Chasing the SolutionFrom the start of the 20th century there has been a rise in the affluent middle class obtaining architectural services (Cuff, 2016, p. 5). According to Cuff, there are increases especially in the pre-design and post-construction phases in which she suggests there is a repositioning of the profession in the service driven economy.As evident in Ireland, the economic influence of technology has seen incredible wealth come with equal amounts of building in the last 30 years. Many of these new buildings are in response to the driving service economy. While some are of high architectural value, a higher percentage of these are ‘mundane construction’ as referred to by Segal (Segal, 2006, p. 11). Although I would prefer to use Sinha’s synopsis on Gombrich’s theory of architecture as; “Utilitarian Art, some of which may be more exciting and beautiful than others” (Sinha, 2017, p.
9). This is not only a tale of Irish architecture but an understanding of our new clients and their brief forming the built environment.As a result of this new service driven economy, most architects found themselves setting up sole practices creating a competitive market for new clients. Following the Celtic Tiger years however the excess supply of practices has reduced many firms to competing solely on fees. To such an extent has this continued today, Mel Reynolds noted in UCD Lectures that Architects “are taking our unique skill for granted and pricing projects for the construction admin” stage of the project. (Reynold, 2017).This practice should be frowned upon by any reasonable architect, as it is harmful to the professional status of the architect who has similar responsibilities to his client of a lawyer or doctor. Not only is this approach unsustainable in the long-term view of the practice but the client will have undoubtedly not been afforded the proper time to acquire the brief, synthesis research, and advise the client throughout the design & construction stages.
A professional architectural service should maintain standards and provide certain responsibilities to the client. Some of these include; focusing on the client’s needs & interests and not by the intentional selfish nature of the architect gain from his client. To understand and synthesis economic influences and the clients wants in the design process, and to consider every projects with the best interests of society and community. The consequences of the case above is similar to the experience of Paul Segal; “Architects may become a commodity, viewed as providing the same service and distinguished only be who costs less” (Segal, 2006, p. 137)Protection of the architect in relation to the area of fees is not been established in Ireland or the UK. Part due to EU competition law and policies around anti-competitive behaviour, the professions low level of recognition in the state compared to other professions also hinders this regulation.
For instance, Stephen Brookhouse noted a planning application in the UK can be submitted by any person, similar in Ireland. Compared to some EU member states this task and other functions are restricted to registered architects (Brookhouse, 2013, p. 14).
Further to this Sumita Sinha notes; “two-thirds of the UK’s planning permission’s are applied for by non-architects” (Sinha, 2017, p. 12)As a denoted Part II architect, there is considerable artistry and creativity required to produce well considered intelligent design. With such a high proportion of non-architects preparing planning stage, it brings to question the general public’s knowledge and appreciation of the profession. Not least, the consequences of breaking obligations to the client in an already difficult struggle forprofessional status. Architects need to voice our opinion to the public and provide exceptional service to clients if society is to recognise the true value of the architectural profession.”In the service profession, your brand is built on your reputation for delivering value.
Good decision-making consistently generates value.” (Gensler, 2015, p. 160)Providing value to your client is one of the most important methods of obtaining repeat clients. Repeat clients not only come back but recommend your service to other potential clients. However a client must first succeed in their own line of business and it is in the architect interest for this to happen.
Professional architects can create value many ways for client. Of great importance during the initial briefing is for the architect to listen. Come up with creative ideas and regularly communicate with the client these ideas and actions. Some traditional attributes also include being a team leader, problem-solver and holding a distinct body of knowledge. However since the rise of the professional architect in the 19th century, the complexity of buildings has naturally grown with capitalism and modern inventions. Hence, the professional responsibilities described by John Soane in 1788 have changed considerably.”The business of the architect is to make the designs and estimates, to direct the works and to measure and value the different parts;…” (Wilton-Ely, 1977, p. 194)On acceptance of these new project roles; QS, project manager, planning consultant,…, the architect’s nostalgic position continues to be eroded and, in a survey done by RIBA-Building Futures (Claire Jamieson & Various, 2011), some practitioners, of whom many were not formalised ‘architects’, considered the label ‘architect’ as restricting in their power to bid for design work outside of the traditional role.
This comment highlights not only the external pressures on the profession and title but the width of new services which an architect can partake in. Thus, the clients design needs and an architect’s responsibilities to provide value in the market is continuously shifting.As a result of these specialty jobs and complex building procedures, I argue that architects are spending considerably more time in collaboration with the design team and other consultants during Construction Admin, that we have shelved the importance and value of the design stage and the unique skills architects can provide in coming up with innovative solutions for the client. An unknown global project manager published in summary of RIBA-Building Futures suggested “if they (the architect) lose design coordination then you have to ask what they are there for…” (Claire Jamieson & Various, 2011). The building researcher, Steven J. Orfield, who has provided the title for this essay (Pedersen, 2017), suggests that architects are failing to provide whole designs services to the client/user side and by my understanding points arrows to architects narrowing the profession into a technical skill providing only traditional architectural service (Pedersen, 2017).In the words of Richard Swelt, “.
.architectural training and experience are the best preparation you can have for solving a wide range of society’s problems not just for building things.” (Segal, 2006, p. 13).Earlier to this reference, I mentioned architects are taking their design skills for granted. However, it was noted in the RIBA Building Futures that interviewed clients valued this skill, “but that a culture shift was required to persuade them to pay for those skills in the same way that they pay fortraditional architectural services” (Claire Jamieson & Various, 2011). It goes on to mention some practices are currently formalising these different services, where design consultancy may form part of a separate architect service. I have mentioned this to highlight the potential visibility of providing this service with the best interests of the client and the public.
Without the architects design service being appreciated, architects are in a conflict in acting for the client’s best interest and running a practice based heavily on percentage fees whose calculation is based on floor area. Already here there is a building quantified without any design service which questions the ethical approach of an architect. Might I also speculate that this new consultancy role would create a profession with more of a focus on research, learning and public debate? Therefore creating value to the profession and acknowledgement by clients and the state.Designing solutionsAs precedence to designing for clients and promotion of teaching value, I would like to note Steven J.
Orfield’s approach (Pedersen, 2017). Hired by design firms, Orefield sets an example of serving the clients interest by investing researchers to come up with scientific based solutions which are not necessarily architectural or construction related. This type of serving by Orfeild is the ultimate unselfish advice architects should give any client. Let’s put ourselves in the client’s shoes;”People build buildings because they have a need that has to be met”…”It is expensive and time consuming and it takes tremendous effort” (Segal, 2006, p. 11)With this, when we consider the client’s need for an architect’s holistic design approach, we realise how in common Orfield position is with clients.”Our job is to do for the client what they want to do for themselves if they had our level of information about design research and testing.” Steven J. Orfield in an interview with, (Pedersen, 2017)From his interview, not only is Orfield’s pre-occupancy research a strategy I think we should recognise, but the specialty of another job in the service economy to inform design solutions.
The endless list of professional expertise in today’s world means an architect is simply not capable of acquiring all this knowledge and expertise. A newer system of collaboration in the above project has allowed the architect to provide an integrated design solution. According to Cliff Mosher, who wrote a book on the practice of architects (Moser, 2014, p. 50), “Arch 3.0” is a post-recession architect whose focus first is on solution before building. Identify collaboration with the wider neighbourhoods rather than individual project. Indeed the advantage of designing solutions takes in the broader interests of the client outside of building and society.
Including the clients in this design solution collaboration will enhance client architect relationships and forms part vital research to form the brief.As a driving force for ‘designing for solutions’, (Moser, 2014, p. 53) there are 185,000 derelict buildings listed in the latest CSO figures (Reynold, 2017). 10 years after the world’s biggest crash, Ireland is in a housing crisis.
The only player widely seen in the public opinion to solve this is the developer, who’s interest it is to raise house prices speeding up the “boom and bust cycle” (Reynolds, 2017). Architects need to respect our design capabilities and see them as a separate service. It is misleading in the current climate to portray our profession as traditional architectservices. Architect always designed solutions but bricks and mortar may not be part of the solution. Where which I agree with Cliff, (Moser, 2014, p.
53);”Design for solutions brings out design-solving expertise into the design for solutions realm, where the end result is a series of aggregated solutions of which the production of a building may not even be one of the solutions.”This non-building form of value is testament to the architects holistic design approach and should be a standalone service of every architect’s office. As an aside, a practice in today’s economy trying to establish on this basis alone will find it hard to stay afloat. While research has been adapted increasingly in academic studies and has been proven to yield results, the concept of paying for this research and innovation can be difficult for clients to engage. Design solutions guided by research is time consuming, there is uncertainty about the results, and their relevance can sometimes be an issue. As an example noted by Orfield, “if you do post-occs (occupancy research) but haven’t done pre-occs, you’ve got nothing for comparison and for judgements.”Nonetheless designing for solutions can be a very collaborative process with even just the client.
The result of which may still be a building but a well refined piece of architecture which has gone through the sieve and arrived above and beyond the client’s expectation.Reaching this solution I’d imagine requires expertise beyond the general knowledge of the profession. An architect with medium skill in all areas will find it hard to provide unique design services, let alone design solutions with the spectrum of buildings as to clients. As have many practices done today, we can see a trend of firms specializing in certain areas who have over the long-term learned a considerable amount of expertise to master the service they provide. This approach adopted by former colleagues at Coady Architect has seen them rise to the top when it comes to school projects.
While many of these schools have been rolled out the firms continue to attract projects calling for similar expertise. The undeniable fact of long-term specialization is having a practice, not just an architect, being able to provide un-parallel expertise and unique client advice which positions specialised practices in the best position to provide design solutions.