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Partners in Design: Why Collaboration Matters in Successful Architecture

Updated: Jul 7

Great architecture is not borne solely out of creative impulses, but also from sustained teamwork of architects, interior designers, landscape designers, engineers, contractors and specialist suppliers. Furthermore, successful architecture stems from meaningful collaboration between designers and their clients.


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“Clients are considering architectural collaboration to draw on overseas intellectual property from larger pools of economical activity and greater depth of specialization.”

Architects are looking to other creative industries for the ingredients of successful collaboration. One of the speakers on collaboration at the Royal Institute of British Architects Conference was the film producer Duncan Kenworthy who had produced feature films such as ‘Love Actually’. Kenworthy defined the key ingredients being the ‘Four Cs’: clarity, communication, consistency and control. The film industry relies on a myriad of clearly defined roles to ensure the cinematic creative vision is delivered on time and on budget.

Historically, architects have always felt that it was best to work in the same time zone when collaborating internationally. However, with the development of enhanced technological sharing platforms, new opportunities have arisen. Studio collaborations working in different time zones can use time shift as an advantage; specific tasks can be handed over to be developed overnight. The responsiveness of real time issues can be further honed on fast track and complex projects.

Progress in information technology and Building Information Models (BIM) for construction projects have revolutionized the way architectural studios share design information, collaborate and find real time solutions. This integrated model allows teams to develop a scheme from geographically remote locations. The integrated BIM approach cannot only ensure dimensional coordination before site operations begin, but can assist with future programming and cost analysis. The UK government recently estimated that the widespread adoption of BIM, which collaborative models I have discussed support, would save the British construction industry $2.7 Billion per annum.

It is the natural and historical role of the architect to collaborate, as they are used to working with the various engineers and specialist contractors. Extending this role to include other architectural studios is plausible when the client understands that the collaboration may take time to develop initially. I have explained that the collaboration in architecture is in essence nothing new in the Australasian or global context. The benefits can be harnessed when the context, benefits and risks are appreciated. With improved Building Information Models (BIM) it is easier to utilize global intellectual property and specialism. Today, as awareness of the business case for collaboration increases, it is not surprising that Oscar Niemeyer was talking so freely about his own successful ingredients of collaboration at the apex of his long architectural career.

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