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Embracing Construction

Blogger: Chad Narburgh, Associate Design Architect | Atlanta, GA, USA
September 12, 2011

You would think combining architecture and construction is the perfect marriage right? So why is it that (with the exception of developers) architects and contractors remain in different camps?

I would imagine the first response from a savvy businessman is that legally combining architecture and construction companies is a bad idea. To document and build a single creation is to put all eggs in one basket, and huge risk.

But what is it that we are afraid of exactly? If we have the technical skills to detail our ideas why not take the next step and physically build it too?

Joshua Prince-Ramus, Founder of OMA, stated the following in a TED lecture (see video above):

“It is time for architecture to do things again, not just represent things.

“Architects are for decorative purposes only, and we can only blame ourselves.

“Over the last 50 years the design and construction industry has become much more complex and much more litigious. We architects are cowards as we have faced liability and stepped back and guess what? Where there is liability there is power. Because of this stance architects have found themselves in a totally marginalized position over to the side.

“So what did we do? We are cowards but we are smart cowards. We redefined our marginalized position as the place for architecture in an autonomous language and cede control of processes inevitably doing something that was horrible for the profession. We actually created an artificial schism between creation and execution.”

By doing this, architects inflated the creation point of view (design) and wrote off the rest (construction) as merely execution.

What is interesting about this is that I have seen this separation not only at the macro but the micro as well.  There is an idea that the up-front design can be separated from what is now typically called “production” as if design stops and the remaining work is purely execution with nothing left to resolve. To me, this mechanization of the work dilutes the final product through separation of skill sets. The same misrepresentation works at both scales and requires correction if we are to be truly progressive.

From my experience, the education process on any site is equal between the architects and the construction trades. However, instead of the exchange being civil, I typically find volleys from both sides dodging liability and their lack of knowledge on any specific item to find peace of mind that legal action is avoided.

The time has come to work together in a more constructive way.

Combine forces and knowledge to enable more advanced creations and put the act of construction into more positive light.

The good news is that recombination is beginning to pollinate. Take for example the latest article called, “Do It Yourself”, by Greg Pasquarelli, founding principal at SHoP Architects. This article highlights how SHoP Architects expanded their boundaries by creating SHoP Contruction. Not as a means to compete against the big boys (Bovis, Turner etc.) but to educate themselves and their competition on how to build better buildings.

I find this inspiring and enlightening. I hope you enjoy and let me know your thoughts.

Video courtesy of YouTube

Reader Comments (2)

Enjoyed considering your point of view about the relationship between architecture and construction. We understand the importance of a successful working relationship with all those involved in a project. We can also agree that yes indeed, the time has come to "work together in a more constructive way."

I can definately feel the slow gears turning and the fusion happening however the challenging aspect lies in contracts and legality still. If we keep our heads up high and focus on what we know is the real issue we can make the next step without doubt.

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