Tag Archives: integrated practice

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

Are We Becoming More Integrated and Engaged?

I have written recently on the extent to which integrated project delivery (IPD) is catching on.

And did so primarily in empirical (some might say sensationalist) terms.

Today we’re treated to a guest post,Is Integrated Practice Taking Hold?” written by my friend, Finith Jernigan, internationally recognized architect, educator & author of the bestseller BIG BIM little bim: the Practical Approach to Building Information Modeling – Integrated Practice Done the Right Way.

Always thoughtful and thought provoking, Finith has the goods when it comes to data and asks some tough questions here.

I encourage you to read the post and respond to one of his questions by leaving a comment below.

Thank you!

Is Integrated Practice Taking Hold?

For several years I have used Google Alerts as one tool for keeping current with the progress of building information modeling development and integrated practice. Every day since early 2007, I receive alerts for the terms: bim, building information model, integrated practice, big bim and little bim. In the early days there were few alerts; recently there are days with twenty or more alerts on any one of these topics.

Over the last year, I have begun to notice patterns in the alerts, so I started tracking the alerts by industry. The patterns highlight major issues about how the construction industry sees and understands integrated practice. The patterns show the level of acceptance within different industries and indicate who is embracing integrated practice and who is not.

Health care organizations of all kinds (doctors, dentists and chiropractors especially) are moving to integrated practice technologies. Lawyers and accountants, as well. Baseball teams, meditation gurus, social workers, writers, artists and IT are moving. However the patterns seem to show that far fewer architects and contractors are taking the plunge.

Scientific and health care add up to a total of 58.10% of the alerts. Legal, the arts, sports, writing and IT account for an additional 18.57%. Meditation, social work, education and accounting account for 11.45%. Construction industry alerts account for only 11.88%.

It is interesting that fully 88% of the postings for integrated practice have little or nothing to do with design and construction.

Integrated practice was not created by and is not unique to the construction industry. It is a way to a goal, a process, not an end goal. The patterns from Google Alerts seem to be saying that other industries are much more actively involved in their own integrated practice implementation than are architects and contractors.

The alerts talk a lot about the benefits to individual industry members. There is little talk of the holistic benefits from integration. Construction industry discussions revolve around integrating design and construction with a nod toward operations. Few talk about or advocate for wider initiatives such as integrated decision making. Even fewer work toward possibilities such as the integration of design and construction with healthcare to create more sustainable and efficient processes.

The patterns show that other industries are embracing integrated practice. The patterns may also show that the construction industry is missing an opportunity for a larger discussion. Why is it that the construction industry has not engaged in such discussions?

Is it because architects and contractors do not understand where they fit into the larger world? Do they spend too much time focused on what they see as their niche?

Is it because too many react to the demand for integrated practice, rather than proactively using the process to do better and more?

Is it because the construction industry does not understand how to apply technology to create better and more efficient processes?

Is the construction industry so wrapped up in its’ own issues that the industry’s point of view is too limited in today’s world?

Is it because construction industry professionals are only talking to themselves?

Is it because construction industry professionals are not connecting to and learning from others?

Is it plain old inertia and ego?

Or, is it that construction industry professionals do not write in forums indexed by Google?

Whatever the answer to these questions, the pattern suggests that the construction industry needs to become more engaged in the broader discussion of what it means to be integrated.

Princeton University defines integrated as: formed or united into a whole; introduced into another entity; designated as available to all races or groups; or resembling a living organism in organization or development.

The Google Alert pattern and Princeton’s definition both suggest that the industry needs to become more engaged in integration and to widen its’ view of what integrated practice really means to the world outside of the construction industry.

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Filed under BIM, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, workflow

The Future of Practice

I had the opportunity over the weekend to attend end-of-semester case study presentations by 6 teams of IIT graduate students taking part in the College of Architecture’s inaugural Master of Integrated Building Delivery degree program. Headed by Assistant Professor John Durbrow, the course was taught by Aaron Greven, owner of AG Design Works with one foot in architecture and the other in construction, where he masterfully mediates and positively influences the two.  IIT’s program is one of 60 or so BIM and/or IPD programs currently offered at universities worldwide. For a few hours in the lower level of Crown Hall on a sunny Saturday I witnessed what will no doubt be the future of practice.

The course in general utilized lectures, presentations by practicing professionals and off-site field trips to investigate new and emerging technologies and develop a detailed understanding of IPD. The students who presented had been studying integrated practices and the technology that facilitates collaboration across a broad range of building projects and participants. They developed case studies and collected unique stories of 6 projects’ successes and challenges working with BIM in integrated and collaborative processes, including the Tucson Convention Center Addition and Hotel; Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago; Crate & Barrel, Toronto; Optima Camelview Village Scottsdale, AZ; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; and the University of Chicago – New Hospital Pavilion.

All-in-all the presentations were informative, describing research gathered on a wide range of topics related to the practice of architecture and the construction of significant buildings at all scales.

Here are some of my take-aways and observations from the presentations – with an eye on the big picture:

  • Content Representation I. If the AEC industry is experiencing a fundamental change in how services are delivered, and BIM and IPD represent paradigms in how these services are communicated and delivered, one might question the wisdom of delivering all the presentations in PowerPoint, perhaps the most conventional of means.
  • Content Representation II. If the medium is the message (Marshall McLuhan) and the message is the new work processes require collaboration – then IPD presentations ought to reflect this collaborative work effort. Team members ought to at least be aware of the material fellow classmates are presenting so as not to repeat – or at least to build-on – their content. In lieu of standard linear presentations where each student speaks at the lectern for 6 minutes and 40 seconds and then hands-off to the next student (the inapt image of silos comes to mind) a more imaginative – and consistent – (re)presentation might mirror the give-and-take of collaborative teamwork. Listing of project facts could be placed in a comparison matrix, approximating the parametric wonder of the technology that enables the IPD process. At the very least the presentations ought to appear integrated: fonts, style, etc.
  • Content Integration. If Integrated Project Delivery (IPD,) or here referred to as Integrated Design, is a project delivery approach that integrates people, systems, business structures and practices – then the content of the presentations ought to be integrated into a working whole.
  • Production Efficiencies. If IPD is to be a process that collaboratively harnesses the talents and insights of all participants to reduce waste and optimize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication and construction – then presentations on the subject ought to be exemplary examples to this effect. If fundamental changes in the process of delivering buildings are about to revolutionize the structure and practice of architectural design, when given 15-20 minutes to present – a talk on IPD that continues on 50-100% over the time limit can’t possibly serve as a proponent of the process. If anything, it makes a mockery of it. A presentation that runs over in terms of schedule can justifiably be seen as wasteful the instructor’s, classmates and visiting critic’s time. If the habits, attitudes, mindsets and practices required of IPD cannot be mastered in school – how should we expect them to be practiced in the real world?
  • Role and Identity. To its credit, the program recognizes that the role of the architect at the realization of current industry changes is not yet clearly defined, but it is recognized that it will be significantly altered from that of today. This critical, and admittedly quite scary, topic was discussed – obliquely by the presenters, more directly between the presentations – and perhaps ought to have been addressed directly as one of the observations made of each project presented by the presenting team. IIT has introduced the new curriculum to ensure that graduates are prepared for a rewarding and significant role in the emergent state of the profession – whatever that role may be.

Architecture school curricula are already overburdened with course requirements. How on earth are they to fit in courses involving the learning of BIM, let alone a thorough working understanding of IPD, where students are currently required to complete their degrees with demonstrated ability in Speaking and Writing Skills, Critical Thinking Skills, Graphics Skills, Research Skills, Use of Precedents, Human Behavior, Accessibility, Sustainable Design, Program Preparation, Site Conditions, Building Materials and Assemblies, Construction Cost Control, Architectural Practice, Leadership, Legal Responsibilities, Ethics and Professional Judgment, Life Safety, Building Envelope Systems, Structural Systems, Environmental Systems and Fundamental Design Skills amongst others?

Here’s how. By placing the BIM model at the center – and learn the various areas of concentration working from the model. What better way to garner a deep and meaningful understanding of structures, environmental systems, sustainability and so on than from the building model that you have virtually conceived and built?

As for IPD, since Building Information Modeling is already the primary communication basis of IPD, course content such as collaborative work practices, leadership, legal and ethical responsibilities, can be covered much as construction-related topics are: from the model. Additionally, students currently learn several of the hallmarks of Integrated Design, including Learning Collaborative Skills (the ability to recognize the varied talent found in interdisciplinary design project teams in professional practice and work in collaboration with other students as members of a design team,) already an NAAB requirement for graduation, as well as Building Systems Integration (the ability to assess, select, and conceptually integrate structural systems, building envelope systems, environmental systems, life-safety systems, and building service systems into building design.)

Degree programs, such as IIT’s still nascent but growing one, builds upon what is already a requirement of every graduating student and provides a promising glimpse at what will come to be in the years ahead.

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, modeling