Friday, January 9, 2015

A Harsh Assessment of Architecture

I've been pleading with my architect clients for years to pay attention to the emergence of new virtual planning and design tools and, more importantly, the way those tools are being used to increase efficiency and productivity in the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of facilities and infrastructure over time.  Too many of those clients continue to ignore the impact of these new tools and processes and too many of them are ceding their seat at the table with the owners to general contractors.  Why architects refuse to embrace these new tools and processes has vexed me, but I continue to work with stakeholders in the built industry - including architects - who are prepared to move forward and improve the built industry as a whole.

The article excerpted and linked below addresses the insular mindset of modern architecture and provides insights into the angst felt in the profession. The clash between the architect's vision, the owners needs and the contractors ability to build what the architect designs speaks to the need for additional collaboration on the front end of projects. Anyone interested in forming an integrated team to pursue their next project should give me a call.  Meanwhile, the article excerpted and linked below may be of interest to stakeholders in the built industry who wonder why architects continue to resist the practical nuts and bolts effect of virtual planning, design, construction, costing, scheduling, operations and maintenance empowered by the effective use of BIM tools in an integrated project delivery (IPD) environment.

Architecture is suffering a crisis of confidence. More and more mainstream figures in the field are admitting that the profession has lost its way. As I previously mentioned, Frank Gehry, the world’s most famous architect, recently said that “98% of everything that is built and designed today is pure sh*t. There’s no sense of design, no respect for humanity or for anything else.” Architectural thought-leaders seconded and thirded him. And he’s since been fourthed by another. 
Last year, recognizing general public’s low opinion of architects, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the trade organization for the profession, launched aneffort to “reposition” the industry by hiring marketing and brand-identity firms. (You can find a PDF of one of the Institute’s public opinion polls here.) 
And now The New York Times, the ultimate arbiter of elite opinion, recentlypublished an op-ed that declared, “For too long, our profession [architecture] has flatly dismissed the general public’s take on our work, even as we talk about making that work more relevant with worthy ideas like sustainability, smart growth and ‘resilience planning.’” The authors are not kooks on the fringe but architect Steven Bingler and Martin C. Pedersen, former executive editor of Metropolis magazine, both of them very much in the establishment.

Welcome to the Collaborative Revolution!

James L. Salmon, Esq.
Collaborative Construction
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Finith Jernigan said...


As you know, I rarely post comments. However, today your post synced up so well with the section that I am working on for BIG BIM little bim V3 that I felt I needed to jump in.

Although dealing with a subset of the design related issues in the articles you reference, the following is excerpted from the new chapter I am writing on knowledge-based systems and system thinking. It discusses similar issues in the context of owner issues and BIM.

btw. I am not just picking on my fellow architects.

BIG BIM little bim V3 Except Part 1
"Part of the problem raised by CURT (Construction Users Roundtable comes from losses in core knowledge and wisdom. The building industry is losing seasoned staff at a rapid pace. These losses have resulted in fewer people with the sound judgement required to manage the complex and dynamic environment that exists today. Throughout the industry, knowledge resources are being lost as experienced people retire. Systems that capture the knowledge of those leaving the industry and making it available for everyone’s use appear to be one of the solutions.

"Some surveys predict that 50% of all senior managers will retire in the next decade. Companies are already experiencing the impact of these loses. Every year it becomes more difficult to hire experienced, senior staff. This loss of knowledgeable workers, inefficiency and lack of coordinated workflows will continue to plague the entire building industry.

"Finding ways to educate those new to the industry is a major challenge. The paradigm of long apprenticeships is no longer viable. People with little knowledge of the context and little or no discipline-oriented experience are doing many of the tasks traditionally reserved for those with significant core knowledge. We ask people to step into situations that are both new to the industry and new to the employee. Often without adequate support and planning. Learning as one goes has become the standard in many situations.

"The errors caused by this lack of senior staff worsen as design and construction companies seek effective ways to capture knowledge and make it available to support this new workforce. The new generation finds themselves starting anew even with well established organizations. Little corporate knowledge is available to them.

"Owners see no alternative as they learn to live with the situation. In their minds, the errors on projects with senior staff seem much the same as those that come from inexperience. Owners look for solutions in knowledge-based systems that make it possible for non-professionals to do the work of experienced professionals. The impact of such thinking will be devastating to many disciplines. Something must be done.

"The hype around BIM seems to support the premise that technology can take the place of people. There are owners that have been banking on this to correct the problems. From their perspective many of the tasks traditionally assigned to professionals are computable. They are at least partially correct.

Finith Jernigan said...

BIG BIM little bim V3 Except Part 2
"There are critical tasks in most professions that need discipline-specific knowledge and expertise. The lines between things needing professional expertise and things that can be done by others have become blurred. One can argue that the work of less trained staffs using knowledge-based systems misses these subtleties and does not rise to the standard of care required. Can a computer program used by an untrained person, do the work of a highly trained and experienced expert?

"This is the question that faces the industry as traditional knowledge becomes a scarce commodity. Knowledge-based systems are the answer to part of the need. We need to find ways to capture industry knowledge and use it to instill the wisdom required for the next generation. Only by embracing systems that capture knowledge and then connecting that knowledge to the needs of people, can we head off drastic changes to the professions that make up the building industry.

"Is it possible that future architects could find themselves relegated to generating project aesthetics only? Could future builders be replaced by robots and other automated systems? Or, will there come a time where so much is automated that professionals, as we know them, no longer exist?

"Many professionals are now working in what they consider to be BIM, never realizing that they are sitting-up those that follow for marginalization. These professionals concentrate on their niche. They focus their work on the graphic side of BIM, doing little more than 3D design and production. Data, early planning to minimize error, operations, facility management and everything else is not important. They are mocking up the behaviors that may be the hallmark of a future reality where others do everything except design and construction conceptualization. Others, supported by apps will do the rest.

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BambooUSA said...

"We recommend they return to quality hand drafting before moving to CAD”

Top Notch Construction PH said...

Thanks for having the initiative to post this topic! This is very informative!

Ronny McNamara said...

Going for high technology, virtual planning and sophisticated tools is all-right and very important but hiring marketing companies beat me, it looks like an attempt to sweep dirt under the carpet.

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