Session 7: Expanding the Definition of Practice

Date: April 06, 2018
Location: Perkins Eastman – 1 Thomas Circle NW, WDC
Led by: Claire Dickey & Lindsey May
Venue Sponsor: Pella Commercial; Perkins Eastman

Overview
The 7th session of CKLDP explored how the traditional definition of ‘practice’ is expanding. Through consideration of alternative practice models, research & critical thinking on social & economic design problems, scholars began to re-imagine the way the profession can evolve.

When Form Meets Content: Expanding the Definition of Practice
Hana Kim shared her trajectory from university, to practicing architecture, to artist, to her transition into exhibit design for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The skills she developed as an architect to coordinate a diverse project team, were a perfect fit for her roles as Exhibit Design Manager. Hana walked the CKLDP scholars through case studies of past projects which included the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and various exhibits at the Smithsonian American History Museum. Hana works with content experts, building managers, fabricators and other exhibit design firms, such as Exploratorium located in San Francisco, to shape the human experience surrounding sensitive historical objects, events and personal stories, into exhibits which resonate with the public.

The Expanding Role of Research in Practice
Utilizing internet meeting tools, the second segment of the session seven, included a lively exchange between two physically present speakers; Richard Schmitt with Thornton Tomasetti and Danya Hakky with Perkins Eastman, and two remote speakers; Andrew Burdick of Ennead Lab New York and author/researcher Anna Sussman in Boston.

Discussion topics covered a wide range. Andrew explained that some of their projects are brought on by social issues such as the need for creating and organizing refugee communities. While Richard, focused more on technology and using various software integration tools to help better understand the technical complexities within a building’s structure. Ann gave a taste of her research that concentrates on designing for the unconscious mind, by mapping different fixation points, using eye tracking software to evaluate architectural design. The conversation centered on how each participant has pushed the boundaries of the typical architectural practice.

The Architectural Lobby: Changing Architecture to Change the World
The closing portion of this session was devoted to considering the different business and ethical aspects of architecture, and a commitment to social justice within the architectural community. These types of issues are the undertaking of the Architecture Lobby and its organizers. The last speaker, Keefer Dunn is the National Organizer for the Architecture Lobby and is also founder of Pigeon Studio located in Chicago.

The diverse offerings provided by architectural firms, begs the question of whether current billable structures, long hours, and tight schedules, is a sustainable practice. This format lends itself to creating perverse incentives that can lead to a demoralized and drained team. The Architectural Lobby suggests that using a value based fee structure, may be more appropriate. Whatever the course of action, it is important that firms take care to consider the value of their teams, their time, as well as whether or not the project will benefit the community in the future.

 

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