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Goodbye Architects. Hello Equal Partners in Design (EPD) November 28, 2013

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, IPD, management, survival.
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Whatever they end up doing in their careers, architects originally go into architecture to design buildings.

Somewhere along the way – perhaps recognizing that other students or architects are more talented, or willing or able to sacrifice more – many would-be designers give up their dream to design buildings and instead opt to manage teams, schedules or budgets, document and detail other people’s buildings, or undertake any of a hundred other tasks required to get permit sets approved and buildings built.

Whatever first drew them to the profession, it is safe to say that they didn’t become an architect to be a designer among designers.

They became architects to design. Period.

Whether architecture students, architectural interns and emerging professionals realize it, this is what the profession and industry offers them today.

Founder and president of Nissan Design International, Jerry Hirshberg, in The Creative Priority: Driving Innovative Business in the Real World, describes a scene where, in a workplace safe for people to provide input and express their ideas, the receptionist – participating in a design review – provides the idea for the direction for their new line of automobiles.

That, in a nutshell, is the future of architecture.

To bridge the divide between design and construction, improve communication, better coordinate documents, and increase collaboration, firms have started to prepare for Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).

IPD requires the participation of all project stakeholders early in the design and decision-making process.

Whether working in pure IPD or an IPD-ish process, with IPD the lines of responsibility are blurred when compared to traditional “design bid build” project delivery.

IPD removes barriers that, in traditional project delivery, kept design and construction professionals from collaborating.

With IPD, contractors contribute to the design and architects address construction issues, with risk distributed across the team.

With IPD, contractors made aware of and contribute to design direction and design decisions by the entire project team.

In IPD, key participants are encouraged to contribute to the design intent, just as designers are free to comment on and contribute to means and methods of construction.

While intended to remove obstacles and encourage collaboration, architects are sometimes threatened by the blurring of roles brought about by working in the IPD.

Collaborating is hard. Architects often have individualistic ways of working. IPD may be antithetical to the way many architects design projects.

To persevere in this new world of collaboration, architects should consider getting off the project pyramid and rebrand themselves as Equal Partners in Design (EPD).

Becoming an Equal Partner in Design would have implications for school and practice. Imagine architects being educated, trained and tested not to be independent building designers but designers among designers.

Are you prepared for the day when the plumber makes the winning design suggestion and everyone in the room lets out a resounding Yes!

How will it make you feel to sit beside a teammate who is sketching?

How about when your co-designer is a computer?

Building designers participate in man-machine collaboration every time they work in computational design.

But we don’t have to imagine a cyborgian future to recognize that whomever – or whatever – we will be collaborating with, from here on out we will be collaborating.

Take Aditazz, a collaborative team of not only building architects and planners, but also microchip architects, software designers, mechanical and electrical engineers and materials scientists.

The hospital design that vaulted his unknown company into the round of a hospital competition shortlist of nine had been designed largely by an algorithm.

Barry Schwartz has warned that as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear.

Too many options remains a problem for architects, engineers and owners. But not for Aditazz, whose algorithms are able to compute thousands of options in a fraction of the time to find the best solution.

Gone, along with the architects’ Prismacolor pencils, will be the concept of design intent.

Participatory architects such as Charles Moore and Michael Pyatok have been doing this for years. But will you be comfortable and satisfied letting others provide design input?

Or will you be threatened by other’s participation in design?

Could you be personally and professionally fulfilled playing the role – not always of designer, but – of design refiner?

Can you see yourself being an Equal Partner in Design?


For Architects, No Leadership Outside Of Technology November 27, 2013

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types.
1 comment so far

In a discussion over at the KA Connect LinkedIn Group, the question was asked:

How will the role of a senior architect change over the next five years?

Looking into my crystal ball, I responded first – largely in terms of technology.

While no one knows where the profession will be in five years, I listed some changes that one would do well to be mindful of.

I wrote:

While developing skills is important, mindset and attitudes are equally important.

Be flexible and open about exposing yourself to digital technology. At the start of every project, ask which technologies will help you achieve your project goals and work for everyone involved. No one solution will work best for all involved in every situation.

We will need to become more comfortable working directly from our models to fabrication – not just in terms of technology, but taking on the associated risk. If possible, take a class in how to code.

Architects will be expected to customize their tools, making them optimal for each project, especially by looking under the hood – or risk losing out to those who are comfortable doing so.

Be prepared to work in a less linear manner (linear checklists like AIA document D200 will come in handy only in retrospect.) In the near future, a barrage of information and insight will come at us simultaneously, from the earliest stages of design, from every party involved in the project, including trades.

In the future, your professional judgment will have less to do with applying the knowledge and skills your learned from books and in school – even from experience – than from developing the ability to aggregate the input of experts and other sources you have access to, including analysis and building data. We will need to resist the temptation to seek consensus as we’ve done in the past. Our architectural judgment will best be thought of and appreciated as a social act of filtering and aggregating input from others.

You can read the rest of my and others’ comments here.

The discussion that ensued followed two lines of thought: one emphasizing the architect’s future technological role, the other emphasizing leadership skills.

To this last point, Ed Friedrichs wrote:

All of the above is interesting, but the most salient talent today and going forward will be leadership skills – the ability to inspire an entire team of participants to collaborate, to contribute the best they have to offer, in order to bring value to a client. We’ve all experienced the chaos which ensues when there is no leadership talent on a project, whether from the architect, contractor or another participant. We also know that when that leadership skill and style becomes manifest, the project flourishes, no matter who steps up. The leader keeps everyone focused on achieving solutions that will explicitly contribute to the enhancement of the client’s business – more sales in a store, higher repeat and referral guests in a hotel, less absenteeism and higher employee satisfaction and engagement in the workplace.

Bob Buday concurred with Ed and added:

I imagine these leadership skills will become even more important in the years ahead as projects become far more complex: more technologies that must be managed, more “moving parts,” more firms that must be coordinated and from more parts of the world, etc. I imagine that raises the game of project leaders (and their bosses in upper management at an architecture firm) — but especially leaders of big projects who must (more than ever) periodically (or more) remind everyone on the project of the goals, timelines, mission, etc. 

Or to use the words of Francis Ford Coppola, the famed moviemaker (“The Godfather,” “Apocalypse Now,” and more): “One of the secrets to making a great movie is making sure everyone is making the same movie.” 

I’m not an architect. But I imagine that as projects get bigger and more complex, it becomes easier for everyone on a project “not to be making the same movie.”

RTKL’s Michael Woods mentioned the importance of providing metrics:

To Ed’s point, the leadership of an architect that understands, manages and communicates the metrics of design that really matter to the client are probably the biggest change. This isn’t something that we are prepared for in school or in practice until very recently. I’m concerned by the emphasis I see on the tools and technologies instead of metrics that really matter. Design matters even more than it did in the past to our increasingly sophisticated clients, but metrics are an important dimension that we must master.

So there you have it: the changes that will come about for architects in the next five years will involve adjusting to new technology, acquiring leadership skills, and mastering the management of design metrics.

Except for this: I believe that these three areas will be inextricably integrated and linked.

In other words, in five years there will be no leadership outside of technology. There won’t be project leaders and teammates who work in technology. We will be leading projects not as in the past, top down, but from the middle – and by extension – from the model. To imply that leadership will be a separate package of skills is not to thoroughly imagine where the profession and industry are headed. The development of leadership skills will come about from working within the technology, not as a series of workshops, seminars or from executive coaching. There won’t be one without the other.

Similarly, leaders will be held accountable for their acts of design volition. The burden of proof will be in the data. We won’t be able to lead without it, nor the means for acquiring and analyzing it.

So, how will the role of a senior architect change over the next five years? Technology, leadership and metrics will become inseparably intertwined and the architect will be ill-prepared and ill-advised to master one without the others.