from me, or just build without permit (being in third-world countries).
The chat software also helped me to understand business potential of another hobby, the Car Database, so In mid-2012 I decided to stop designing the “Virtual City” for hobby / artistic purposes, and concentrate on designing buildings for customers, as well as transforming my hobby of researching car industry into a product usable for companies.
2015 – retire from architecture
Between 2012 and 2015 I made HAPPY hundreds of customers. Mostly families building their own home, mostly in third-world countries. I had few partner architects, but they were not needed, my drawings were professional-looking enough to get building permit (in third-world countries authorities approve any drawing). Even without university, my imagination was impressive, several university-graduated architects asked me for advices or concept plans as they did not had imagination to make themselves.
But one person was NOT HAPPY… that was ME! Because of the difficulties convincing customers to pay. Half of people contacting me were asking for free advices and ready-made plans, for other half I designed 20-minute sketches hoping to impress them, and only 1 of 10 paid afterwards for complete project. And most of paying customers had headache projects, asking numerous revisions, I never enjoyed this job, I worked just trying to make money being mislead by other people saying that I can get rich from architecture.
I had paying customers because I designed “first sketch” for free, some customers served with free sketches returned even after 1-2 months to pay for complete project, but these paying customers were a surprise rather than a rule. Some people were not needing a professional PDF while others wanted but for free, I never gave PDF for free so this usually resulted in time wasted for both me and customer. I was making a free sketch, they asked for revisions, if I revised for free, once satisfied they said “thanks” and going away, if I tried to charge money before revising they refused to pay, several people insulting me for “wasting his time and not sending final drawing” like that I am obligated to serve everyone for free. Some people admitted that need just a free sketch from me and pay someone else for complete project (they should have paid both, or don’t waste my time!). An architect told me to not provide any free sketches, get paid first and provide only professional PDF, but this strategy was not successful either.
I had 2 options: work for free or don’t work at all. Until 2015 I choose first option (free only first sketch) and after 2015 second option, unless someone agreed to pay in advance.
In 2014 I was sometimes contacted by so many people that I was making sketches daily and did not had time to serve everyone, also due to non-paying idiots I lost interest to work, did not paid enough attention to potentially paying customers too. I was thinking to employ someone, but the large number of non-paying idiots posed a problem in paying my employee.
If you have a store, you cannot force every visitor to buy products from you. Same at me, I cannot force every visitor to pay for my services, but I tried to discourage non-paying people from wasting my time sending emails and chat messages.
Problems in my personal life that started in February 2015, psychological trauma and uncertainty about my future forced me to abandon all works. I de-optimized architecture pages and disabled chat pop-up greeting, reducing number of visitors to half and reducing by 5 times number of people contacting me.
Since 2014, sale volume of car databases driven up by SEO convinced me that making databases is more profitable than architecture. Typing data in Excel sounds boring for most people, but I find it more pleasurable than architectural projects requiring revisions. An Excel database may require dozens to hundreds hours initial investment, but can be sold to multiple people, generating a passive income with a small investment of keeping up-to-date. A house project require about 20 hours and generate in best case one-time payment, nobody else would buy a project made for someone else.
I returned in business in late 2015 and database business breakthrough my target of $1000 per month after finishing 2 Excel projects started in late 2014. Learning web scraping in August 2015 allowed me to create new databases with far less effort than typing manually and reach $2000 per month in 2016.
There was no reason to continue offering architecture services. What I earned from a house design could earn from web scraping services at 1/10 effort. I doubled my prices and should double again, but will be stupid to charge higher than professional architects given by my lack of university, and raising prices does not solve the main problem: non-paying customers.
Happy customers referred me to friends, contacting me for more unwanted projects. Instead of appreciating more customers, I wanted to escape, assuming that they are wasting my time and will never pay. I did not made more sketches to impress them and convince to pay, unless people insisted to pay in advance.
Taking payment in advance made me again NOT HAPPY, because it gave me obligation to satisfy customer, and some customers were so exigent asking many revisions and wasting me too much time for the money we initially agreed, one project took 2 months instead of usual 1 week. Yes, TWO fucking months for ONE family house!
Since 2016 every time someone paid me for an architectural project, I was so UNHAPPY for the time wasted that I was saying that is the LAST architecture project I am doing and told him to NOT recommend me to any more customers. I rejected many projects even if they were willing to pay me in advance, telling them to find another architect.
Several architects offered to work for me and made me ashamed because they were doing better drawings for me. Was better for both me and customer to outsource my projects to other architects and get paid a referral fee, but this method didn’t worked either, architect wanted to get paid before making a sketch, customer wanted to see a sketch before paying, they just wasted time exchanging emails.
I contacted other architects who promote their services online, and figured out that all of them face same situation like me. They do not make any drawing for free and of 10 people contacting them, only 1 does pay. Only architects who have a local office have higher conversion rate, and is normal to spend more than 1 month for a project, their earnings barely exceeding 2000 USD per month.
Conclusion: serious people who are PAYING usually engage a local architect who can meet face to face, to make official drawings, submit them to authorities, and also supervise construction (which I cannot do), while the people browsing internet and contacting me are usually people needing free ideas and unofficial drawings, and only few of them are willing to pay for this, paying very little.
If this is NATURE of architecture, then this job does NOT suit me,
I will NOT do any more projects!
Some people suggested me to get employed under an established architect. But again, do I am the right person for such job? If I haven’t done this in 2012-2015 I am NOT going to do today. The number of databases projects I started and responsibility to update them regularly prevent me from having another full-time job. But I am curious how stressful or profitable would have been such job, and how it does work in case employer do not let me in direct contact with customer and what happens if the customer request revisions?