collaborative architecture

Since before the word “coworking” made its way into my vocabulary, I’ve had a desire to create a collaborative working environment for architects – a CO-ARCH space, as it were. The goal of this space, this alternative practice, has always intended to be run by 2 or 3 core people or partners with floating desks/offices that could be either rented or leased monthly/yearly. Ideally there would always be at least one space free for a new collaborator to come through.

Fast forward to today and coworking has permeated every facet of modern entrepreneurial life. We’re also in a time when architecture is going through a fundamental shift in the way we practice as well as the kinds of clients we go after. So, I have to think that now is the time that Co-Arch can take a foot-hold in a community of like-minded creatives and flourish. “Competition” is always the first road block that pops to mind.

And it’s almost always the first question that other architects and designers ask when I talk about this concept – “how does it work when you bring your clients into an office with other architects and designers milling around?” And this is a wonderful point to make. Because in this economy, and even before our current recession, competition among architects has always been fierce. Look no further than any moderately profiled design competition and you’ll see the cut-throat nature inherent in the architectural spirit. “Ego” is our best ally and our worst enemy. It is our ego that pushes us to take chances with clients, to push the envelope with engineers and consultants, to dare to say “make it work” and mean it. The ego has also marooned us on an island of our own making where we constantly fight for even the most mundane projects and fees. All in an effort to keep practicing the art and business of architecture.

Co-Arch is about more than just the business of architecture, however. It’s about the profession. The question of how do we compete with competition is simple: Co-Arch is not for those looking to further themselves so much as they are looking to further the profession of architecture, to do good work with like minded individuals who share real passion for the art of architecture, and make some money at the same time.

Co-Arch is only for those architects, designers, and artists with a true collaborative spirit; a sense of purpose in sharing their knowledge and expertise to help others in the profession, both young and old. The idea that “this is my project” should be left at the door. After all, one of the first hard learned lessons in architecture is NONE of our projects are “our” projects. They belong to the client. We are simply providing the vehicle by which our clients realize their projects. Getting beyond this first truth is at the heart of a collaborative practice. By operating under this blanket of serving the client rather than serving our own career we can much easier skip across the aisle and enlist the help of other architects and designers on a project by project basis to best serve the client and the profession as a whole.

The idea of Co-Arch has come from nearly a decade in practice observing what I think to be a detriment to the profession and to our built environment. Co-Arch is what I see as part of the answer, a necessary step towards better architects, and more importantly better architecture.

If anyone would like to talk with me more about this idea, please contact me or post your comments, and lets keep the conversation going.

8 thoughts on “collaborative architecture

    • Angela, thanks for commenting. To a certain degree I am with you. But then, in an environment where collaboration is not only encouraged, but required in order to get the work done, confidence in your fellow workers is by default. They are already there because of a desire to work in community on a multitude of projects and project types in various roles in order to better serve the client and serve architecture.

  1. You know I’m on board. My only question is how do or can we overcome the differences in the software we use? Do we need to all agree to the same or can we not let that get in the way. Otherwise, I’m in.

    • Lee, that is an excellent question! And I’ll admit one I did not immediately think of. But it’s an important one. I think in the next 2-5 years it will become irrelevant. We all know, if we don’t always admit, that architecture is moving to BIM. It has to happen. It’s the next logical step in the process. I for one am moving to Archicad and away from Autodesk. But whether you use Archicad, Revit, Microstation, DataCad or Chief Architect, the process is all the same and most platforms are cross-compatible (with the exception of Autodesk…we all know it’s true). I think currently it could be a bit of a headache if someone was still on 2D (like me), but the “up and comers” are all pretty much solid in 3D BIM and any stragglers would quickly catch up.
      The next step is to move this concept into the Cloud. 🙂

  2. I’ve worked in co-working spaces before in a web design capacity and the most powerful advantage they offer is being able to mix with other creatives who have an entirely different skill set. In terms of the Co-Arch idea perhaps your core group could have varying specialties. The opportunity then arises for sharing “consulting” services. Whether those services are rewarded with money or just an understanding that “I’ll help you out when you need it” can be determined at the outset of the creation of the Co-Arch group. New members would be made aware of and agree to that principle up front so there is no confusion later down the line.

    • Rob, thanks for chiming in! It’s always great to get a hands on perspective for this type of creative co-working. And you’re right on point that the basic premise of this type of cooperative would be the expectation of shared and varying expertise, whether it be document production, or 3D modeling, or contract administration, or even web design for that matter.
      Thanks again. Cheers.

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