Workflow 2010: Designing Industry


Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation Scott Marble, instructor, with Julie Jira

Theme 2: Models of Collaboration

How can innovation approaches to collaboration, from other disciplines, begin to influence new models of integrated workflow that are developing in the AEC industry and what is the role of the architect in making this happen? What is the role of architects in a non-hierachical collaborative working environment?

The Evolution of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod

On Design Engineering by Hanif Kara

Group Genius by Keith Sawyer

Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Image Credit: On Design Engineering by Hanif Kara


Filed under: Collaboration, Workflow

28 Responses

  1. awgerber says:

    I see clear benefits to firms sharing and being open about new project hierarchies and uses of digital communication technologies. As one firm develops new efficiencies in their business process, sharing it allows for that efficiency to become an “acceptable risk” or “acceptable model” industry wide. Other firms will benefit from the efficient process, while the originating firm can get new work by being a leading provider of the service.

    How can collaboration in other industries provide models for architecture? It is hard to estimate exactly how they can inform architectural collaboration without knowing specifically how other industries structure their “collaboration.” Is sub-contracting a form of collaboration? When does an interaction stop being a typical hierarchical , contract driven process and start becoming a collaboration? In many industries that capitalize on digital collaboration (auto and software), the end product remains highly branded and familiar to the consumer. Its just a better, safer car deliver cheaper today than it was in 1960. The collaboration seems to happen between businesses behind the curtain of an umbrella company or brand that simplifies the product to a consumer. This parent company that is ultimately responsible for the product in the marketplace can use the “advanced digital techniques” as a selling point for why their product is cheaper and better, but its an abstraction to the consumer, not something they engage in. Can an architect act as this brand? I say: yeah, sure. Most architects engage heavily in branding already.

    What is the role of architects in a non-hierarchical collaborative working environment?
    I think that architectural design inherently creates a certain a hierarchy as part of a design process. Certain concerns are prioritized as they are solved with specific design intent/solutions (expression of a structural detail becomes either subordinate to or overruling of a particular HVAC solution.) Architects need to establish and communicate a clear set of design priorities and relationships between competing factors on a project. In my view, an architects role in a collaborative working environment is establishing the rules and acting as a referee for the execution of specific building solutions.

    • awgerber says:

      If there is a new role emerging in the process of designing and constructing buildings, that role is is tied as much to the specifics of the technological solutions that they shepherd as the nature of the collaborative relationships among the various constituents.

      Due to the hierarchies inherent in current processes of architectural design and construction, true collaboration is rare. However, a higher degree of collaborative thinking is possible via both new communication technologies, and more importantly, the possibility of an entity that is solely responsible for structuring the collaboration.

      In discussion, it was natural to say that this entity would be responsible for establishing the “rules of design” or the “priorities of the solution.” On the contrary, it seems apparent that good collaborators need room to stretch, break, and reconsider the any such rule. If it is a single entity is responsible for this collaboration, perhaps the set of directives that they are operating on need to be more well defined.

      In discussion, we hypothesized the difference between a rule and and a concept. We decided that rules were “limiting” and “specific,” while concepts were “interpretable” and “opening.” I would like to hypothesize a 2×2 matrix based on these four conditions that could create the complete set of directives for which a “master collaborator” is responsible.

      In list form, these directives can be either limiting OR opening, AND either interpretable OR specific. In my scheme, I suppose they are:
      Limiting-Specific: Rules
      Limiting-Interpretable: Intentions
      Opening-Specific: Goals
      Opening-Interpretable: Concept

      I propose that a new entity responsible for shepherding technology and facilitating collaboration can do so by effectively codifying and communicating the projects Rules, Intentions, Goals, and Concepts.

  2. Luc Wilson says:

    The example of improvisational teams forming in the book were all within large companies (at least compared with most architectural firms.) Is there a minimum size that needs to exist for this system of collaboration to form? Can we set up local collaborative webs in architecture? What sort of infrastructure do we need to be able to innovatively organize and improvise? If the “possibility of achieving stable mutual collaboration depends upon there being a good chance of continuing interaction,” how do we establish that in the profession?

    Can the improvisational team model be tested in school? For instance, in the C-BIP studio, what if, instead of being organized into three units, students formed loose teams around common ideas or designs? Students could participate in multiple teams, disband and reorganize as necessary. If this strategy were employed, how could the critics keep the collaborations productive? Would they suggest collaborations? (My guess is that a studio of 12 is too small for improvisational teams to productively form.) What if the entire year of 90 students operated in a local network with the possibility of forming teams regardless of critics?

  3. Luc Wilson says:

    Diversity, independence, decentralization and aggregation. “A decentralized system can only produce genuinely intelligent results if there’s a means of aggregating the information of everyone in the system.” I think crowdsourcing, or “the wisdom of crowds” is fantastic, but how to relate it to architecture? It seems difficult to image a building successfully designed, engineered and constructed through the independence and decentralization of the people working on it. We need to find the areas of the profession best suited to this type of collaboration. For instance, take Grasshopper, the free parametric modeling plug-in for rhino. A social network of diverse and independent people, with no central authority, contribute and come together to work on specific problems. Google search aggregates the work on the grasshopper social networking web site. I have posted several problems on the discussion boards. Within hours (six at the most), more than one person has contributed to working out the answer. This model suggests that architects can employ this model on issues with discrete, objective solutions as opposed to subject design decisions. We can use this model to create, test, and optimize tools that allow us to design more efficiently.

  4. adamhanau says:

    In last week’s discussion, the question of incentives towards corporations emerged; Why should company’s share information, without a guarantee that such sharing will be reciprocated? The answer given then was noticeable in the reading this week. Throughout the work of “Group Genius” the idea that ideas don’t come about in one giant step, but in a few baby steps, was repeatedly mentioned. Even if a firm that wants to share ideas isn’t guaranteed that ideas will be shared by other firms as well, they will at least get feedback on their shared ideas. This feedback, in the form of advice/criticism, is the most crucial element of growth, and should suffice in convincing firms to share ideas.

    In the article “Group Genius” the example of Silicon Valley emerging over Boston as the powerhouse in the high tech industry demonstrated how the entire industry can gain immensely from sharing. This is also demonstrated at an individual level as well. The companies that decided to hoard their technological breakthroughs ended up losing to the competitors that shared information. The other side of the coin, however, was not addressed; although the companies that decided to share their ideas ultimately succeeded, how lucrative was this move? The technology itself succeeded, but did the company itself gain from such sharing?

    “The Evolution of Cooperation” discussed the prisoner’s dilemma that is a common setback towards productive sharing and cooperation. One to the dilemma is to ensure long term sharing. Focusing on the long run, incentive is given to other firms fairly. If one were to start a program of open sharing among the architectural community, how can firms be convinced that this sharing will last into the future (forcing them to consider the long term implications of their actions)?

  5. Muchan Park says:

    Google, Linux, PAM, and etc.. these all are good examples of “wisdom of crowds”. Through these, decentralized information from public with its own judgements is aggregated and solve given problems. The common factor among these examples is a kind of framing structure, like google’s algorithm or Linux’s open format.
    If we can think BIM in architectural industry as the counterpart to them, through that framework we could aggregate the information from the other experts and provide better architectural solution?
    So BIM program (catia) is Intelligent aggregator that test, prove, inter-associate the ideas and knowledge from different experts in this industry? That is enough to work even theoretically, or we need another rules that could be added the program?

    The next question is exactly same to the above but now, not about collaboration among people but about correlation among solutions from different perspectives. In other words, we, architects at least in school, seem to prefer to have the ‘one strong concept’ that hold overall projects from detail to big scheme rather than multiple complex concepts that are seemingly unrelated. So the process of a project sometimes spends long time finding ‘the word’. What if our process is like Google or Linux or something, and gathers all different issues about the situation and context that is localized and decentralized, and finally solve the problem in holistic view?

    • mparch says:

      If an architect is a rule writer who can define priority of certain values including aesthetic, the responsibility is enormous. We have witnessed the zoning resolution dictate even the architectural form and programs. Rule writer also without consideration on more flexible rule through which innovation emerges.

  6. Kassandra Scheve says:

    How would collaboration work? Who is the collaboration between? Would it be the team of people that will be designing and producing the building (meaning the architect, contractor, and engineer), or simply a firm of architects who work together thinking of different aspects of a building? The ladder would work well with specialization because then each person could come together with their diverse backgrounds and work together to create one cohesive idea.

    Would it be possible for collaboration without a hierarchy? Is it possible that architects could be on the same level during collaboration and it is the client who is the overseer? While they aren’t part of the collaboration then they would stay informed and the group designing it would not have to deal with the problems or hierarchy. However this might work better with the structures we discussed last week if instead the architect was not part of the brainstorm type sessions and instead the one in charge of project management who oversees after this process.

    Would collaboration have an effect on the competition between architects? Would this be seen as a way for them to work together and learn from one another, or would it be seen as another competition? I suppose no matter what there will always be competition in any field, that is how markets continue, however using collaboration could be a powerful tool. However it can only work if people are willing to share ideas instead of keeping everything to themselves.

  7. Julie Jira says:

    New models of collaboration can influence both the managerial aspects and design aspects of the architect. For one, crowd-sourcing the industry for opinions on the most productive ways to run certain types of projects could help an architect develop a more tested strategy before beginning a project. This then could generate a tested field of strategies that build upon themselves with every generation of buildings that applies and modifies those strategies. The question in this case should be what kind of an environment would contain such an ongoing database? And could those who subscribe to such an idea do it because of the understanding that the value created by such shared knowledge is helpful to their own productivity in the long run as well?

    In a non-hierarchical collaborative working environment, the Architect should exploit the knowledge and skills of spatial design and apply it to other fields. Perhaps applying concepts and strategies normally applied to the design of architecture, and applying it to the other fields involved, could help a project grow more laterally. Like-wise, the architect accepting other angles for problems through concepts from other fields. During brainstorming sessions, the architect can act as a brainstorming trainer – taming and stimulating ideas, and making sure that “topic fixation”, “social inhibition” and “social loafing” as noted in Group Genius, will less frequently occur, if at all.

    It is not until the architect is willing to form a knowledge-based co-dependence with other fields that innovative solutions will have the chance to be developed. It is clear from the Evolution of Cooperation, that cooperation will emerge if reciprocity occurs and will fail if mutual exploitations are practiced, thus the architect must believe that the ideas/contributions from other fields will be mutually beneficial to the overall project as his/her own contributions will be for their benefits. Given this is a successful model, could new practices such as the Design Engineering firm, become the normal way of practice? Could what was once thought of as a solitary profession, be revolutionized by the model of a network of idea generators/building creators become a new type of profession which the architecture community can be a thriving part of?

    • Julie says:

      I think the beauty of design is that every opportunity affords a chance to creatively & intellectually stretch your mind. The desire to innovate does not have to be rooted with a business model in mind, although that can bring value to your innovation as well, but should come with the idea that you will allow someone to live life in a space which they have not lived in before. This basic notion should ideally come from a place which deals with some idea of an issue concerning our society today…like the environment, over-stimulation of the senses, mass-production, community-building or any other issue. Everything we do, as a human species, is to push towards the chance for everyone to have a better living condition, and not just those who can afford it.

      That being said, I believe that the way a practice works, should reflect the types of environments the firm designs. I think if architectural practices can become more engaged with their communities; with other creative practices; with other fields – a much richer milieu of understanding would come forward in how to tackle problems of buildings for tomorrow. In the simplest sense, this could be a small engagement and yet, would provide a sort of collaboration to exist. Even if the collaboration takes up 10% of their overall workflow, meaning that they would still have ample time to develop individual ideas, but that 10% of engagement would provide a sort of “in” to the way others think, instead of staying within the circle of architecture thinking. Having such an engagement could also allow a practice to “shop” around for ideas/potential collaborators and could even allow a project to develop in ways which would not occur within the background of an architect. Not to mention, if we believe we are well rounded as architects, does it not make sense to try to work closely with others from other fields to develop a higher standard of well-roundedness?

      I think there are things to be learned from business models which we can apply to our practice that does not have to have the same goal in mind. Business-mindedness involves networking, yet maintaining a sense of independence and mingling with new sources to help one’s own agenda. Why does our profession feel that this is a negative attribute if, in a sense, that is a rather community-minded attribute as well? Networking for the sake of intellectually communicating and replenishing your ideas can be the nascent moments of collaboration. If architects can accept that an integral part of their job means bringing many components together to build a whole, than the social aspect is integral to this job, and should include collaboration in some form, the degree of which should stem from the type, scale, and cultural aspect of the project.

  8. Kelly Danz says:

    Innovation approaches to collaboration from other industries can influence models of workflow in the design professions by providing examples of successful collaborative innovations and the environments that fostered them. The ideas of “wisdom in the crowds” where groups do not have to be dominated by exceptionally intelligent people to be smart, and that “group genius” collaborative webs are more important than single creative people and that successful innovation is a combination of many small sparks built upon one another rather than a single flash of insight, are effective insights into modes of collaboration that lead to innovation that could easily be adapted to the design professions. What is the most effective medium for such collaborative groups to operate? In adapting collaboration approaches, should the architect not only be involved in the collaborative group, but also helping to facilitate the participation of other design professionals by setting a standard and leading by example?

    In non hierarchical collaborative working environments the ability to collaborative and innovate evolves as in “the evolution of cooperation” by all equal parties learning from each other and trying to achieve the best outcome for their party. I think in this environment the architect should do just that, as well as build upon other disciplines’ ideas. But is a non hierarchical collaborative work environment the best environment for collaboration?

    In “design engineering”, the idea of a joint discourse with other designers early in a project’s development is an ideal model of collaboration between architects and engineers. However, does such efficient and close collaboration begin to blur the lines between once distinct professions? Can there ever be too much collaboration and how much collaboration is too much?

    • Kelly Danz says:

      Responses to my questions and overall conclusions from yesterday’s class discussion:
      I think the medium in which collaboration operates greatly effects its ability for innovation. Working solely in one medium such as only a computer model or only drawings can limit collaboration possibilities. I think the idea of a collection or web of multiple collaboration mediums, platforms, or forums is the best option for creating innovation. In addition, the role of the architect in collaboration should depend on the concept or goals and rules or limits of the collaboration. The master collaborator should set these and focus the collaboration to spur innovation. Also, the master collaborator should in terms of authorship, responsibility and facilitation be the entity in charge. In certain instances the architect could fulfill the role of master collaborator based on the concept and rules of the collaboration, or in other instances just be another collaborative participant along with other members of other disciplines. Setting up these different instances of collaboration over different mediums and also in different scales over short and long term I think would best foster innovation.
      This way of collaborating is a semi non-hierarchical collaborative environment, where the master collaborator is in fact facilitating and taking ownership and responsibility, but all participating collaborative entities have equal value and ability to innovate.
      The idea of such close collaboration would in fact not blur the lines between disciplines. Instead it would require more specialized expertise in participating collaborators which would then spur clear differentiation between the disciplines, which is needed for effective and innovative collaboration. A collaboration also has a lifespan, where too much or too long can become stagnant and no longer innovative.
      In conclusion, the idea of exponential innovation from effective collaboration is the goal behind the instances of collaboration which I have described as well as other collaboration examples such as “group genius” and “wisdom in the crowds”. Exponential innovation or the innovation of completely new ideas rather than incremental innovation or the innovation of efficiency of existing ideas is what is possible and what we should strive to reach at this historical time of change in our industry.

  9. Questions for this week:

    1. The readings gave plenty examples of decentralized systems overcoming their centralized counterparts (such as VHS trumping Betamax); however, what the readings don’t discuss is what I believe to be an important ingredient in the power of an idea’s success: what Malcolm Gladwell refers to as the “Tipping Point,” the point at which enough minor moves aggregate to create substantial change. How does this factor in to how we, as architects, educate our co-collaborates and our clients to establish a system where open-source collaboration is the norm rather than the exception? In other words, how do we mainstream “collaboration” in the same way we’ve managed to mainstream the concept of “sustainability?”

    2. What are the motivations behind contributors to open-source platforms such as Linux? If it’s not monetary, what is it? What can we learn from these structures that we can incorporate into our own field?

    3. James Surowiecki writes that while decentralized systems are generally better at coming up with more accurate solutions, an aggregator is required to filter and organize the data from the various individual sources to interpret it and turn it into something useful (the CIA example). Who is the aggregator in the architect-contractor relationship? If we’re moving toward a more open-source management system, is this a role that needs to be created?

    • The idea that I believe held the most promise from this week’s discussions was the role of the architect as the “rule maker.” Admittedly, this may only be because it is very similar in the way I approach studio design problems; however, I see value in approaching collaboration using a similar rationale. By establishing a set of rules, we can control the general parameters of the “game” that is being played (in this instance, the project and the interactions of all of the players involved) but are still allowing for an extraordinary amount of flexibility.

      I keep returning to the analogy of the video game because I continue to see parallels in how their worlds are constructed and operate. When you create a video game (for example, a first-person shooter), certain elements are put into place that give the game a specific set of constraints (gravity, weapons, enemies, etc.) However, these games are never entirely scripted in the way a film or play might be. Once a player enters into these worlds, improvisation happens by design. No one person’s experience is going to be like someone else’s. While the player may be guided through certain sequences, their actions are their own, managed only by the series of rules established by the game’s designers. A well-designed video game understands the proper balance between a player’s freedom and the game’s required direction.

      In my opinion, this is directly related to issues of collaboration between the various players in our field. In our case, it would be our role to serve as the “rule maker,” to set up the game and allow it to be played with both freedom and direction. This would allow a certain spontaneity and flexibility to develop between parties but also give the architect the ultimate power to guide the direction of the project. Here we are not necessarily filling the historic role of the “master builder;” we are using our inherent, “Renaissance Man” qualities to define a set of parameters that can guide a set of collaborators toward a better goal.

  10. Solar says:

    When we speak about collaborations in jazz or theater, no external organization needs to be imposed. The participants are acting and reacting, anticipating moves based on previous observations and learning in real-time how to both direct and surrender to the creative outcome of each moment. The Prisoner’s Dilemma works similarly in that the overall outcome is based on understanding the other participants over an extended period. But the latter is very much formatted on a strategy of Tit for Tat. What I understand about Tit for Tat is that it is, in essence, insurance. It approaches any model of interaction as a barter system, with the hopes of mutually beneficial outcomes, reciprocity. It is motivated by self-interest. Axelrod claims that self-interest is a form of insurance and it can be simultaneously inclusive of others interest. The strategy of the participant is dependent on the presence of others. Translating this behavior to collaboration is extremely limited, even in politics, where the decisions are theoretically made for the benefit of others. Moves based on reciprocity exclude sacrifice and risk. In order for new thinking to emerge, new behaviors must be applied that are not motivated by payoff and symmetry. Since absolute altruism doesn’t make sense in a short-term business model, how can we make the big-picture payoff more visible in order to creatively and financially justify contribution for contribution’s sake? What larger vision are we being asked to hold collectively?

    Sawyer says that innovation emerges over time, that even after brainstorming, the best ideas still need to be implemented in order to be fully realized. There are many stages along the road to realization. Even if hierarchy is removed, organization must still be present. What role does the architect play in this process in terms of germination, organization, execution?

    Open-source allows for a constant flow of information. It is when flow is occurring that people tap into a different part of their creativity. If the “sparks” of others awakens the genius of the individual, more exposure to this flow of ideas and information is necessary for more revolutionary or innovative shifts to emerge. Time is a much more significant factor in architecture than in, say, music or painting. There are the realities of the physical world that must be considered. This may not change the structure of how ideas are best generated, but it adds permutations of complexity and more participants. How can the collaborative process be broken down, simplified and made most effective? Collaborations exist at every stage: internally, with other architects, with engineers and other disciplines, with clients. Each module of interaction needs to build on the other models. The concept of flow implies some amount of time is needed. How can the flow of new ideas be maximized within these different relationships and still be time-efficient and goal-oriented?

    • Solar says:

      1 | Last week, I said that it would take a generation of generosity to make a true shift in innovation and design, an immediate offering of wisdom to serve a greater goal. I wrote this earlier today- I don’t think idealism and experience should be inversely proportional. Newer eyes revitalize possibility. We were talking about Linux today and how there are programmers who love contributing to open-source models because it feels good. Although that may be true, they are also, as Julie said creating a knowledge bank that they will undoubtedly benefit from. The beauty of that relationship is that it’s irrelevant whether the individual is selfless or not. A system has been put in place to inspire contribution. So the vision that we are holding collectively is that of knowledge. Regardless of how we define terms like design, architecture or innovation, as a species we seem to be motivated to evolve. Yes, we need better products, better designs, better relationships. But even if we had the best, would we stop there? Some of us wouldn’t.

      2 | Maybe my ego is participating in this response, but I agree with the idea that architects should be generalists. Part of the beauty of what we do is synthesizing information in order to solve problems. Individual architects may assign different meaning to value, their value, focus, project-based vision and overall vision. As much as I am an artist and value beauty, I seem to be much more affected by the human experience of how we take up space. My emphasis is my unique voice and it is personal, but the ability for the architect to communicate and translate that voice should be universal.

      3 | Flow flow flow. Tapping into a universal mind, accessing the deepest of our creative selves. This takes time but what kind of time do we have? Long-term goals, short-term goals. We didn’t talk about this directly. We talked about more effective usage of time and different relationships where collaboration occurs. But on a much more intimate level, how are we getting the best of ourselves? The idea of architects being rule-makers (Thank you, Muchan, for your beautiful seedlings). Concept vs.Rules. Concepts are goal-oriented openings and rules are goal-oriented limitations. As architects, we must understand what is driving the rules we set and allow for them to be bent with new perspective and better solutions that support the same vision. Architects can be bionic: The experts we collaborate with extend our own capabilities.

  11. samolsen says:

    Fun things to note!
    1) Groupthink, happens to everybody, and we must ensure to strongly voice the minority opinion as a foil to our own conceived process when things seem to be going too smoothly. I think this also happens as a profession and could be the purpose of the class.

    2) Medici Affect, how can we artificially create these trigger moments to spur an agenda? Moments where these sorts of discussions take place like CIAM or SI movements were key to directing the course of architecture . . .

    3) Collaborative webs yield more results than individual creative people. Additive design processes are more efficient with individuals who then pass the ideas onto teams to cull out the best answers. Refinement of concepts creatively is best quantified in groups. The stock market can pick the company at fault for the Challenger blowing up. . . Do we want to bring analytic methods developed by the meta-capitalists from Harvard and Yale into the free flowing creative design process of Architecture or let it remain the “black box” of our profession?

    4) In my experience, within a smaller team, architects are the perfect collaborators. Almost all of our training has involved teamwork, instead of individual testing. How can we best harness our power to collaborate in a way that pushes our agenda. Was this the original role of the master builder? How can we use this power of creative collaboration to better manage other events in our working world?

    5) How do we ride the Occam’s Razor b/t the “no suggestion is a bad one or wastes time” networked creative collaboration of a thousands of architects (literally possible at larger firms) vs. the need for streamlined processes and production necessitated by the profession?

    6) Curiously, one of the things missed in these studies: Are older or younger professionals more creative? Are youth too idealistic, more “with the times”, are experienced professionals tempered to think creatively in the realm of the possible?

    7) Is this creative/collaborative gene our non-fungible property?

    • Sam Olsen says:

      Go team!
      I was once taught in an intro to econ course that I did horribly in (I guess that meant I’m really cut out to be an architect) that the greatest thing that you can do as a professional is to generate value for your work. The greatest chefs in the greatest restaurants can ask for more money for their work, specifically because people come there to eat their food. This, of course, tends to break down when you employ a “star power” to the scene, or that the decor is the main attractor, etc. But the key element is that you must be a unique individual with the power to draw the crowd.
      I think that architects for years have been trying to tread the old water, where the profession used to be. Once upon a time, architects did all the calculations along with the design, while engineers were busy with mines, and bridges and factories and other such paradigms of industry. But the world changed, engineers were also needed for buildings, and architects began to give way to engineers for the calculations, as was so.
      But what the architects forgot was that they only gained the value they had at first because they were able to communicate and organize the other members of the team. Essentially, we need to remember that our most pivotal role was to come up with the idea/design/concept, and to collaborate with those involved to help it reach fruition. I agree entirely with Solar and Muchan above. Rules and Concepts should be what forms the theoretical backbone of our industry. Goals reachable through measurable and quantifiable successes are naturally a byproduct, but should not be the measure of our worth.

      Additionally, I feel as if this course, relatively alone compared to some of the other courses at Columbia, demands a manifesto, or at the very least a well formed article. The purpose of which is to spread the ideas. I think the bulk of these ideas are not terribly new, they are being implemented by the most successful firms around the world. OMA has an entire division AMO, dedicated to the management of their own brand, as well as printing their written matter, a “think tank” if you will. SOM integrates with firms around the world, and has subdivisions within their company to best execute tasks. Architecture companies are already getting well entrenched in the “branding” industry.

    • Sam Olsen says:

      I’m watching the REX TED talk. And his opening argument is that architects should be going for the greater amounts of liability and power.
      I think that this is a radically important element to add to our rule maker / concepts / master collaborator / organizer conventions. My model spalls off some components to gain more agency. So we need to realize that re-distributed liability may not happen on the AIA level. But it must happen.
      I think the AIA method best serves many of the midsized to larger firms and can insulate them from the hazards that they face, in tern the directors of these groups may have lobbied the AIA in the direction they best saw fit.
      The smaller firms that may have a vision need a period of incubation, rather than the dog – eat dog brain drain method of new firm creation.

      How can we fully establish ourselves as the master collaborators and designers if we are not willing to take on the liability to prove it? Perhaps an umbrella liability policy? It seems like everybody sues the architect anyways, no matter whos fault it is. Pull back the construction manager, and pull in some of the “generalist” engineers. That may be all it takes to form a firm. Hire out from India for the rest of the grunt work, and keep on moving!

      • Solar says:

        Your enthusiasm is palpable, even in type…

        I watched rex /ted just now. How did the chasm between creation and execution get to where it is? Was there an onslaught of lawsuits that leveled people? Did it just happen gradually as more and more specialties arose? Is there a particular demographic that flooded the field for a few generations– filled with privileged, entitled “thinking” men that didn’t actually want to get their hands dirty?

        It makes total sense that liability and power are tied. Authorship/ownership isn’t only about getting credit. As creators, as communicators, as humans, we should own our actions, our words. It’s a little incongruous to assume the kind of control we’re asking for without taking proportional responsibility for that control.

  12. Anh Minh Ngo says:

    How can open source platform be implemented in architecture, specifically:

    1) in architectural professional practice?

    Many non-architectural companies hire professionals with diverse skill sets and backgrounds to tackle the tasks innovatively. For example, McKenzie hires engineers, economists, journalists, historians etc to be their consultants. Can architecture firms employ this kind of interdisciplinary practice?

    and 2) in designing and constructing the building itself?

    Can architecture(aka the design and construction of a physical building) be crowdsourced by involving both experts and end-users into the process (as in the example of the development of Linux)? What are the characteristics of the open source platform or interface, then, should we create in order to enable and facilitate such practice? A good example that already exists in the architecture field is Grasshopper. However, in order to achieve a succesful result (in this case, producing a better building) through crowdsourcing and open source, one requires an aggregator(Surowiecki) or a trained facilitator (Sawyer) who structures and assembles the inflow of data and proposals (from end users!!) in order to present a collective picture of what and how the building should be built and designed. Is the architect that aggregator and facilitator?

  13. adamhanau says:

    The class discussion revolved around the application of the collaborative model. This model encourages innovation and must be structured to specifically fit the architectural industry (in the readings, the focus was on the business model). One major setback to the collaborative model in the architectural industry is the hierarchical management that seems necessary. This is because the architectural industry to has grant project authorship to avoid cases of ambiguous liability. The hierarchical structure however severely limits collaboration. A hierarchy often prohibits the questioning of superiors, and the exchange of ideas is severely limited. A setback to collaboration amongst separate firms is that a joint-product is hard to define, and therefore hard to market. Due to these concerns, a quasi-collaborative model must be established, a model in which a hierarchical configuration isn’t completely abandoned. This model can be implemented in a variety of different forms, including a less rigid hierarchy, or an incentive program. In an incentive program, a single leader is granted ownership, and incentives are offered to the group to further collaboration and innovation.

    Once these issues are overcome, another issue, namely the “parasite problem” arises. The “parasite problem” is when an individual reaps the benefits of idea sharing without any incentive for their own contribution. All of the readings, however, attribute such a problem to a faulty education. If firms are properly educated about the benefits of collaboration, they will come to the realization that sharing is ultimately best for them. A spark of genius isn’t the way good ideas are formed; rather, ideas are perfected through discussion and criticism. The countless examples given corroborate this idea, including that of Silicon Valley. In Silicon Valley, firms in a competitive environment looked to each other for advice, and the sharing of ideas ultimately led to a booming high tech center.

    Finally, we were puzzled by the fact that architects demonstrate their exceptional creativity in the field, but fail to translate this creativity to restructure the industry. One way to fix this problem is to ensure that a new collaborative process is mounted with a proper framework. This includes proven techniques of collaboration such as: efficient sharing, real time sharing (collaboration on a single computer model), exponential sharing, and the potential use of a master collaborator/ rule- writer. With the spark of such innovations, and a system set up to succeed, the architects will then be able to utilize their creativity, and take the industry to the next level.

  14. Kassandra Scheve says:

    The focus of the discussion yesterday was how a collaboration model would work, and there was one point where it was suggested that an architect is the person who knows a bit about all aspects, and this could help them become a strong “master coordinator” in a sense. I somewhat agree with this, but I also have a problem with it. While yes, I do think that strong leaders need to have at least a basic knowledge of what they are managing, I have found that when people know a little bit about many different things, they tend to forget that they don’t know everything. This would not always be a problem, however it is common with proud people, which let’s face it, architects are. Also, this would mean that architects would be more like project managers, which doesn’t seem as hands on as I thought architects would be.

    I believe that specialization would be a better tool then the idea of broad knowledge. I see people being more valuable when they know their one aspect so well that they are able to become an expert in what they do. That said, I feel this would be valuable with the collaboration model. If you have a group of architects that each know one aspect very well, then they will be able to mix their different views and ideas to develop something new. This way it seems that personal creativity won’t necessarily be tapped at any point because there will always be a new aspect that someone else can contribute.

  15. lucbwilson says:

    Evaluation, Liability, and Authorship determine the type of collaboration possible.

    Architecture can engage new types of collaboration within the industry by understanding the necessary evaluation, liability, and authorship within the range of our work and then employing an appropriate type of collaboration. I believe that we can beneficially, employ multiple types of collaboration simultaneously; Crowd Sourced Collaboration, and Local Network of Collaboration with the Individual Firm.

    Crowd Sourced Research (diversity, independence, decentralization and aggregation) -> no client, no liability, no sole authorship, no brand. -> problems that have quantifiable solutions.-> virtual interaction.
    The grasshopper networking web site is an example of this type of collaboration. There is no client, only specific problems and a large network of people engaged in solving them and improving upon them.

    Local Network of Collaboration (Improvisationally formed teams) -> client, shared liability, shared authorship, collective brand -> made of individual firms. -> face to face interaction
    I don’t know of an example of this collaboration in the industry. We need to figure out the type of structure that allows this interaction. Perhaps it based on proximity and shared space. For instance, imagine a building with multiple architecture, engineer, and development firms that all share a common space for printing and laser cutting.

    Individual Firm -> client, sole liability, sole authorship, sole brand -> has the infrastructure of a Local Network of Collaboration to work with. -> in office interaction.
    This is the model we have now. I believe that combined with these other types of collaboration it is still necessary. It provides the isolated/individual development of ideas before engagement with the group.

  16. padams20 says:

    Last week the growing consensus from the class was that a close knit network of project collaborators could be beneficial to the architectural community.

    Scale and character of connection seems to be the next key issue. How large can the independent groups be? Can a firm to 150 plus people operate in this network? Can a firm of 3 people?

    1. Invisible collaboration such as the example of mountain bike development is an interesting scale of collaboration. This form of collaboration could work at the scale of a professional or intellectual community, such as forums devoted to algorithmic design. A journal seems to be similar, but definitely not the same thing.

    2. IDEO scale: can large firms act like small firms by breaking into smaller fluid collaborative groups.

    3. Time scales? i.e. monopoly or the development of the modern airplane. Long term development by sharing ideas. Architecture does this to some extent, but could likely benefit from a more “open source” like environment. Even individual firms have a hard time passing on the lessons of the past to the present. How can firms break down “NDA” barriers between outside the firm and temporal barriers inside the firm?

    • padams20 says:

      The main practical question is what kind of collaboration and at which scale communicating which kind information? A long term scale of incremental innovation could come from a better sharing of process and “behind the scenes” work among firms. Short term scale innovation could take advantage of better networked communication (through social networking sites, open-source resources, etc.). Immediate scale innovation can take place within the firm immediately. This is a matter of overcoming hierarchies and allowing more effective individual brainstorming and collective problem solving to take place.

  17. Anh Minh Ngo says:

    Collaboration in the architecture industry happens at different phases and scales. Throughout the lifespan of any given project, architects and designers have to work not only among themselves, but also with various outside parties, such as consultants, engineers, developers, community etc. The design issues to be tackled range in scale and in nature, from preliminary design to construction document and construction phases. Essentially, for the collaborative model to be meaningful and successful it should be able to respond to this dynamic and complex nature of the work we do, i.e. it has to be flexible.
    The organization of individuals within the architectural firm can be based on a non-hierarchical collaborative model by fostering an environment where each team member strives for the group’s success and, in turn, the team as a whole engages each individual’s talents and opinions. However, at least two things must be considered with this type of organization:
    1. Respect and ego management. Architects tend to have a rather high opinion of themselves, and therefore of what they do. But in order for the collaboration to work within the team, a high level of trust and respect should be established among the members. A certain level of competition among members is definitely healthy for the group’s creativity and productivity. However, it should not reach the point where individuals are boastful or afraid of exposing and sharing their thoughts to the group. Ideally, collaboration should be our second nature, embedded in our character and habits, rather than something implemented and imposed on from without.
    2. Leadership. The role of leadership should not be underestimated. In fact, there should be some degree of hierarchy within this horizontal environment. Like Surowiecki’s aggregator or Sawyer’s facilitator , one requires a leader who can make informed decisions from the collective judgments.

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