When any decade is compressed, examined and filtered, it seems tumultuous. But the stretch from 1995 to now has without question been a doozy for design and the world at large.
When any decade is compressed, examined and filtered, it seems tumultuous. But the stretch from 1995 to now has without question been a doozy for design and the world at large.
Here in the U.S., we’ve seen the first enemy attack on our own soil; the stock market has careened to both bull and bear; presently, we’re at war. And the ruling glut of baby boomers is beginning to retire. Somewhere, a Gen-X-er mutters, “Finally!”
Why do we call attention to the 10 years past? Because this month marks a decade that DesignIntelligence has been in print, (and we should say now, on-line). Our editor, Jim Cramer, has pointed out more than once that not everyone needs great design. But relevant, honest architecture can make a vast difference in the quality of life, we would argue. Because life, and how we choose to live it, either becomes or shapes design. Perhaps not immediately, but what we value and how we achieve it inspires what gets built or stays on paper. We’re not a generation that tolerates stasis well; more, bigger, faster continues to drive not only our lives, but the profession. Architects, maybe more than most, think about posterity—what endures, and what doesn’t. Does your work make a difference? Ask again in 50 years.
Below are a few thoughts from our present and former fellows, writers and colleagues. We asked them to answer two very open-ended questions concerning this decade and the next.
We hope you enjoy reading, but whether you agree—or not, send us what you think, by posting a comment at the bottom of this article. And thanks for reading.
No. 1: What do you think has most affected the practice of architecture in the past decade? (for better or worse)
Architects have given away their leadership role as the client’s “Trusted Advisor” to program and project managers (many of whom are former architects). Ever-increasing pressures to reduce fees (much of which has come from these program and project managers) and increasing liability risk has led architects to step further and further away from leadership and responsibility—allowing program and project management consultants to step into the role formerly held by architectural firm principals and to do so with no liability. Paralleling this trend has been an increase in the number of contractors taking the client leadership role on projects, retaining the architect under their contract and relegating the architect to a role with little more client contact and relationship than other subcontractors have.
Ed Friedrichs is principal at The Friedrichs Group and a senior fellow of the Design Futures Council
B. Joseph Pine II
Although I’m of course biased, the recognition of the Experience Economy in the past decade has had a tremendous effect on architecture. Goods and services are no longer enough; what consumers want are experiences—memorable events that engage each person in an inherently personal way. That means that the design of every building—not just retail, hotels, or museums, but commercial, residential, and every other kind of building—now needs to factor in how the space will be encountered, not just from an aesthetic or functional viewpoint, but from an overall view to the direct experience every person has within it. No longer can we view (if we ever did) architecture as an end; it is but the means—the stage—for the experience that happens within and without a building’s walls.
B. Joseph Pine II is co-author of The Experience Economy and co-founder of Strategic Horizons LLP. He is a senior fellow of the Design Futures Council.
From the outside looking in, it appears to me that over the past decade the practice of architecture has become almost completely commodified, more firmly market-oriented than ever before. This has meant a moving away from professional goals involving the betterment of society, toward being entirely market-driven. Architecture now is more of a business than a profession. Sustainability, terrorism, environmental designs, to the extent they are considered at all, are treated as business opportunities. Larger questions of attacking poverty, reducing crime, providing shelter, ending slum conditions, building community and improving public health are marginalized. As a result, the practice of architecture itself is in danger of becoming an increasingly elite activity, divorced from the great issues of our time.
Richard Farson is president of the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. He is a DFC senior fellow, author of Management of the Absurd, and co-author of Paradoxes in Leadership.
Friedl Bohm is a DFC senior fellow and chairman and partner in NBBJ’s Columbus, Ohio, office.
The last decade has seen the use of technology fundamentally change the practice of building design, for both better and worse. The internet gives us real time connection to ideas, products, and people worldwide. It has educated our clients and our staffs regarding best practices. Sophisticated software allows us to explore building solutions in three dimensions in hundreds of permutations. This is all good and theoretically should result in better buildings inside and out. At the same time, however, technology has had some negative affects. It has quickened the expected pace of project delivery to warp-speed, often without proper staff training or controls. It encourages designers to go wide rather than deep in true building systems understanding, especially detailing. Even powerful programs often ignore connections, interfaces and other crucial building details. One downside of the increased pace is the increasing number of hours that talented architects and engineers must work to keep pace. Although we aging baby boomers are perhaps resigned to long hours as a price of success, there is a growing younger generation of talent that seems intent on finding a better balance between work and play. I hope they succeed, though signs point to more pressure for more complicated buildings delivered ever faster.
Lee Slade is an engineer and senior principal at Walter P. Moore in Houston.
Karen Stephenson, Ph.D.
The biggest impact in the past 10 years has come from two things:
1. The advance of technology
2. The advance of terrorism
How Buildings Learn, a book by Steward Brand, is so 19th century. The next big thing is “How Buildings Compute” and if they can compute, then buildings can become the corporate stewards of leading the greening of their local environment. If all buildings can do this, then we have reduced the toxic effects that buildings have on the environment. We just have to work on humans’ bad behavior next which is point two.
Karen Stephenson, Ph.D., is president of NetForm, Inc., and a DFC senior fellow.
Since 1995, technology has become inexorably integrated into the practice of architecture, from creation of design information with digital tools to collaboration through the Internet. The opportunity to more accurately depict design and transmit it between studios or time zones has fundamentally altered the processes by which buildings are designed (but not built; see below). Powerful digital design tools have changed the nature of work in the studio, the resulting deliverable products, and the basis of form-making, increasing levels of resolution and refinement—think curving forms, high-resolution color displays, and large format color plotters. Work has accelerated with the expectations that accrue from digital exchange of data (starting with the fax and now normalized through e-mail and the Web) and the age of “fast architecture” is now permanently with us, manifest in a wide variety of newly-hatched project delivery models like design-build or Project Alliance. The investments in digital infrastructure that were installed during the dot-com bubble will subsequently pay returns in the next 10 years.
Phil Bernstein is vice president of Autodesk’s Building Industry Division and a DFC senior fellow. He has been a faculty member of the Yale School of Architecture since 1988.
The past 10 years have been a traumatic experience for the profession as it goes through its numerous iterations of “redefinition of the profession.” Learning new tools, such as technology-based solutions like CAD, has brought new values, new revenues and new processes to design and the business of architecture. As we grow from using technology as a computing “electronic pencil” to using it as the basic form of business and design communication, an entire generation of professionals has been caught in a purgatory between old and new. The past practice of “storytelling” from one generation to another has been lost in the past 10 years as the tools of one generation are fundamentally different from the tools of the next generation, leaving only the best firms as the ones who have successfully bridged this gap. But technology was not the only culprit responsible for the Architecture Class of the 1990s being known as “Generation Lost”… so were HIV and AIDS. An entire generation of talented individuals has been lost to the horrors of HIV and AIDS, leaving my generation without the leadership necessary to help cross the threshold from good designer to great designer. By skipping a generation due to HIV/AIDS and the technology tsunami of the 1990s, the younger design professionals are at a distinct disadvantage moving into the next 10 years from previous generations.
Paul Doherty is managing director of the General Land Corporation in San Diego, Calif.
If one goes back to 1995, the economy was starting to build momentum. The good times for designers and architects continued until about 2002, when the market went downhill. Now, in 2005, it’s starting to come back up again. Over the past decade, there were a number of issues that affected the practice of architecture. Clearly technology, which has enabled us to produce information and documentation in new and effective ways, has taken an important lead. We’re able to record and visualize projects like never before—more rapidly and in more complete ways. It has also allowed us to practice in multiple locations, which is especially important to our capability to work internationally. The ability to communicate between offices and between consultants and even vendors and suppliers has had more of an impact on the profession than almost anything else. But there are clearly other areas that are important. The USGBC movement to create a rating system, LEED, has certainly affected the way buildings are designed with sustainable characteristics. Most important, it has motivated suppliers and manufacturers to increasingly create products that are green. Contractors and architects can now implement their services and understand the areas of their sustainable effectiveness based on a ratings system. And the system has allowed owners and the public to see the advantages of integrating a green approach into projects.
One of the most important developments within the profession is that a number of firms have established a strong management structure, and there has been a raised level of leadership in our profession that strengthened the practice in many areas. As a result, many firms now have multiple locations and can work both on domestic and international projects. International operations, particularly in China, have represented enormously expanded opportunities for architects, especially in design. We have to continue to address the need to develop new techniques of practice (i.e. working with design institutes and working at remote distances). All of these developments have brought more cohesion to the profession and have served to attract more interesting talent to our profession.
Art Gensler is a founding principal of Gensler and a DFC senior fellow.
There have been dozens of important influences on architecture and design in the past decade. It’s tough to elevate just one, but technology has had the most pervasive effect on our design process and product. We all work very differently than we did 10 years ago, in every type and scale of architectural practice. Our most progressive buildings are taking forms that might not have been achievable with traditional design media. Also, emerging technologies promise to help architects work more productively—faster, better, more profitably—and strengthen the architect’s leadership position in the design and construction industry.
Clark Davis is vice chairman and chief administrative officer for HOK’s North Central region
Over the past decade, architects have seen widespread implementation of technology, including spreadsheet analysis and 3-D imaging; significant changes in delivery methodologies, including design/build and program management; and a marked shift in market expectations with regard to both speed and quality of documentation. To put it bluntly, architects are asked to do more, much faster, and with a wider variety of “partners” in the process. This has put a tremendous premium on leadership skills and the ability to formulate and articulate a value proposition for our clients. These changes have been profound and have significantly altered the entire “design enterprise” paradigm.
Scott Simpson is president and CEO of The Stubbins Associates, Inc. He is also a DFC senior fellow and co-author of How Firms Succeed: A Field Guide to Design Management.
During the past decade there have been significant strides toward the integration of designers, manufacturers, suppliers, and builders to the benefit of building owners in new ways. This integration results from greater demand for increased speed and efficiency in design and construction delivery. Technology is a primary enabler of integration and we are beginning to discover its true potential to significantly and positively impact our processes. The next decade promises to be exciting!
Stephen Fiskum is Hammel, Green and Abrahamson’s Chief Operating Officer and a senior fellow of the Design Futures Council.
No. 2: What do you think will most affect the design professions in the next 10 years?
The demand for speed of delivery and a single point of responsibility. The world is more volatile, which leads to later decisions on projects. This puts greatly increased pressure on the construction team to deliver a completed project in a radically foreshortened time frame. Due to these very time constraints, clients for such projects are unable to participate in the decision-making process to the degree formerly possible, leading them to search for one-stop-shop solutions with a single entity accepting full accountability. Very few architects are stepping into leadership roles for this type of work or client, leading to an increase in fully integrated design-build work.
It’s time for architects to demonstrate their ability to accept responsibility for leadership of schedule and budget, function and performance—to reassert their leadership as the client’s trusted advisor and the party responsible for leading and managing the efforts of the full construction team. —Ed Friedrichs
B. Joseph Pine II
A new imperative is emerging across all businesses: authenticity. Its rise coincides with that of the Experience Economy, for in a world of paid-for experiences, consumers question more and more what is real and what is not. Increasingly, they want to buy the real from the genuine, not the fake from the phony. However, all architecture, like all design— indeed, all economic offerings!—is in its essence unreal. It is creating something new that never existed before, out of whole cloth, using artificial technology, under societal rules, in order to make money. Architecture is fake. Ah, but when done well and done right, how real we perceive it to be! The emerging task, therefore, is to render buildings and their surroundings to be perceived as real by those who encounter them. Someday “rendering authenticity” will come as readily to the lips as “controlling costs” or “enhancing quality.” Indeed, just as Quality (with a capital “Q”) has surfaced as a business discipline over the past 30 years, so, too, will Authenticity (with a capital “A”) become a discipline across all fields of business, especially architecture, in the coming decades. —B. Joseph Pine II
The profession of architecture and its member organizations are still failing to embrace the other design fields, remaining resistant to their development into full-fledged professions, and refusing to provide leadership for their integration into a major movement to increase the influence of design both in our culture and globally. I would predict that we will see these other design professions hastening the move away from their previous style of seeking recognition and cooperation, and developing instead a posture of more independence, pressure, competition and litigation. Such a development would hinder any concerted effort to seek major publicly-supported programs to bring design solutions to problems of segregation, erosion of community, urban blight and other pressing issues for which design has important answers.
On the upside, I suspect that the current public obsession with scientific reductionism, seeking genetic and neurophysiologic answers to social dilemmas, will subside, giving way to a new public readiness to see the power of situational determinants of behavior, and a consequent appreciation of the potential of the design professions to build a better world. Design, after all, is the only profession with a proven ability to reduce crime, improve learning and support better family life, and it is probably the only one that can decrease all the other social indices of despair—domestic violence, alcoholism and drug addiction, divorce, mental and physical illness, child abuse and suicide. —Richard Farson
People, relationships and communications.
I believe that the next 10 years will see globalization become the driving force, enabled by technology, emerging third-world markets and saturation of some of the current active world markets. Specialization will rule, with the firms most adept at integrating talent across borders emerging to dominate their specialty sector. Firms and design teams, as well as clients, will become increasingly multinational. Chinese firms will emerge as a force in U.S. markets. —Lee Slade
The biggest impact on the design professions in the next ten years is summarized in two points:
One movement will come from the Asian marketplace—most notably Shanghai. Here the integration of technology and design into aesthetically pleasing functionality brings art to life and life to art.
The second movement will come from being able to measure impact, or ROI, on the business of the client using smart design. Instead of the “time study man” in the 19th century, it will be the “winning back time” in the 21st century. —Karen Stephenson
The integration of the global building supply chain will drive three trends that will combine to redefine the role of the architect in the building process: globalization of the design and construction workforce, the advent of building information design tools that will integrate the design-to-build supply chain, and digitally-driven fabrication of building components. Of course, other factors such as sustainability and evidence-based design will benefit from evolving attitudes and better tools, but the integrating supply chain will finally alter the stick-built approach by which we’ve made buildings for thousands of years. Imagine a design modeled digitally by architects in America who control workflow over the digital design network and collaborate with structural engineers in Bangalore. The completed digital, fluid design is transmitted via existing broadband infrastructure to fabrication facilities located either near the project site or anywhere in the world, where substantial components are robotically assembled and packed, IKEA-like, for shipping to the job site where they are assembled into a finished building. This approach will reduce waste, drive sustainable design strategies, allow repeatable processes that have more predictable schedule and cost, and bring the building industry into modern production processes. —Phil Bernstein
There is hope on the horizon that the next generation of design leaders will move forward in great ways. Technology being used as a communication medium rather than a computing tool will break into the creative side of the design profession, creating easier to use tools, new materials, new methods and new processes that will create a more efficient, effective and more aesthetically pleasing built environment. The movement of holistic design will be a reality due to the integration of Information Technology, Building Technology and creative financial resources. And the design professionals of
Generation Lost will find the creative boundaries of time, money and resources integrated into a higher value of design in the next ten years, providing the opportunity to become Generation Found. —Paul Doherty
I’m convinced it’s the client. The client will continue to demand more complete and more responsible services from architects.
They are looking for not only “one stop shopping,” but also more guarantees in the quality and accuracy of the delivered product. The client wants to know when and at what cost the projects will occur. We will be forced to look at alternative delivery systems—design-build, bridging, etc.—rather than just the traditional design, bid and build. Increasingly, architects will have to be able to respond in many locations, not just in our hometown. We will be required to learn how to work more closely, and hopefully through the use of advance technology, directly with suppliers, manufacturers, contractors and consultants.
This is clearly a large challenge for the profession, but it also represents a wonderful opportunity. Architects can be the leaders if we step up to the line and take on this responsibility. Unfortunately, in the past many architects have tried to avoid responsibility. In many cases, they believe their role only relates to the aesthetic portion of the process. The opportunity is there—and will be there—for us to take on the full responsibility for the project. Those firms and individuals that accept this responsibility will have an enormous impact on both the profession and the society as a whole. —Art Gensler
Among all the other pressures we face, I’d like to believe that sustainable design will the most pervasive issue in the next decade. There have been some fine individual accomplishments, but we’ve only begun to address the total environmental performance of the buildings and communities we create.
Collectively, we have tremendous opportunities to reduce energy consumption, reverse degradation of our natural environment and create healthier conditions for building occupants. Society’s past failures in this regard will take many years to overcome, so there’s an urgent need for leadership by the design professions. As Bill Odell of HOK has suggested, environmentally progressive design will ultimately become second nature to good architects in the 21st century—just like building code and life safety provisions have since 1900. —Clark Davis
In the coming decade, we expect to see more and more “players” offering variations in project delivery—hybrids of design/build, design/assist, design / build / operate, and even finance / design / build. Architects must develop new management and financial skills as well as design skills to maintain a place at the table. We also expect BIM (building information management) to have a profound effect on the traditional “product” of the architect. The traditional “SD-DD-CD-CA” sequence of project evolution will change to a system based on simultaneous decision-making involving owners, architects, consultants and contractors as equal partners, something we call “HyperTrack™.”
Ever-sophisticated technology will permit design decisions to be displayed in three-dimensional form with embedded cost information, so that traditional CDs will be a thing of the past. All this is very exciting, but it also presents a challenge—will architects (who are traditionally “late-adapters” to process change) reclaim and redefine their leadership role? —Scott Simpson
The next 10 years will see a maturing of digital technologies as applied to the design, manufacturing and construction processes. Three-dimensional modeling will be commonplace and data transfer will eliminate many of the traditional and laborious steps in communication among designers, estimators, fabricators and builders. For the design industry, it’s just possible that the predicted labor savings from technology will happen soon enough to help mitigate the predicted shortage of available professionals. —Stephen Fiskum
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