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Many students think of real estate as a financial opportunity, especially with all of the talk of price bubbles. While it can be profitable, it is important to also remember the link between finance and creating real value because people live, work, shop and play in those buildings; the only way to make money is if somebody is paying to live, work, shop or play in the space that you are selling.

Only people with a very narrow view see the real estate business as being only about finance, revenue, cost and capital gains. The interesting part of the real estate business is searching for ways to create value from space and location. (The business part of this search is about finding ways to appropriate some fraction of that value to pay for the costs of doing business.)

Canada’s architectural contributions to the world are more subtle than the igloo and the log cabin. Many famous architects are Canadian including Arthur Erickson, Frank Gehry, and Raymond Moriyama.  As a CBC Ideas podcast notes, architects are artists who design art to live in.  And the best wins prizes, such as the Governor General Awards in Architecture offered through the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

One of an architect’s problems is that beauty is a more complex idea than today’s view of “curb appeal”.   It must fit with the geography and with existing buildings. Some people are paying attention to urban design and not just as a question of urban planning. For example, in Toronto and some other cities, design review panels on the architectural quality.

The whole process of building and then selling a building to the final consumer is fascinating, if you have not thought about it carefully.  If you have not thought about it much, then maybe you should consider some of the more unusual options, such as unexpected materials and unusual ways of using space.

The thing about architecture, which I find hard to understand, is the evolving standards. They do not change quite as fast as hemlines on women’s fashion, but some designs which were once hated are now loved.  The Globe and Mail publishes a regular column which comments of debates the value of architecture.

This perspective helps to show that, unlike what is produced by other fields of business, if you do a good job in the real estate business then you can show off those good things to everybody that you know for a very long time.