Category Archives: craft

An Integrated Design Strategy for Every Man, Woman and Child

“The concept of integrated design is key to a sustainable future and ultimately quality of life,” 
Laura Lee

Just as Finith Jernigan’s Makers of the Environment envisioned the average American benefitting from building information modeling (BIM),

Professor Laura Lee’s vision for South Australia reads like an integrated design strategy for every man, woman and child throughout the world.

While her publication was prepared as a series of recommendations to the South Australia government, upon reading it, it soon becomes clear that she had more universal applications in mind.

With her report, “An Integrated Design Strategy for South Australia – Building the Future,” Lee envisions a framework for uniting sustainability, behavior, materials and the external environment into a whole that satisfies the needs of people, environment and place.

I’ve read the report from beginning to end a couple times now and am happy to share my, however haphazard, impressions.

The excellent introduction acknowledges the potential – and urgency – of the state of the world today: the perfect set-up for what’s to come.

It answers why anyone would want to read this report – and, as importantly, why now.

Instead of just writing about design, the booklet (as a product) itself is a perfect argument for the value of good design.

Little touches – such as the global quotes in blue and local quotes in orange – and larger ones: that it is so well written, edited, illustrated and like all great works of art, all-of-a-piece.

Like the integrated design process itself, the report contains myriad voices (a strategy and conclusion I also came to for my own book on Integrated Design.)

From now on, all Integrated Design books really ought to be crowdsourced.

In fact, Lee had 15 partners (represented by 24 people) in the residency, only 4 of whom were designers, which if it was a challenge, doesn’t show.

The report leaves you with the impression that it was created by a singular sensibility in that it has one, compelling voice throughout.

Stevie Summer’s diagrams are intelligent and truly mesmerizing: the perfect accompaniment for the text.

The natural imagery of many of these diagrams – conch shells, DNA – are intertwined & interrelated with the book’s theme and text. Stunning.

Professor Lee invested so much time in the diagrams because she is interested in raising visual literacy.

Interestingly, it soon becomes apparent that the process in conceiving the report served as a model for those she worked with along the way for the integrated design process itself. What an effective way for those she worked with to ‘get’ integrated design.

One of the most appealing attributes of the report is that the overall tone and word choice is strangely non-academic. This is a report anyone could love.

Lee, for example, quotes Dan Pink where she could have quoted Roger Martin. In fact, the report verges on being populist were it not for the fact that the whole thing is so smart.

Because this does not read like research, one can see how it will be implemented (and not – like so many reports – sit on the shelf.)

By the time the reader gets to the end, they’ll recognize that the very tenets of integrated design went into the making of this brilliant and beautiful document.

The tone throughout is optimistic, forward-looking: exactly what it needs to be. No need to threaten readers with impending apocalypse (it doesn’t.)

Most reports and books fizzle out near the end – having spent all their ammo in the first half (if not the first chapter.) Here, some of the best, freshest information and diagrams occur in the recommendations section of the report, near the end, what Professor Lee calls “the heart and the future of the work.”

Many, many more people need to read this report.

Professor Lee is in the process of making an Integrated Design Strategy guidebook with roadmaps for each recommendation along with best practices, weblinks, and case studies and a website with PDF downloads that hopefully will be available soon.

Read the final report of Professor Laura Lee, Adelaide Thinker in Residence in 2009.

Read about Martin Seligman and other thinkers in residence http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au/ including Prof. Laura Lee http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au/thinkers/lee/

Read more about Laura Lee, FAIA http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au/thinkers/lee/who.aspx

Check out these videos featuring Laura Lee, and also this and this video

And look into the integrated design work of other thinkers and makers, including Renée Cheng, Daniel Friedman, Frances Bronet, Ann Dyson, Billie Faircloth, Kiel Moe and many more.

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Filed under craft, craftsmanship, education, Integrated Design, people, process, writing

Building Knowledge in Architecture

Using books as floatation devices is nothing new.

Cradle to Cradle, subtitled Remaking the Way We Make Things, is printed on waterproof paper for this reason.

Poetry anthologies served this purpose after 9/11 as did commonplace books carried by soldiers.

In fact, the book I’m about to introduce you to defines the original use of the word “communication” to mean bringing something to the “common place, to the community, to make it part of the larger social group.”

That is what I hope to accomplish with this review.

Building Knowledge in Architecture is a new book and lifesaver by architect, educator, researcher, scholar and poet, Richard Foqué.

On the academic side, Foqué is a professor and dean emeritus at the Henry van de Velde Higher Institute of Architecture at the University College Antwerp.

On the practice side, Foqué is the founder and honorary principal of FDA Architects (now OSAR), one of the largest architectural firms in Flanders.

Richard Foqué’s work is characterized by the integration of architecture, art, design and science and reflected in the book “Bringing the World into Culture”, dedicated to Foqué and in which 21 eminent scholars, architects and designers bring a tribute to his work. An interdisciplinary thinker, Foqué lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium.

But don’t read Building Knowledge in Architecture because of his credentials.

Read this book because Richard Foqué is the first poet to write beautifully and meaningfully about the architect, design, creativity,

And as importantly, digital design tools such as BIM and collaborative work processes such as integrated design, design-build, lean construction and design thinking, subjects at the focus of these discussions.

You had me at Introduction

A book, like any of us, competes in a marketplace for attention.

Building Knowledge in Architecture, until today, appears to have been satisfied waiting patiently to be discovered on library shelves.

Book, wait no more.

To stand out and distinguish yourself, says consultant and author Sally Hogshead, you get only 9 seconds.

Because that’s how long our attention spans today have been shortened to.

Reader, here I’ll introduce you to what will surely become a fine traveling companion and fellow conversationalist in the weeks ahead.

But I’ll need 9 minutes to do so – not 9 seconds. So please bear with me.

Man Measuring the Clouds

A passing glance at a sculpture, Man Measuring the Clouds, inspired Foqué to reflect on architecture and what it means to be an architect today.

“The architect works in the field of tension between imagination and reality. The architect’s task is to convert the dreams and often unreachable wishes of the client into a buildable concept, which should be functional, technically resolved, and in compliance with all building and safety codes, but at the same time must inspire a sense of well-being and have the necessary aesthetic qualities to contribute to and enrich its context.”

Foqué then asks:

“Is the architect the person who is measuring the clouds all the time? Is architectural design, per se, an impossible task to perform? In other words, what is the essence of being an architect? What are the skills, competencies, and knowledge an architect needs to perform as a true professional?”

Aware of the access to practical knowledge readily available to other fields such as medicine, business and law, things can be otherwise for the architectural profession, the author sets out in search of a robust knowledge base architects can access:

“In my own practice, I have endeavored to use my professional experience and accumulated know-how in an innovative way for every new commission. But I have always been left with a feeling of discontent: Could I have done better? Did I use all the creative potential and knowledge at my disposal, and did I not overlook essential elements?”

Foqué concludes that the architectural profession no longer has a shared knowledge base. Building Knowledge in Architecture asks all of the important questions:

“Why did we abandon or sacrifice (this) knowledge base? Why is the architectural profession drifting? Why are we sometimes reinventing the obvious? Why do we struggle to cope with contemporary technological evolution, and why is it so difficult to integrate in a satisfactory way new findings and insights into our design solutions? Why are we losing ground, and why are essential responsibilities of our professional practice being assumed by others?”

One page into the book, you realize you have underlined every line. It is one of those books.

The Creation of New Knowledge through Practice

The book is organized in two parts.

In Part 1, Building Knowledge in Architecture serves as a practical overview of contemporary architectural design methods, and proposes design – apart from science and art – as a third way to investigate the real world.

“Perceiving themselves as practitioners of a ‘creative’ profession, architects hover between science and art.” p. 25

This is one of the very few books that discuss new digital design tools such as building information modeling (BIM) from academic, theoretical and practical standpoints (discussed for the first time on p. 93.)

But also integrated project delivery (IPD) or at least a facsimile of the same.

In the section called The Exteriorization of the Design Process, Foqué indicates that recent evolution of communication information technology processes forces designers

“…to interact increasingly with his environment. He has no escape, so to speak, but must engage in a permanent dialogue with his surrounding world.” p. 82

Foqué points out that the concept of transdisciplinarity – and the way specialized knowledge can be integrated – harkens back to the work of developmental child psychologist, Jean Piaget, in the 1970’s.

Where, according to the author, specialized knowledge needs to be incorporated into a comprehensive body of integrated knowledge, “within a global system of values and well-considered choices.”

Per Piaget, those who have taken part on integrated design teams will recognize the suggestion that multidisciplinary collaboration is, at root, child’s play.

Key quotes:

“Learning should be revalorized in the sense that the creators of knowledge should also be held accountable for the application of that knowledge.” P. 24

“It is recognized that at the modern university, there exists a hierarchy of knowledge, which starts with the basic and fundamental science at the top, applied science in the middle, and technical skills at the bottom.” P. 26

Explaining why digital design tools, while used extensively, are infrequently taught at the university.

“…grounded in the field of tension between ‘technical’ performance and ‘artistic’ creation. It is exactly in that field of tension that every professional discipline grounds its own knowledge base.” P. 26

Foqué defines a critical component of the architect’s arsenal, intuition, as “a not-yet-conceptualized and not-yet-systematized form of knowledge.” P. 27

Beautiful.

Before I go on to quote every line in the book, I want to point out an additional pleasure in reading a book written with a poet’s sensibility.

In describing the synergistic integration of art, science and technology, Foqué uses the seemingly simple example of learning to ride a bike.

“If you describe every part of a bike in extreme detail and add these descriptions together, you will by no means have produced an appropriate description of a bike.”

He concludes this explanation:

“In other words, it is not by knowing the why that you master the how. You need to add the artistic dimension, the art of bike-riding.”

As only a poet – who is also an architect, educator, scholar – could have written.

Foqué explains the now familiar story of how architects abandoned responsibility, and in doing so, relinquished authority, over the past 40 years.

He asks: How can we reverse this decline?

Part 2 of the book presents his case, so to speak.

Reinventing the Obvious

In Part 2, Building Knowledge in Architecture makes the case for case studies in architecture.

The case goes something like this:

Because case studies are used as teaching tools at law, medicine, and in MBA programs, architectural training should also include more reading and creating of case studies.

Here’s the problem with this argument:

It doesn’t need to be made.

In the introduction, the author asks: Why are we sometimes reinventing the obvious?

And then proceeds to fall into this same trap.

Architecture curriculums already make use of case studies. I know, for example, when I taught an integrated design/technology studio, we made great use of them.

They are not only, as the author argues, a practical tool for documenting complicated building projects, finding solutions to technical problems and expanding a firm’s expertise.

They are also excellent opportunities for having architecture students work in teams and learn how to collaborate on a project team while still in school.

The complexity of building projects almost guarantees that the teams will be multidisciplinary.

An example is Aaron Greven’s course in the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in the Integrated Building Delivery program, a class that focuses on integrated practices and the technology that facilitates collaboration across a broad range of building project participants, for the Masters in Integrated Building Delivery program, a post-professional program that is in its pilot phase.

While the example does not prove the rule, I have previously reviewed these case study presentations here.

And more recently, they have been reviewed here.

The book does an excellent job explaining case study research as a means to establish a knowledge base and, as importantly, develops a practical method to do so.

“Architecture is no longer considered a true discipline, based on a comprehensive knowledge base, as it was for more than 2000 years. It is clear that this situation is no longer tenable, if architecture wants to survive in the Information Age, and in a quickly changing globalized world. A key question regarding the discipline of architecture today is how we can build a store of knowledge again.” P.174

But for me, proving the case for use of case studies in architectural education is not the reason to read this book.

This point has been made before here and more importantly, here.

Perhaps it is not case studies that are needed but a knowledge management and information system that can readily access the design professional’s accumulated knowledge.

There are people out there who do just this.

But this book does provide the rationale as well as a unique approach to constructing case studies, grounded in the arguments and methodology presented in the first part of the book.

And more importantly, this book explains how we can build knowledge in our profession and industry through the use of case studies.

Eminently Tweetable

The strengths of the book overwhelm its few weaknesses.

Weaknesses first. For all of the wonderful discussion about design and creativity throughout the first part of the book, there is nary a general mention of or reference to either in the index. It is almost as though the index was created for academics who might scrutinize sources for perfunctorily academic reasons but alas, not for the general reader’s ease of use.

Likewise, many of the otherwise wonderfully rich sources cited, are from the 1970’s or earlier. The book would have benefitted the reader (but no doubt not fellow academics) by referencing more contemporary examples of the same ideas or even the cited author’s more recent work.

On the strength side, the book’s diagrams are truly spectacular and help to illustrate many of the book’s finer concepts.

Another remarkable and no doubt unintended strength of the book is it is eminently tweetable.

A book of well-composed sentences, Building Knowledge in Architecture is remarkably aphoristic, and there are literally hundreds of quotable 140 character lines that are just crying out to be tweeted on Twitter:

“Intuitive thinking and rational thinking are not opponents; they are the twin poles between which the artist structures reality.” http://amzn.to/lyhDEl

Foqué explains that in earlier craft societies, severe penalties were imposed on those members who reveal knowledge in public. P. 93

Today, we are rewarded for the same by being retweeted.

See below for how critical Twitter is to this discussion.

Read or drown

Read Building Knowledge in Architecture even if you don’t learn anything new by reading this book (you will.)

Because you will come to realize that by doing so, you will know what you know for the first time.

And that is some accomplishment. For any book.

It is absolutely critical that you read this book. Why?

Here are 3 reasons:

For all of the reasons I have stated above.

For the reason that it tells us where we have been, where we are today and where we are headed.

And for this reason:

When drowning and you are thrown a life preserver you don’t say, “no thanks, I’ve seen one of these before,” and toss your line to safety aside.

Do so and you’ll surely drown.

A strength of this author, as mentioned, is that he has one foot in academia and the other in practice, a perspective evident in nearly every sentence:

“Professional disciplines…reduce the gap between real world problems and academic research, research increasingly captured by its own agenda.” P. 25

A book such as this can go a long way starting to fill the gap between education and practice.

That the author is a published poet can be seen in the book’s nearly perfect prose – so clear that you will not need to go back and read any sentence twice.

But you will do so anyway.

Because the sentences are so well-written they’ll strike a chord in you.

And you will find yourself rereading them for the sheer wonder and pleasure.

So don’t read Building Knowledge in Architecture because it develops a general design theory, a theoretical framework and practical instrumentation to establish a knowledge base for the discipline of architecture.

Read it if you want to improve your understanding of the impact and motives on decision making so that your designs are more responsive to real needs.

Read Building Knowledge in Architecture because you are an architect, an educator or student.

Read it because books like this are why we still have books.

Read Building Knowledge in Architecture because we as a profession are adrift and this book has been thrown to us as a lifeline.

Read it because at a time when the publishing and construction industry are experiencing upheavals, it is heartening to discover a book that is as well-written and well-illustrated as it is well-constructed and physically beautiful.

The book feels good in the hand, like a book by Peter Zumthor.

When you hold it in your hand for the first time it will be as though you have done so before, as though the book is being returned to you after a long absence.

To you alone.

That is because this book has been written for you.

The book, Building Knowledge in Architecture, was recommended to me by Ryan Schultz, founder of http://www.openingdesign.com/ via Twitter

@randydeutsch Hi Randy, speaking of books… ran across this one today in the library… looks right up our alley: http://amzn.to/hX0YG2

@theoryshaw P. 78 of Building Knowledge in Architecture (Design as a rational Process: The Triangle Broken) could be your mission statement. Thanks!

Ryan, with fellow IPD maven Oscia Timschell, is launching a beta version of the new site in time for the AIA National Convention. Check it out and follow Ryan on Twitter @theoryshaw

FYI This blog was posted for readers at my other blog by a different name.

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, construction industry, craft, design professionals, education, impact, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, modeling, people, process

PREFAB, BIM and IPD

With the announcement last week that the world’s tallest prefabricated steel structure, a 34-story entirely prefab affordable housing tower, will be erected in the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn NY, it’s an opportune time to touch on the subject of prefabricated architecture and its relation to BIM and IPD.

I’m in Mexico this week surrounded by prefab housing so am thrilled to have someone fill in for me who’s an expert on this subject and believes the strategies of IPD and BIM are integral to the success of modular and prefab.

Who better to address this topic head-on but my friend and guest-blogger, Ryan E. Smith, the Director of Integrated Technology in Architecture Center (ITAC), an interdisciplinary research group dedicated to lean and sustainable design and construction.

Ryan also happens to be the author of the excellent and well-researched Prefab Architecture: a guide to modular design and construction (Wiley, 2010). Thanks Ryan!

Modular Lessons Learned: Context, Integration and Technology

After researching and writing Prefab Architecture: a guide to modular design and construction, I have often been asked by architects that if I had to list the most important lessons learned on the topic of modular, what would they be.  Nobody actually wants to read the book; there are frankly too many words and not enough pictures for most architects’ taste.  In all seriousness, the following is a response to architects who are interested in designing and constructing with modules.  You might call this “modular lessons learned.”

Lesson 1 – Context Matters

Technology is not deterministic, rather is affectively determined by societal values.  Prefabrication, more specifically modular, as a technology emerges from social and cultural needs and desires.  The environmental contexts in which modular can be categorized include team, type and location

Team:  There are a few factors that determine whether a project team will be more or less likely to employ modular.  These determinants include – previous experience with prefabrication and working in integrated teams; control demands by complex, budget restrictions, or other pressing project factors; project teams working on a series or sequence of buildings; manufacturing process and principles exposure; and financing freedom for early factory payout. 

Type:  Project type can determine the degree to which prefabrication is employed.  For example, projects that are under extreme schedule constraints benefit from reduced duration offered by modular.  Also, projects that are repetitive – harnessing mass production or highly unique – harnessing modular’s quality control characteristics may both demand modular employment.  Certain projects require traditional multiple prime contracts, decreasing the opportunities of modular that require early project team engagement and design assist.

Location: Perhaps the greatest determinant in utilizing modular construction, is the geography of site; the building site proximity to manufacturers, materials, and local labor.  Sites that are remote or densely urban are perhaps the best candidates for modular construction.  Conversely, sites that are open, accessible, and in close proximity to many methods of manufacture, material and skilled labor are difficult to justify offsite modular.   

Lesson 2 – Integration Matters

Just as important lesson for modular employment is the collaborative context of the team in which the project is realized.  Early determinations of the potential to use modular require input from both the design and production teams early in the process of delivery.  This suggests utilizing integrated and lean delivery methods for successful modular design and construction.  The earlier in the project that decisions regarding offsite modular can be made, the more positive the impact for schedule, cost, quality and risk. (below)   

Contracts:  Design-build (DB) contracts reduce the overall project duration and have been found to support modular construction projects positively.   Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) takes the desirable elements of both design build’s speed and information sharing and performance contracts, which emphasize outcomes via shared risk and incentives.  IPD supports designers and constructors working collaboratively to provide preconstruction services including cost estimating and constructability reviews, thereby integrating the activities of each project team player with the others.  Ironically enough, the AIA developed their series of IPD contracts AIA295 and SPE from product design and production deliveries such as the automotive industry – not far in methodology from modular.

Leaning Design & Construction:  IPD is primarily a relational legal framework that aligns the interests of project participants with those of the owner.  Lean construction theory was developed years before research on relational contracts that is primarily a map of a collaborative process that aligns the collaborative project organization and the project operating system – made to work in any contractual environment. This approach is in contrast with efforts that start with issues of motivation and contract and never come to grips with the work itself. Leaning the design and construction process therefore uses principles necessary for successful modular deployment including:  Target Value Design (designing to a detailed cost rather than cost estimating based on a detailed design) and Set Based Design (entertaining multiple solutions and not deciding until the last responsible moment)

Lesson 3 – Technology Matters

Despite the fact that technology dominates our buildings, our practices and our lives, architects know relatively little about it.  Two technologies have been touted for their potential to fundamentally reconsider architectural practice: CNC and BIM – both are integral to modular delivery.

Standardization to Automation:  Manufacturing has progressively moved in the following manner – industrialization (c.1850), standardization (c.1900), mechanization (c.1900), mass production (c.1925), automation (1950), & mass customization (c.1990).  Automation and mass customization utilizing computer numerical control (one tool for flexible outputs) exploits an economy of scope.  This is in contrast to standardization and mass production’s economies of scale.  Although computer controlled machinery is more sophisticated and accessible to the building industry than ever before, its deployment is perhaps more appropriately called mass personalization, where customers personalize predetermined configurations.  The goal of mass customization is to meet the needs of clients without sacrificing efficiency, effectiveness and affordability.   This is where modular shines.

BIM:  The future of modular relies on the success and ubiquity of BIM.  Linking time and three-dimensional information, simulation of construction in modular can anticipate schedules from factory workflow to onsite jobsite assembly sequencing.  BIM allows for interface of automation equipment to virtually remove the shop drawing phase and have multiple manufacturers producing modules for onsite assembly.  This may take the form of a building model that is further detailed or networked with other aspects of production and construction by the modular manufacturer.  Building modular parametrics has not occurred to date in the industry but is expected to be a reality in the near future realizing the same productivity benefits the steel industry has found with BIM and CIS2 workflow.  

Conclusion

The environmental context of team, project type, and site location are not alone in determining modular employment any more than integration process and technology – all three “matter” or are meaningful in creating value for project stakeholders.   Specifically, the strategies of IPD and BIM are integral to the tactic of modular, making its adoption more rapid across the building industry. (above)   IPD and BIM suggest a restructure of workflow allowing for an information and knowledge transfer through formal operating system and commercial terms.  Although modular design and construction will not solve integration problems alone, it is one of the arrows in the quiver of the integration paradigm that may be used to realize reduced durations, increased quality and controlled cost.  In order to realize these benefits, it demands an early integration effort and information sharing.  Altogether this potentially results in lower risk for all involved.  In the end, modular design and construction is only as good as the demands placed upon it by architects – this requires deeper knowledge.

Ryan E. Smith is Director of an interdisciplinary research group dedicated to lean and sustainable design and construction inquiry called the Integrated Technology in Architecture Center (ITAC).  He is a researcher, educator, author and speaker on the integration paradigm and building technology.  He is author of Prefab Architecture: a guide to modular design and construction published by Wiley in 2010, serves as the educational liaison on the AIA Center for Integrated Practice Leadership Group, and is a member of the Lean Construction Institute.  He is currently President of the Building Technology Educators’ Society (BTES), an academic group of building technology and building science educators.

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Moving to Plan B: BIM and the Startup Mentality

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

When’s the last time you looked at your business or practice through a fresh pair of eyes?

If the same old way of doing things – Plan A – is not working for you, consider relooking at how you’re going about it.

By working for you I mean:

Is the way you’re doing things today bringing in the bucks, sustainable, competitive, and nurturing to your staff, providing growth opportunities for your firm as well as growth-promoting opportunities for employees?

If you said no to any of these, there’s another way to go about business.

And the time is ripe for you to consider it.

Consider exploring Plan B.

B as in BIM

Christopher Parsons, founder of Knowledge Architecture, a knowledge management and information systems consultancy based in San Francisco, gets the credit for this one.

It’s a gem.

In a comment for a previous post on business model generation and BIM he wrote:

I believe that architects need to return to startup mentality — starting by conducting the search for the new “scalable, repeatable business model.”

That’s huge.

That’s it.

Just imagine.

It’s a new way of looking at your architectural practice.

As though it were a startup like SHoP or LTL Architects or any of the other fresh new faces that have been around for years, in some cases decades, and we’ve only recently started to pay close attention to.

Every business of course has its own variables. What works great for one may not work for yours.

But the great thing is you don’t actually have to open a design and production boutique under your considerable roof.

You only have to start thinking like one.

The Lowdown on Startups

What were you doing when these 8 practices startedup? What was the economy doing at the time these 8 firms were established?

  • Front, 2002
  • Gehry Technologies, 2002
  • Chris Hoxie, 2007
  • Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis Architects, 1997
  • MY Studio, 2001
  • nARCHITECTS, 1999
  • SHoP, 1996 and
  • George Yu Architects, 1992

You were probably doing business as usual.

How was business for you in 1992? What results did you see in 2002?

Startup Commonalities

What these organizations share:

  • a common denominator in technology’s application to architectural practice, especially the use of BIM
  • a shared commitment to experimentation and learning-by-doing
  • a pragmatic, “roll-up-your-sleeves” approach
  • a belief that process matters as much as product
  • seek opportunities to redefine the role of craft in architectural practice
  • open to not resembling a traditional architectural firm
  • can be seen as architecture firms of the near future
  • technology and its incorporation into design and practice plays a large role
  • an openness to alternative approaches to building design and production, including research, diversity of work and other approaches
  • the design work itself can differ radically from one from to another and is not dependent upon the approach

Read more about these emerging firms here.

Again, you don’t have to become one of these nimble startups.

You just have to start to think like one of the more creative firms in the industry.

It’s not an either-or but a what-if proposition.

What do you have to lose?

Startup Mentality

We’re still hesitant to consider our businesses as startups after the quick assent and burn-out of the dot.com bust a decade ago.

Startups are agile – most large firms would like to be more like small firms because they are flexible and nimble – as opposed to intrepid behemoths.

Again, we’re not suggesting launching a new venture in this economic climate, but launching a new vision for your business.

The mentality in this post’s title.

What is a mentality?

It’s a mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and respond to situations

A mindset – a way of thinking, one’s view and outlook.

So what’s a startup mentality?

Beginner’s Mind

It’s about thinking like a beginner.

Having an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions.

Even when you’ve been practicing at an advanced level for years.

Just as a beginner would.

It’s a mentality that’s innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgments and prejudices.

And it’s about thinking like an entrepreneur.

Without projecting your worries and concerns onto your situation.

Remember how fearless you were in school or early in your career?

That was probably due less to your mental make-up than to the fact that you didn’t know better.

Today you do know better – and your knowledge and awareness are inhibiting your thinking, your willingness and ability to see your practice in a different light.

It’s about having the ability to step back and see opportunities that may have been lying dormant.

It’s about setting a direction for your employees – giving them a why but not dictating the means and methods of how to get there.

It’s about doing scenario planning – projecting your new idea into the future – and seeing what might result from it.

This is what architects do after all.

You are already exceptionally talented at this.

You spend all day applying this ability to your client’s situation.

Try for a change applying it to your own situation and circumstance.

Consider this a design assignment like any other.

Questions

  • Are there business models that you’ve seen succeed for other industries that you might consider for your own organization? The Long tail? Offering “free” services? Minor trust-based adjustments of existing team collaborations around agent CM formats in which the owner and team are long-time collaborators?
  • In you firm, can you take an agile, flexible and nimble attitude and approach to innovation?
  • Within your firm, how would you go about proposing a startup mentality?
  • How are you going to monetize the enhanced uses of BIM and its add-ons within your practice?
  • How aware are you of how others have started to go about doing this?
  • Are you willing to conduct a search for a new scalable, repeatable business model for your organization?
  • How are you going to convince owners of the increased value that you are bringing to the table? And that you ought to be remunerated for this increase in effort and improved results?

and

  • Are you convinced?

How are you going to convince others of your deliverable’s considerable value and worth if you  are not yet on board?

Start by reading the book, Getting to Plan B, about the process of discovering a business model that works, with the assumption that your initial plan is most often wrong.

In other words:

Don’t reinvent the wheel, make it better.

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Filed under BIM, BIM organizations, craft, process

What’s Your BIM (BusIness Model) Done 4 U Lately?

It’s time for you and your organization to rethink your business strategy.

This post will introduce a fascinating, far-reaching and beautifully designed book that will challenge the way that you create value for your clients and think about how you approach Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Design.

Changing times and the harsh new realities of doing business in the AEC industry requires all of us to get innovative.

BIM especially requires design professionals to be as creative in their business strategy as they are in the design of buildings.

Do you know for certain how you can get the most value for the work you are undertaking?

A refresher on the BIM Business Model

Obsolete AEC business models are being replaced by those driven by BIM and the collaborative work process enabled by the technology.

For a quick refresher on the current (old) AEC Business Model, turn here, the Introduction to the BIM Handbook.

There are of course several BIM business models – determined by what phases you work in and the chosen delivery method.

As Joseph Joseph presented at AU in 2009, “Companies often make the mistake of embracing Building Information Modeling (BIM) as yet another technology and tool. BIM is a complete process solution that integrates within an organization structure. BIM is a business decision that pushes the envelope and moves companies in the AEC industry out of their comfort zone to explore new ways of writing proposals, budgeting, staffing, and billing jobs in a revamped approach.”

Here’s a free 19 page handout from his presentation.

Another author with the initials JJ offers a number of BIM business strategies noting that “BIM can be used at different levels to suit a firm’s business model and client needs. No matter how far you go with the technology, you can recognize benefits by addressing its capabilities and risks in both business strategy and organizational culture.”

You can find James Jonassen’s excellent article here at DesignIntelligence covering the following BIM business strategies:

• BIM through design only
• BIM through construction only
• BIM in design-build
• BIM in integrated project delivery
• BIM in enterprise/project integration

You might recall Jonassen is the author of AIA’s seminal Changing Business Models in BIM-Driven Integrated Practice, here included in the Report on Integrated Practice series.

Unprecedented BIM Business Models for Unprecedented Times

The thing is, we’re living in unprecedented times. We all need to be creative in how we go about serving our clients – and getting paid for the considerable work that we’re doing.

Doing the same thing, taking the same approach, over and over, irrespective of the client or situation – whether stylistic sense or business sense – no longer works for the design profession and construction industry.

Coming-up with a creative BIM business model is a great start to assuring that the client is satisfied and you walk away with a profit.

To be creative in your BIM business strategy it helps to know what your options are.

It also helps to know how others have approached similar business situations so that we can learn from them.

That is where this magnificent new book comes in.

BIM, meet BMI.

Building Information Modeling, meet Business Model Innovation, that is.

A self-described handbook for visionaries, game changers, and challengers striving to defy outmoded business models and design tomorrow’s enterprises, Business Model Generation is a model book for those who communicate design ideas for a living.

In short, BMG is a very practical and accessible tool to analyze and improve you and your business.

“Business model innovation,” say the book’s authors, “is about creating value, for companies, customers and society. It is about replacing outdated models.”

What is your organization’s business plan?

What is yours?

Whether you have one that is outmoded or don’t have one, you need this book.

How do you plan on leveraging BIM?

How do you plan on leveraging IPD?

Making the work process work for you financially is what this book will help you accomplish.

Are you getting paid for all the extra work that goes into your BIM models?

What’s your value proposition?

If not top of mind – if your answer isn’t on the tip of your tongue – then this book’s for you.

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

This book will help you launch, re-launch or advance your career and business from a value creation standpoint.

BMG is an indispensible manual on how to map, analyze, and strip-down your organization’s business model and reassemble it into something that creates real value. 

The starting point is the Business Model Template which allows you to break your business down into:

  • Key Activities – What you do every day to make the model work
  • Key Partners – Your suppliers and partners that help you make the model work
  • Key Resources – The most important assets you used to create value
  • Cost Structure – All the costs involved in running the business
  • Customer Relationships – The types of relationships you have with your customer segments
  • Customer Segments  – The different groups of people you’re trying to reach and serve
  • Channels – How you reach your customer segments
  • Revenue Streams – Where you make cash from your customer segments
  • Value Proposition – The key ideas that create value for your customer segments

For me, there are three undeniable benefits brought about by this book that compel me to recommend it here in a BIM and IPD blog.

1. Like IPD, the book follows its own advice and was written collaboratively – by a team of 470 practitioners (co-contributing co-creators) in 45 countries.

2. Business models, like building models, come in many shapes and sizes. You will recognize many of the books and cases mentioned in this book – and learn things about them that you didn’t know. This book will re-familiarize you with the most popular models – and encourage and inspire you to come up with your own – one  that will work best for you or your organization.

3. The book is stunningly beautiful to look at – both rough and polished, well-designed – it will inspire; has the look and feel of Francis Ching’s books from the 70’s. It would be a sin to read this book on a Kindle or iPad. This one you have to feel in your own hands. The book is no stranger to visual and architectural design: one section of the book is entitled Patterns, and opens with an architect Christopher Alexander quote. The book was designed by The Movement http://www.thmvmnt.com/ a Global Change Agency that creates with people.

In the interest of brevity, I won’t review the book here. Life is short – read it.

Still not convinced? For a summary see the following links and “About the Book” below.

Considering going back for your MBA?

This book will provide you with all you need to know for an MBA in BIM.

Order this paperback book here.

Get a taste (a 72 page PDF preview) of it here for free.

Visit the website.

Read co-author Alexander Osterwalder’s blog.

About The Book

Synopsis

Disruptive new business models are emblematic of our generation. Yet they remain poorly understood, even as they transform competitive landscapes across industries. Business Model Generation offers you powerful, simple, tested tools for understanding, designing, reworking, and implementing business models.

Business Model Generation is a practical, inspiring handbook for anyone striving to improve a business model — or craft a new one.

Change the way you think about business models

Business Model Generation will teach you powerful and practical innovation techniques used today by leading companies worldwide. You will learn how to systematically understand, design, and implement a new business model — or analyze and renovate an old one.

Co-created by 470 strategy practitioners

Business Model Generation practices what it preaches. Co-authored by 470 Business Model Canvas practitioners from 45 countries, the book was financed and produced independently of the traditional publishing industry. It features a tightly-integrated, visual, lie-flat design that enables immediate hands-on use.

Designed for doers

Business Model Generation is for those ready to abandon outmoded thinking and embrace new, innovative models of value creation: executives, consultants, entrepreneurs — and leaders of all organizations.

Added Value

One reviewer offered this comparison with other popular books on business models:

* The Ultimate Competitive Advantage: Secrets of Continually Developing a More Profitable Business Model by Mitchel, Coles, Golisano and Knutson, has a heavier focus on marketing with some ideas and questions relating to one-sided business models, so if you are looking to “sell more” perhaps you like this book.

* The Profit Zone: How Strategic Business Design Will Lead You to Tomorrow’s Profits by Slywotzky, Morrison and Andelman, has a heavier focus on profitability and the changing areas in which high profit is possible to keep, it is a quick read and perhaps complementary to The Business Model Generation that focus less on profitability.

* Open Business Models: How to Thrive in the New Innovation Landscape by Henry Chesbrough has a heavier focus on technological innovation in the context of business models and also covers the important area of Intellectual Property in relation to open business models.

* Getting to Plan B: Breaking Through to a Better Business Model by John Mullins and Randy Komisar, focus more on entrepreneurship and start-ups and on learning from experimentation and adjusting the business model, also with more focus on financials.

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BIM (in) The Game

The Game is the name given to the annual football game played between Harvard and Yale. The two teams have met 126 times in the past 135 years, and while Yale has a slight edge (in) the series, Harvard is the current champion.

They call the end-of-season annual meeting between the two teams The Game.

The Game is the second oldest rivalry – after Princeton vs. Yale – and so it is ironic (and an admittedly less than smooth transition) that Princeton Architectural Press (PAP) has produced two Game-changing publications – one from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the other from the Yale Architecture School (YAS) – that I would like to briefly describe and compare in this post (PST.)

Enough with the acronyms.  For those who have read my current piece in AECbytes you’ll know that I’m on something of a synthesis kick right now that is threatening to become a synthesis rampage. I would personally like to see a moratorium on BIM and Integrated Design analysis until someone steps forward with a clear roadmap, less findings, more wayfinding. In the viewpoint article I state that

There is a tendency—with each new release, with each new product, posting and revelation—to add to what is already known instead of clarifying—and solidifying—what we already have. What our industry needs right now is not more information or analysis of information: the pieces are there. What is needed is a coming-together, a coalescing of knowledge—a synthesis of BIM and Integrated Design.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here. I mention this because while I believe YAS’s Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture may very well be the finest commentary on the condition of the profession to come out in the past 15 years – when compared with Harvard’s GSD’s freshman effort from 1996, Reflections on Architectural Practice in the Nineties, it becomes increasingly clear that we as a profession have lost sight of – or no longer see – the forest from the trees.

To be clear, Yale’s Building (in) the Future, by grounding the discussion (in) technology, admittedly focuses on the trees of technology and the changing roles of those who work in them, while Harvard’s Reflections is as the title implies, more forest-like (in) its scope.

But this may be due to the publication’s separate ambitions: one to describe changes to an evolving profession over the course of a decade, the other focused not only on the increasingly diverse technologies impacting the profession as well as on the roles of those working with them – with the resulting transition from master architects to master builders.

At a book launch event in late February 2010, Phil Bernstein was reported saying that with the book he hopes “to create a theoretical frame in which we can begin to explore these options, because the technology is moving even much, much more quickly than we could possibly have known.” The implication being that the book offers frame-like branches from which will hang our future exploration’s leaves that, in time, will make-up our much needed forest.

Both books cite the grandfather of architecture profession studies, Robert Gutman, and his presence is felt in both publications. In fact, Yale’s Building dedicates the book to Robert Gutman (1926-2007) as “a most sensitive analyzer of the architectural profession.” And this is the crux: analyzer – not synthesizer. What is needed (in) our current transition is more effort put into synthesizing the vast amounts of information concerning BIM and Integrated Design at our disposal and less analysis.

Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture is divided (in)to two sections: Working and Making, and Collaboration, which remarkably cover the (in)terests of this blog and blogger:

Working and Making = BIM

Collaboration = (In)tegrated Design

My concern is that with spring upon us we’ll be reading even less than we do as a profession. Upon completing this post, I would like to ask that you peruse the books mentioned at the end of this post, order, purchase or borrow the one that most (in)tuitively connects with you on a visceral level, read it, doodle and comment in the marg(in)s, and when you’re done, draw-up a map – a roadmap, a plan, your vision – for how you would suggest we move forward as a profession. Tap into your all-too-rare-(in)-this-world ability to synthesize vast amounts of often conflicting, complex and contradictory information into an elegant and smart solution for our current condition. We are looking to you for this. Lead. Start a movement – and in doing so – you will have done your not-so-small part to help all of us along.

I won’t review these books here (in) their entirety – but recommend that you read Building (in) the Future for yourself. For a review of Building (in) the Future look here and for a summary, here.

At the risk of inundating you with too much information, in October 2006, the Yale School of Architecture held a symposium that became the inspiration for this book, entitled “Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture.” You might want to take a quick look at this presentation from the conference with one of BIM + Integrated Design’s favorite speakers, Joshua Prince-Ramus. In a session entitled “The Organization of Labor: Architecture,” Joshua Prince-Ramus of REX; façade consultant Marc Simmons of Front, Inc.; architect Coren Sharples of SHoP; lawyer Howard W. Ashcraft; and Phillip Bernstein of Autodesk and Yale University discusses issues such as hiring, structuring of project teams, responsibilities and liabilities, compensation, contracts, scope and responsibility of work, and the legal and public recognition of authorship. Watch – http://www.rex-ny.com/approach/yale-building-in-the-future-symposium

The Read-Now List

Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture, Phillip Bernstein, Peggy Deamer eds.

Building (in) the Future: Recasting Labor in Architecture raises as many questions as it addresses. Over thirty contributors – including Phillip Bernstein Autodesk, Inc., Building Solutions Division VP and Yale School of Architecture lecturer, Peggy Deamer, Kenneth Frampton, Paolo Tombesi, Howard W. Ashcraft, Jr., Reinhold Martin, James Carpenter, Branko Kolarevic, Chris Noble and Kent Larson among many others – including designers, engineers, fabricators, contractors, construction managers, planners, and scholars examine how contemporary practices of production are reshaping the design/construction process. The book that grew out of the 2006 symposium is still relevant and provides as succinct and convincing snapshot of the profession in the throes of change as you are likely to find anywhere.

A beautifully produced book, well-made, small in format if not in ambition.

Reflections on Architectural Practice in the Nineties

This still largely timely and thought-provoking collection of essays offers a detailed examination of architectural practice in the 1990s, having grown out of a year-long symposium at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, which took stock of pressing issues in order to speculate on future paths for both education and practice.

Among the many familiar challenges the architecture profession faced at the time was a constantly volatile economic climate, rapid technological change, and a general globalization of society. Reflections presents 29 essays by leading critics, scholars, and designers, essays that grapple with these and other issues and provide strategies for confronting them.

To give you an idea of the scope of Reflections, the book is organized into sections:

  • OVERVIEWS OF ARCHITECTURAL PRACTICE AND EDUCATION
  • PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES AND ETHICS
  • THE GLOBAL ECONOMY AND ARCHITECTURE
  • IMPLICATIONS FOR DESIGN EDUCATION

Some of the stronger essays included:

  • Getting Beyond Architectural Monographs and “How-To” Management Books • Roger Ferris
  • Practice Realities Must Be Integrated in Design Studios • Fred Stitt
  • The Shaping of Architectural Practice • Elizabeth Padjen
  • Growing Complexities in Practice • A. Eugene Kohn
  • In Big Firms, Most Do Not Design • Stephen Kliment, Peter Forbes
  • Three Models for the Future of Practice
  • On the Need for the Collaboration of Diverse People • Frances Halsband
  • How Should Architects Respond to Changes in Practice? • Andrea Leers
  • Notes on the Fate of the Architectural Profession in the Post-Structuralist Era • George Baird
  • Mentors Are More Important than Curriculum • Margaret Henderson Floyd
  • Changing Roles for Architects: Conversations from a Colloquium
  • Losing and Regaining Ground: A Jeremiad on the Future of the Profession • Carl Sapers
  • On Virtuous Architects • Carl Sapers
  • Collaboration Is a Management Art • Charles B. Thompson
  • On Liability and Litigation • Richard Crowell
  • Information Technology: A New Source of Empowerment for Architects • Spiro Pollalis
  • Globalization, Flows, and Identity: The New Challenges of Design • Manuel Castells
  • Design in an Increasingly Small World • Peter G. Rowe
  • Shaping Design Education • Peter G. Rowe

Architecture From the Outside In: Selected Essays by Robert Gutman (2010)

Today, in the face of the challenges confronting their profession, from the economic crisis to an urgent need for longer-lasting, more affordable, and greener construction, architects have been forced to reconsider the relationship between architecture and society, between buildings, their inhabitants, and the environment. No single individual did more to build this discourse than Robert Gutman. Sometimes referred to as the sociological father of architecture, Gutman in his writing and teaching initiated a conversation about the occupants of buildings and the forms, policies, plans, and theories that architects might shape. A sociologist by training, Gutman infiltrated architecture s ranks in the mid-1960s. Over the next four decades at Princeton s School of Architecture, Gutman wrote about architecture and taught generations of future architects, while still maintaining an outsider status that allowed him to see the architectural profession in an insightful, unique, and always honest way. Architecture From the Outside In is the only book of Gutman’s collected essays to span his entire career, with the earliest essay included from 1965, and the most recent from 2005. Before his death in 2007, Gutman wrote a new introduction for the book, its chapters, and each of the included essays. The fourteen essays included here are the rare case of valuable historical documents that remain relevant to architects practicing today. Editors Dana Cuff and John Wriedt added twelve dialogues by some of Gutman’s former students, now some of the best-known architects and theorists of today: Bryan Bell, Deborah Berke, Peggy Deamer, Frank Duffy, Keller Easterling, Robert Fishman, Marta Gutman, Wallis Miller, David Mohney, Patricia Morton, Eric Mumford, and Sarah Whiting. These essays give a contemporary response to Gutman’s work, and make Architecture From the Outside In an invaluable addition to any contemporary architect’s library. 

Architectural Practice: A Critical View (1988)

The book that started it all describes the state of the profession in the latter 80’s and the historical reasons for its condition. Drawing from economical, social and political forces he explains the reasons for the decline of the role of the architect. A used copy can still be had for $1.58

 

 

Building Community: A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice: A Special Report by Boyer and Mitgang (1996)

Despite being focused primarily on architectural education, this study provides a forest of recommendations for the profession.

 

HUNCH 6/7: 109 Provisional Attempts to Address Six Simple And Hard Questions About What Architects Do Today And Where Their Profession Might Go Tomorrow (2003)

For a profession that is too busy to stand still, HUNCH 6/7 stops time, slices through the moment, and exposes an international sampling of architecture’s voices against a newspaper backdrop of the world today. On the occasion of the farewell to Wiel Arets and the welcoming of Alejandro Zaera-Polo as dean of the Berlage Institute, 109 architects and critics who have stimulated research at the Berlage Institute were invited to reflect on the changing profession of architecture and to reconsider their role as spacemakers. They were asked six simple and hard questions about what architects do today and where their profession might go tomorrow. Forest.

HUNCH 13: Consensus (2010)

A collection of twelve provocative contributions by leading and emerging architects, critics, and scholars focuses on how collective thought shapes and enriches the built environment. From decision-making strategies, participatory forms of urbanism, and top-down planning methods, to the collaborative approach of the architecture studio, the political implications of commissioning of star architects, and the realization of universal planning principles, the authors explore how different constituencies work together to make design decisions, Along with these topical contributions – which are supplemented by marginalia of annotations, terminologies, and short stories – a series of four conversations with renowned architectural practitioners and theorists, and a visual essay and text reconsidering the role of imagery in architectural history and theory.

ARCHITECTURE CALIFORNIA, VOL. 18, NO. 2, WINTER 1996/97

Issue devoted to the future of architecture as a profession includes articles on: Boyer Report, African American architects, Sherrie Levine’s Chimera, gated communities, a prose poem by Victor di Suvero, women writer’s influence on American architecture, Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, Goodman2, and interview with Kenneth Caldwell. Vol. 1 – if you can get your hands on it – it equally outstanding and deserves a wider readership.

STILL HAVEN’T FOUND WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR?

Ever-nostalgic for the demise of our beloved www.Archvoices.org,  you can still look to this site for a comprehensive list of books and essays to stimulate and sharpen your thinking on this critical topic; a forest preserve of a list that addresses a much wider range of topics than our current trees painting a richer picture of the profession with each category listing dozens of relevant sources including: Diversity in the Profession, Career Paths, Internship, Licensure, Comparisons to Other Professions, Practice, Studio Culture, Surveys and Studies and Women in the Profession.

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BIM and the Human Condition

Craft is the pride one takes in making – making things – with one’s hands, mind and imagination. Two books that address craft – one recent and one published 50 years ago – help make clear the predicament architects find themselves in today as they face an uncertain future.

In The­_Craftsman, author and sociologist Prof. Richard Sennett asks what the process of making concrete things reveals to us about ourselves – what people can learn about themselves from the things they make. Craftsmanship here is defined as an enduring, basic human impulse, the skill of making things well. The pride one takes in work – whether making a wood model or a computer model – requires focusing on the intimate connection between head and hand, establishing effective, sustainable habits and a rhythm between problem finding and problem solving. It is an internal dialogue every craftsman – and architect – conducts in practice.

Craftsmanship, by combining skill, commitment and judgment, establishes a close relationship between head and hand, man and machine that Sennett asserts is vital to physical, mental and societal well-being. Combining a “material consciousness” with a willingness to put in years of practice (a common estimate of the time required to master a craft is 10,000 hours) and an acceptance of ambiguity, rather than an obsessive perfectionism, should be familiar to readers of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Dean Simonton’s Greatness and readers of this blog. Sennett asks whether our commitment to work – our craftsmanship – is merely about money, or about something deeper and more human. His answer implies that commitment – the skill, care, late nights, problem solving and pride that goes into our work – is about something greater.

Sennett does not think that craftsmanship has vanished from our world. On the contrary, as another critic noted, it has merely migrated to other regions of human enterprise, “so that the delicate form of skilled cooperation that once produced a cathedral now produces the Linux software system” – or, in the case of architects who take part in integrated practice, their work in BIM. The subject of craft has been all but excluded to date from discussions about building information modeling (BIM) and this poses a liability and potential hazard for architects – for therein resides our dedication, passion and resolve.

Hannah Arendt’s book, The_Human_Condition, published 50 years ago, distinguishes between labor, work, and action, explores the implications of these distinctions and affirms the value of human beings speaking openly and candidly to each other. In the book Arendt (1906-1975) famously distinguishes between Animal laborans and Homo faber, between labor and work. Labor is, according to Arendt, those human activities whose main aim is to allow men to survive, belong to the private sphere, and while the human being strives painstakingly to perform them, is not free. As Sennett – Arendt’s student in the 60’s – points out Animal laborans is akin to the beast of burden, “a drudge condemned to routine.” Here the derogatory term “CAD-jockey” comes to mind, one who envisions spending their working lives in front of a monitor churning out construction documents. Animal laborans: they’re the ones who, working alone, take the work as an end in itself.

With Homo faber, on the other hand, one imagines men and women doing work together and in doing so making a life in common. This is the public sphere, where men, after having provided for themselves and their families what was needed to continue, can at last be free. The name according to Sennett implies a higher way of life, one in which we stop producing and start discussing and judging together. It is in this word – together – that we find the seeds for collaboration and for integrated practice.

BIM is More Artifact than Fact, More Art than Artifact

Look around your office – it is easy to spot those who see themselves as Animal laborans and conversely those who see their role as Homo faber. You can sense it in their attitudes toward their work, their mindset in the way they tackle the challenge of learning –or familiarizing themselves with – new technologies and workflows. If you observe carefully, you can even detect it in their posture, in the way they approach their work and each other. As Sennett argues, as with Gladwell and Geoff_Colvin, motivation matters more than talent. The architect must imagine herself engaged with the model, the input of information no less an act of the imagination than the shaping of clay into new worlds for others to engage in and be inspired by. The architect has to find her inner, intelligent craftsman. If it can be reduced to a formula, as Arendt would have it,

bim = Animal laborans

BIM = Homo faber

where BIM enables integrated practice. The combination of speech and action the book calls for is the perfect prescription for integrated practice or IPD: architects working together with others, collaborating toward a common goal.

Sennett sees it differently and challenges his teacher’s definition of Labor as being too limited, slighting the practical man and woman at work, and offers a more balanced view – where thinking and feeling are contained within the process of making. Such is the student’s prerogative. Some architects complain that BIM – in being so fact-based and answer-hungry – makes them less creative, describing their work as “feeding the beast.” Here again we find Arendt’s Animal laborans, for whom the mind engages once the labor is done, and Sennett is right to push further.

When Sennett writes “leaving the public to ‘sort out the problem’ after the work is done means confronting people with usually irreversible facts,” and “engagement must start earlier, requires a fuller, better understanding of the process by which people go about producing things,” he could have been describing BIM, and IPD, the process it enables. IPD fulfills the promise and dictates of BIM just as Homo faber provides something for Animal laborans to aspire to.  

One of Arendt’s great themes is her sense of the decline of the public realm, the realm where action takes place. With the growing use of BIM, and through it integrated practice, architects once again have an opportunity to find themselves working in – and positively influencing if not creating – the public realm.

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