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A Handy Toolkit for A Great New Integrated World January 14, 2014

Posted by randydeutsch in BIM, books, change, collaboration, education, IPD, technology.
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41tbr-d2kaL._SY300_Collaboration is no longer a “nice to have” skillset to take along in one’s toolkit.

Collaboration is a must-have.

In an industry not known for it’s warm relations, AEC practitioners need to build their relationship muscles as they enter this great new integrated world.

The AEC industry has a productivity problem – one that has grown worse in the past half century.

It was hoped that technology – first CAD, then BIM – would add value and reduce waste for building owners – our clients – but that doesn’t seem to be the case, as indicated by Paul Teicholz,
 Professor (Research) Emeritus, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
 Stanford University, in Labor-Productivity Declines in the Construction Industry: Causes and Remedies (Another Look.)

In other words, if BIM cannot save us, what will?

The answer is collaboration. Working together, strategically, earlier in the design process and ever more effectively – together with technologies such as BIM – will assuredly increase productivity in our profession and industry for the first time in over fifty years.

So, how best do we go about collaborating?

I have written about Andrew Pressman and his enormously prolific and influential writings for architects before.

Here, I would like to introduce you to perhaps his best, and most important, book.

A review of Andrew Pressman’s new book, Designing Relationships: The Art of Collaboration in Architecture

You know it is going to be a great book when the formidable Professor and Head of the School of Architecture at University of Minnesota, Renee Cheng, pens the Foreword.

First, a quick overview: In Chapter 1, Pressman explains,

This is more than a simple guidebook; it challenges the status quo—and the reader—to think critically about collaboration, and to change the design process from project inception to completion.

Anticipating that some readers may ask why collaborate?, the book opens with a rationale for collaborating.

The author also explores Why have architects been inherently non-collaborative and provides many relevant reasons.

In Chapter 2, alternative collaboration models for architecture are introduced, including managed collaboration and an integrated approach.

Chapter 3 provides examples of and precedents for traditional collaboration in practice, and touches on the art of being a good team member.

The next chapter importantly discusses the role of collaboration in technology. It is to Pressman’s credit that he doesn’t shy away from the subjects of building information modeling (BIM,) and integrated project delivery (IPD,) both enablers of collaboration in the profession and industry.

The book, short in length but long on useful information, closes with case studies, including the best (and worst) practices, team failures, strategies for design excellence on large projects, and views from a crossover career: architecture to construction.

You can see more of the book’s contents here.

Designing Relationships is the type of book that cites a multitude of relevant sources in support of its theme, even if some of the sources are surprising for an architecture book. Take this quote by John Cleese of Monty Python fame, who – as Pressman explains –

captured the essence of a collaborative process in the following vignette.

The really good idea is always traceable back quite a long way, often to a not very good idea which sparked off another idea that was only slightly better, which somebody else misunderstood in such a way that they then said something which was really rather interesting.

Some of my favorite quotes include:

It takes a team to realize projects of scale or complexity. There may be a prominent and aggressive project leader, but it does indeed “take a village.”

“Collaboration does not curtail the architect’s overarching vision. Collaboration becomes a medium that makes the vision possible.” – Michael Schrage

Think like an architect. The conventional wisdom about integrated project delivery is to stop thinking like an architect, i.e., do not emulate the cliché Howard Roark control freak. No, no, no! Rather, keep thinking like an architect—design and maintain control of the process.

This is the sort of book that can be read again and again, each reading eliciting different responses. My second reading of the book provoked a number of thoughts on my part. Here are just a few observations that arose from having read the book:

  • One ought to be wary of definitions that include everything as collaboration
  • The team leader needs to be a seasoned facilitator, equal parts intuition and intelligence
  • Is managed collaboration like a managed care: HMO vs. IPD as a PPO for design?

To this second bullet, Pressman writes:

The leader can be the facilitator for the session but also the designer of it, ensuring appropriate engagement and accomplishment in accordance with the distinctive role of each collaborator, and of course, the agenda.

A typically excellent insight – the book will challenge many of your preconceived ideas and thoughts about how architects ought to practice.

The book – which reads more like an engaging conversation than a non-fiction book – will have you writing in the margins and asking questions of yourself, your colleagues or classmates – and the profession – throughout.

Andrew Pressman FAIA in his new book Designing Relationships offers general axioms that support traditional collaborative dynamics, or in other words, eleven counterintuitive and provocative statements promoting collaboration in architecture, and a great deal more.

What the book boils down to is a penetrating and immensely valuable toolkit for design professionals who are weary of – or wary from – working on teams.

This is a book that every emerging professional needs to read. I will definitely make it required reading for my university students.

Pre-order your copy here.

About Andrew Pressman FAIA

Professor Emeritus at the University of New Mexico, and Lecturer at the University of Maryland, leads his own architectural firm in Washington, DC. He has written numerous critically acclaimed books and articles, and holds a Master’s degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Andrew Pressman FAIA has authored several books, all classics:

Designing Architecture: The Elements of Process.

Professional Practice 101: Business Strategies and Case Studies in Architecture

The Fountainheadache: The Politics of Architect-Client Relations

Architecture 101: A Guide to the Design Studio

Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition

And, as Andy Pressman, he co-authored what was, prior to Designing Relationships, my favorite of his books (I wore through two copies):

Architectural Design Portable Handbook

Portions of Designing Relationships are based on previously published articles by the author. Pressman has also recently authored several important, extremely well-written articles, all published in Architectural Record

Integrated practice in perspective:
 A new model for the architectural profession

Good leadership helps practice, the profession, and society

Creating a firm culture that supports innovative design

and

It’s a very good time to develop your firm’s collaboration skills

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