Tag Archives: communication

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

77 Things You Can Do Right Now to Help Make Integrated Design a Reality

This time of year, when many find themselves indoors, is a great time to catch up – and even get ahead of the pack – on several neglected fronts. Here are my top 77 suggestions for getting ahead in Integrated Design. All pretested, these promise to be a good investment of your time. Best of all, many of the suggestions in this list can be read or watched or even had for free or for very little cost. The 77 things you can do right now to help make Integrated Design a reality will not only benefit the design profession and construction industry, but by helping to move the field forward you may also find that you have helped yourself along the way.

Do you have other links to favorite sources you would like to share?

1. Listen in on a free conference call with Stephen M. R. Covey on the subject of trust

2. Or read the book that the call is based on, The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything, with one eye on how practicing mutual trust makes Integrated Design possible.

3. Still not convinced that increasing trust is the answer? Check out this video or listen to this summary of the book

4. Pick up a copy and read George Elvin’s Integrated Practice in Architecture: Mastering Design-Build, Fast-Track, and Building Information Modeling The world’s only book dedicated to this subject.

5. Read Creating with Others: The Practice of Imagination in Life, Art and the Workplace by Shaun McNiff where a master teacher provides important lessons on how to create together in a collaborative environment.

6. Share some info with someone you don’t normally trust or work with right now and see the results – if it negatively affects you or your firm (you might be surprised by the results)

7. Make it an effort to say “we” instead of “I” for an entire day. Get inspired by taking a look at The Power of We

8. Share AIA’s document on IPD with another practitioner and discuss its strengths and weaknesses.

9. Had a hunch that you could learn a thing or two about collaboration from understanding the secrets of improvisational theater? You were right and they’re all here in Keith Sawyer’s breathtaking Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration, 60% off at Amazon

10. Or read it for free here

11. Read an interview with author Keith Sawyer, professor of psychology and education at Washington University in St. Louis, is one of the country’s leading scientific experts on collaboration, here

12. Start a IPD discussion group, select a resource to start with and begin a discussion.

13. Download the AIA IPD Guide here

14. Better yet, enjoy AIA’s veritable cornucopia of Integrated Design features, programs, initiatives here  

15. Read How to Make Collaboration Work; Powerful Ways to Build Consensus, Solve problems and Make  Decisions  Read it here for free.

16. Click here for Experiences in collaboration: On the Path to IPD

17. Or here to download the PowerPoint: Lessons Learned from Applied Integrated Project Delivery – presented at the AIA Convention  

18. Share the AIA document site with 10 others

19. The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building: Redefining the Practice of Sustainability by 7group, Bill Reed, Order it here or here but whatever you do, order it.

20. While you’re at it, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen or heard 7group’s John Boecker speak on the subject of Integrated Design.

21. Bill Reed’s also pretty inspiring, too. Check out some of his papers

22. Read the DesignIntelligence Thom Mayne Morphosis case study on being a design principal on an IPD team

23. Click here for a short (4 min.) video about IPD

24. Put down your current book and pick up Mastering the Art of Creative Collaboration by Robert Hargrove a copy of which can be yours here for 33 cents! Or get a summary here.

25. Think about why you originally went into your field and whether persuing Integrated Design will allow you to do what you originally wanted to do

26. Turn your firm into a collaboration factory. See how other fields are accomplishing it in The Culture of Collaboration: Maximizing time, talent and tools to create value in the global economy by Evan Rosen.

27. Look here to read Integrated Project Delivery and BIM: Changing the Way the Industry Operates

28. Visit and explore Evan Rosen’s blog  on Collaboration, Sharing Information and Trust.

29. Practice self-sacrifice while reading fiction. Mark Helprin’s short story collection, The Pacific and Other Stories, contains an incisive story entitled “Monday,” an honorable contractor willing to sacrifice other contracts and his own reputation to renovate the home of a woman whose husband was killed on September 11 learns “the power of those who had done right.” Read it.

30. Look for an opportunity to hear Choreographer Twyla Tharp discuss The Collaborative Habit at a theater near you.

31. Still not convinced collaboration works? Niether is Berkeley professor and author Morten T. Hansen in Harvard Business review book Collaboration: How leaders avoid the traps, create unity and reap big results. Read it for free here but after reading Good to Great author Jim Collin’s insightful foreword you’re going to want to buy  a copy for yourself and those you work with.

32. Still not convinced collaboration within your firm always a good thing? Watch this video

33. Cant afford the somewhat steep membership cost to join the Design Futures Council? Worry not. Spend a free afternoon perusing articles at designintelligence.com. Do a search on any of the following topics and marvel at the wealth of brilliance that can be found here: Best Practices, Client Relationships, Communications, Design/Build Project Delivery, Intelligent Choices, Leadership, Strategy, Technology, Trends and MANY others.

34. Check out this PowerPoint presentation: IPD It’s not your father’s architectural practice

35. Watch IPD wunderkind John Moebes in action speaking on the benefits on Integrated Design or check out this presentation by him.

36. Or this article about what John Moebes has to say about IPD.

37. Call a colleague that has worked in IPD and ask to lunch – discuss their experience

38. Take a look at architect Scott Simpson’s immortal blog post entitled Let’s Believe in Our Own Future. As Design Futures Council founder Jim Cramer writes in the comments, “Scott, you nailed it.”

39. Make a promise in 2010 to attend a 2- or 4-hour Culture of Collaboration workshop when it comes to town and learn 17 Ways to Move from Competing to Cooperating in Your Organization

40. Compare and contrast the AIA’s various IPD documents

41. Then compare them with ConsensusDOCS

42. Or compare the two here

43. In fact, check out President of Collaborative Construction Resources James Salmon’s blog for great insights into all thing related to Integrated Design  

44. Soak-up the great stories in choreographer Twyla Tharp’s latest bestseller, The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together. The book is short – you could down it in an hour – but the anecdotes, quotes and lessons will live long with you and bear repeating.

45. While you’re at it, reread Tharp’s inspiring and peerless The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

46. Visit the DesignIntelligence.blog from time to time for inspiration and insight into integrated design trends and best practices.

47. I recently interviewed architect Paul Durand of Winter Street Architects for my forthcoming book, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Practice (Wiley, 2011) after reading Paul’s inspiring article about his firm’s adjustments to and eventual mastery of the technology and work processes involved with Integrated Design.

48. In fact, BIM and IPD have their very own blog

49. Watch this Harvard Business Review video of an interview with Daniel Goleman, Psychologist. See how you can use emotional and social intelligence to improve your own and your organization’s performance

50. Find a question or problem that you have been noodling on and share it with your network by posting it on a LinkedIn group discussion.

51. Calibrate your progress: If you haven’t in a while, revisit your threadbare copy of Finith Jernigan’s BIG BIM little bim – The practical approach to Building Information Modeling – Integrated practice done the right way! The book that started it all.

52. Assess yourself in this video from the bestselling author of EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE and SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE author Daniel Goleman on how socially intelligent you are.

53. Dust off your copy of The Wisdom of Teams and see how much you’ve learned from it and have integrated into your own practice 

54. Listen to Cisco CEO John Chambers explain how abandoning command-and-control leadership has enabled his company to innovate more quickly, using collaboration and teamwork.

55. Connect with other Integrated Design cohorts on LinkedIn

56. Reread Working with Emotional Intelligence – this time with an eye on IPD. Don’t have it? Read the first chapter here.

57. Ask a contractor to lunch or for an after work drink – discuss their observations and insights about the architecture profession – they’ll appreciate it (Recommendation: stay on their turf, take them to Carmichaels or another contractor hang out)

58. Reread your copy of Broken Buildings, Busted Budgets: How to Fix America’s Trillion-Dollar Construction Industry from the viewpoint of how integrated design promises to fix what ails the AEC industry.                                                                                         

59. Read an interview with Barry LePatner on the promise of integrated design in the construction industry in the article, “Unreconstructed,” by Zach Patton published in Governing magazine

60. MacArthur Fellow, New Yorker staff writer and acclaimed surgeon Atul Gawande’s fascinating new book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, has a chapter entitled The End of the Master Builder where he argues that Integrated Design is the one way the construction industry will contend with ever-increasing complexities. Read it. Amazon has it on sale for 65% off.

61. Still too expensive? You can watch a presentation Atul Gawande gave at the New Yorker Festival this past October. His talk was entitled Death of the Master Builder

62. And even read post about Atul Gawande’s presentation at The New Yorker blog.  

63. Already mastered Integrtaed Design and all it entails? See Beyond IPD: The Integrated Enterprise Challenge

64. Wondering how to market IPD for your firm? See this this or better yet this

65. Overlook the misleading title, pour yourself a cup or glass and dig into Bauman Lyons Architects highly entertaining and enlightening book on integrated design practices and outcomes, How to Be a Happy Architect 

66. Or watch this video of integrated design architect Irena Bauman [of How to be a happy architect fame] taking the Guardian editor, Martin Wainwright, for a stroll around Leeds.

67. Learn ways how you can become an ENFP (you might have an easier time in IPD)

68. Read, really read, Thom Mayne’s penetrating and quite scary warning to the tribe, Change or Perish 

 69. Or even better, visit the AIA’s incredibly rich and rewarding site featuring this essay as well as Thom Mayne’s 2009 follow-up amongst many others: 2009 and Beyond | Revisiting the Report on Integrated Practice

 70. Still skeptical? Do a comparison of IPD and other delivery methods D+B, DBB, etc – list pros and cons and to see how IPD holds up

71. Be the change you want to see – do a presentation for your firm on IPD – or organize one with outside speakers, if only to start a discussion

72. Invite a contractor into your office to speak about their experiences working in IPD, BIM, architects…

73. You still feel like IPD is just a renaming of something you’ve been doing for ages? List what is the same – and what is different – so that you have an accurate tally in your assessment

74. Look into what additional equipment, resources and facilities/space you might need to take-on an IPD project in your office – make your office IPD friendly BEFORE you need it

75. Look for ways to merge – integrate – your religious or spiritual life with IPD

76. Watch this video and learn about IPD from the perspective of an acclaimed surgeon

77. New Yorker also blogged about this event.

And a bonus suggestion: Take an online personality self-assessment or other on your communication type – to see how you relate with others, identifying areas for improvement (FYI historically most architects are ENFJ’s with 10% as ENFP’s.) Free reliable assessments are also available with a little searching.

These are my top 77 suggestions for invigorating your commitment to working collaboratively in an Integrated Design environment. Do you have other links to favorite sources or suggestions you would like to share?

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Filed under collaboration, construction industry, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, Uncategorized