In February, the AIA began the public awareness campaign “I Look Up,” which highlights architects as problem solvers and visionaries who offer unique perspectives in solving global issues. “We look up to see limits, and ways around them, to pursue possibility,” says the narrator in the campaign’s television commercial. But in your own daily practice, you need to use a combination of marketing, technological advantages, partnerships, and continual learning to get the recognition you deserve.
Being an architect isn’t just a matter of producing designs or erecting buildings, but rather of making connections. “Our research shows a majority of the public appreciates architects but doesn’t engage them,” says Sandra Coyle, the AIA’s managing director of public relations and outreach. “Everyone admires an architect, but they’re not top of mind.” She believes that simple, even informal conversation can change that. “It may be at a meeting or a reception,” she says, “but it’s about having more of that outreach in the community.”
For clients to value architects’ work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign associate professor Randy Deutsch, AIA, suggests Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), which involves the entire team, from owner to contractor to subcontractors, early in the design process. “We often say in the industry, ‘Cost, time, quality: Pick any two.’ With IPD, owners can have all three,” Deutsch says. “Owners gain the most from collaborative work. Architects need to make that clear that we are willing to put in the extra effort IPD requires.” Deutsch also disputes that IPD takes decision-making power from the designer, a common concern. “The architect on an integrated team is still the orchestrator, who can recognize and welcome the input from members of the team,” he says.
Technology doesn't change the architect’s role, says Deutsch, who is also the author of Data-Driven Design and Construction (Wiley, 2015). “But data may challenge architects to be better at it,” he says. “If a client comes to you for an addition, and the data says the client doesn't need to extend the property after all, [you can share that] with the client, even if the expansion is put on ice.” Owners will appreciate the transparency. Deutsch adds that using BIM as a database for designs may be especially key in the future, as an archive tool. “It will not only provide a documentation tool but will also empower architects in terms of how they're perceived,” he says. “That’s a game changer.”
Form a Partnership
Portland, Ore.’s GBD Architects has designed more than 20 buildings for developer Gerding Edlen, but don’t use the word “client” with GBD president Phil Beyl, AIA. “I’d go for the term ‘partner’ right off the bat,” he says. The idea of a partnership could be a literal one, Beyl says, as in the case of performance-based contracts that legally tie architect compensation to energy-efficiency goals. Or it could be a partnership in spirit, as in the research trips GBD and Gerding Edlen have taken to seek new design ideas. The important thing, Beyl says, is that the client—err … partner—knows your firm will invest time or money necessary to forge a lasting collaboration.