Hamza Shaikh is an architectural designer, artist and illustrator, with an entrepreneurial hunger within the realm of creative innovation. Still in the early years of his architectural journey, Hamza has been able to form his own platforms sharing architectural knowledge and drawing skills. Running a popular podcast channel Two Worlds Design, and an Instagram sharing his creative mind through drawing. In our conversation we talk about his connection with drawing, the constraints of the profession, and other career possibilities that stem from an architectural path.
| When did you feel you had a connection with architectural drawing? Or drawing as a whole?
This is a really good question, I’ve never really been asked this and there’s obviously a separation between architectural drawing and drawing. I think because I was not always interested in architecture in itself, my passion always came from drawing in general. I think now, the outlook I have of architecture drawing is extremely broad, and flexible, and experimental because I didn’t have a traditional architectural interest.
So at a very early age I was always interested in drawing and funnily enough looking back in hindsight at say GSCE work, and A Level Art, it was the only subject I tried hard in. I say try hard, what I mean is, it was the only subject I found joy in. I was applying myself. I was pretty much getting detention in every other class.
But drawing was always my escape.
Weirdly enough, I was drawing and painting buildings in GSCE, and I had no idea I was interested in architecture. That was when the art teacher said to me “Look Hamza, if you want to have any sort of future in life, maybe architecture is your saving grace”. And I think my parents thought the same thing, as they saw I was obsessed with drawing.
| You have said before that you feel architecture is boundless. What is often your thought process when creating drawings? Is there a process or is it completely free?
I have this embarrassing admission, that the process is sometimes to do something that I think is going to stand out. I have this strange relationship with this concept, because as people in the architecture field, we are so pretentious that we will run away from admitting doing something for the sake of it to stand out, or catch people’s attention or look aesthetic. Like its a sin. But deep down we all try to do it, naturally this is what we all try to do. So, I think I am a bit more unapologetic about that, and I think there is immense value in saying how do we draw attention and how do we create drawings that are going to stand out.
We are always operating on a thin line in this industry of selling the idea through its beauty, and then trying to apply some level of function and rationality to it.
I am still confused as to whether starting with a functional idea is the right way to go, or having a standout vision in mind, and then trying to find a way to manifest it, is the right way… and I think we will always be confused because there is no right answer. For me if there’s an idea there, and it’s an interesting one, there is a drawing to be made.
| Do you feel from your experiences in practice you’ve been able to express yourself creatively as much as you’d like?
I have never felt up until now, at Gensler, that there is a place for me to take the energy and ideas that I have broader to the field of practice. I’ve never felt that kind of opportunity and acceptance in practice and I understand there are many reasons for that, and why that would not happen in a traditional practice. Gensler is so forward thinking with their business model, the services they have and the vision of what an architect can be. This allows people to be broad in their thinking.
So, the issue here, and it’s a good question because you have got your finger on where architecture practices are going to change, and should change in the future, which relates to; what is traditional practice and what is its place in the future? The truth of the matter is, its in diversifying the service in which architects offer, where most of the problems are solved in our profession.
We just need to open our minds to what the role of the architect is. I think we are going to see now, that there will be more acceptance in the profession that architects can offer a lot more than just designs for buildings.
| You run a podcast and YouTube channel which really explores different ways we can look at architecture, opinions of architecture and educates or gives people insight to drawing skills. How did you find yourself to be so passionate about sharing these things?
I never set out to be a resource for education or information, it just happened, and the Instagram was probably the basis for that. Instagram was where I'd share drawings, because I was flooding my head and my notebooks. I had too many. Almost spiritually I felt like I had to release it somehow. One way of doing this was by putting it online.
I am also very entrepreneurial minded, so I think for the future we are all going to have to brand ourselves, and if I can brand myself now, its going to help me in the future. With those two things in mind, knowing that I wanted to have a brand in the future and having an immense passion to share my visions and ideas, everything came from that. It was selfish at the beginning, but then people become interested, and I now feel obliged to share and continue.
For instance, the podcast allowed me to gain information from incredibly intelligent people, and no way would I of been able to sit down with the founder of Dezeen for an hour and a half and ask him about how he partied with Kanye West. So, what started off as selfish reasons became obligation, and responsibility, to keep the information coming for people who feel invested.
| What has been one of the major highlights of your personal endeavors outside of practice or something you have enjoyed the most?
The Marcus Fairs podcast has to be a highlight, because he is A list you know. To sit with someone who’s kind of formed the discourse of architecture and shaped the profession through his influential journalism, is someone I feel I do really look up to. I’ve never really seen myself as a journalist, but I do take on journalistic activities. My podcasts are really chilled, and I let the conversation go where it needs to go, whereas he is used to having a more set type of journalism.
The experience was pretty funny, I felt I was configured out of my depth to interview him. Walking into his purpose built, new Dezeen office with all of his co-workers outside his window with the giant Dezeen sign, and this polished concrete wall… And then he sees some lad setting up a 1080p cam recorder. Using a mobile phone to record, probably thinking is this the right guy!? That was probably one of my major highlights. Also, recently some of my drawings were featured in the AJ and that’s definitely a highlight.
| Do you think you would miss designing to build? What I mean by that is designing with the intent of the drawing becoming a reality.
My relationship with architecture is that I want to be able to jump through all the hoops, so that one, I can say I’m officially an architect, and two, I know how to create buildings. Although I’m not insanely excited by buildings, the truth of the matter is I haven’t designed many buildings from start to end. By the way, I am not set in my beliefs or opinions, I'm ready to change my opinion tomorrow. So whatever I am saying, it's all coming from a person who’s learning every single day.
One ethos of my podcast is that I go into each episode hoping to change my mind.
With buildings I want to really to get to the point to say, this is definitely for me or this is definitely not for me. The only way I am going to be able to do that is by becoming an experienced architect. I’m in this profession because I love everything about it, and the process of architecture, I am not particularly interested in conventional architecture, but more innovation. That's where my mind is at. Innovation in building is exciting.
| Do you think architecture potentially keeps people in a box?
At the moment, yes. There’s a lot of resistance from business owners and architectural directors to allow the profession and architectural service to widen. It's probably due to the traditional culture, it's probably due to the problems that are being put on us by procurement issues, it’s probably because of the restrictions we have from the government that we are not able to have our profession and activities protected.
We have a title that’s protected but that doesn’t have much effect. So yes, it’s the perfect ingredients for quite a constrained profession and we are in that right now. There is one way to know if you are in a successful profession, and it's as time changes, do you need to adapt with the time? I think any profession that is not adapting with the times is a sign that it will probably start to dissolve.
Part of this could be done by getting foundational support from institutions like the RIBA and ARB, to make the shifts needed within education and to keep encouraging and supporting architectural practices to diversify the services they offer. So there has to be innovation.
| What would you say to someone who has studied as an architectural designer but is unsure about designing for buildings? Do they have many other branches to go off from architecture?
There are so many things you can do outside of architecture after studying the subject, these are the types of people I try to get onto my podcast. Episode 2 for example with Adam Nathaniel Furman, he dropped out of architectural school and now he is just a general designer. He is an award-winning designer. He is on Dezeen every other day, where he is now an atelier, he does bespoke furniture design, pottery, interiors and ceramics. Also, in episode 3 there’s Eric Wong, he was educated from the Bartlett, he won all the medals, the ideal student if you like. Now he is doing a bit of teaching, but most impressively he’s worked with a director from Japan who did the Digimon animation series to world build for a new Netflix movie. So, can you do other stuff? Yeah you can.
So my answer would be, think about where your passion lies within this field in a broad sense. Find what you are passionate for without failure. When you find what you can do with not much effort because you are enjoying it so much, there’s a sign there. Whatever that is, there is probably a career in it for you.
| You have really shown great enthusiasm for the architectural community and architectural drawing. What can we expect next from you?
A book. Which is hopefully going to be a major publication. There’s no book out there like this right now. When the book is out, I can explain how I got this amazing opportunity. Lastly, maybe some involvement in the Metaverse! Ill take one for the team and find out what it's all about.