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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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codesignWhatever 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?

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Comments»

1. Ted Pratt - November 28, 2013

Thought provoking post Randy. While I don’t employee IDP per se I’m an adherent to the idea of collaboration among all project participants. I always engage a contractor in the earliest stages of design in order to benefit from their expertise. Many great design ideas and construction solutions become the result of early design meetings with all project team members clients, consultants, contractors and architect/designers.

Your concept of equal partners in design has ramifications for the AIA as well. Instead of being an organization of just registered architects why not open membership to all designers? After all, if design is the goal of architects why not associate with all designers. Wouldn’t architects gain from associating and collaborating with other creatives? I happen to think so.

randydeutsch - November 29, 2013

Excellent point, Ted. And I agree. Architects have a great deal to gain by associating with other designers, and there will be less need for the advocacy of architects, per se, if they were to become designers among designers.

2. Can you see yourself being an Equal Partner in Design? | Smart Built Culture - November 28, 2013
3. modelle - November 29, 2013

Randy,
Supposing a work of architecture is guided by a principle of material expression, somebody has to be in charge of that principle or the salient idea of the building. A principled approach to building is better exercised as a principal effort rather than a democratic one. How many times have you heard the pejorative: “designed by committee”? A really good architect will do what you suggest, but a great one will never admit to it.

cheers

modelle


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