Building Relationships // Ian Cole

4/25/2015

I have heard over the past several years of school that much of architecture is about building and maintaining relationships. In professional practice class the professor would repeatedly say “clients aren’t paying for designs, they are paying for your relationship”. In the office where I worked this summer there were employees whose job was to develop relationships with current and future potential clients. After years of individual studio projects, the idea of relationships playing a role in a project seemed foreign to me. Working on the Sunset Drive Office Pavilion has been my first time that I experienced this for myself.

Meeting between project team and client

The most obvious relationship that occurs during any project is the relationship between the designer and the client. The “JoCo” Pavilion team first met with the clients in August of last year and continued to meet every two weeks for several months. During this time we began to understand the clients’ needs and how we would play a role in helping them meet their goals. We learned that the clients were more interested in maintenance and practicality and less interested in ideas or what looked best. The relationship was less of a back and forth over design ideas, and more of a process of presenting ideas and waiting for approval. Because of this, the team had to determine for ourselves what we thought was important in the project and how we would judge our success. We developed our own criteria for good design that was less focused on practicality and more focused on innovation.  After the team understood this we used this knowledge to our advantage to save time for both the design team and the client.

One of many steel deliveries

My role in the JoCo Pavilion is to manage the budget and acquire materials and supplies to be used on the project. Making calls to vendors and suppliers several times a week over a number of months has led to relationships that help with budget constraints and help the team deal with logistical issues of the building process. After dozens of orders and trips to our steel supplier in Manhattan we have developed a friendship to the point that they freely offered equipment and assistance. The knowledge that we are working on a student project led many companies to generously give discounts on materials and services. 

Shop technician, Richard Thompson, explaining how to use fabrication equipment

There is one more relationship that is arguably the most important factor in the completion of the project; the relationship between the project team and the shop. After months of mock-ups and prototypes, the shop technicians understand the pavilion project almost as well as the project team. They understand the need for certain tools at certain times and make sure to have them available to the team. Welding is a major part of the fabrication of the JoCo Pavilion and the shop helped train members of the team to become certified structural welders. The shop technicians are constantly giving assistance and advice in all stages of the project.. Because we have confidence in the shop’s ability to help us, the project team is much more willing to try designs and test ideas that we do not completely understand at first. The knowledge the shop technicians bring to the table keeps the design team from limiting itself due to lack of knowledge with certain tools or processes. Without this relationship and the assistance the shop provides, the JoCo Pavilion would not be possible.

 

The relationships that have developed over the course of this year have been vital to the progress of the pavilion. Over the past several years I have heard about the importance of developing relationships as an architect, but without being a part of it first -hand this concept didn’t mean much to me. I now see that the development of relationships with people in all stages of the design make process is vital to the completion of any project. 

Written by Ian Cole