Thriving on Collaboration //
Andy McAllister

2/18/2015

An interesting dynamic has become prevalent in the studios as we have progressed from first year architecture students to fifth year graduate students; and it’s not necessarily a good thing. Somehow, we have been hardwired to design in the absence of “idea-sharing”. Idea-sharing is basically collaboration, where creative thinking gets shared within a group. This allows a broader range of ideas and more flushed out solutions. I have seen from experience that when designers refuse to share ideas, careless flaws are over-looked and the end product seems incomplete.

 

It is especially a disservice to withhold idea-sharing and collaboration as students because that is what the academic studio environment is most conducive to. When collaboration happens, that’s when great architecture happens. Up until this point in my schooling, all of my peers worked on their own projects. The students that were most successful were the students that shared their ideas with their peers. Doing this provided them with more opportunity for constructive criticism. Holes in their projects were highlighted and addressed with more thoughtful solutions. A checks-and-balance system inherently happens; something that is absent in individual-based projects if one guards their ideas. When studio projects are group based, this open collaboration is critical. The solutions become that much more sophisticated. This detail shows a beautifully progressed connection that was the result of several iterations and flushed out ideas.

The Design+Make Studio is designed to thrive on collaboration. This year, we had three main projects that we worked on. The studio split up into teams of three to five students. The teams work together to solve real world problems, on funded projects. I think it is extremely valuable for us as graduate students to be exposed to working in groups because that is how architecture firms work. This became prevalent to me when I interned at Spillman Farmer Architects. In a firm, it is most efficient to have the fewest people working on several projects. It is because of this that the Design+Make Studio works and feels synonymous to an architecture firm. Communicating with clients, prototyping, documentation, and marketing is difficult for one person to do well. Collaboration between groups makes it possible for several complex problems to be solved simultaneously. This wall in The Design+Make Studio shows all of the projects that we are working on. Closer examination proves that, scheduling, documentation, marketing, etc., all happen at the same time.

The studio has been successful thus far in managing all three projects well. Though the teams divide and conquer the individual task associated with each project, teams come together in the end to compile their findings. The only downside that has been prevalent has been the occasional inconsistency in presentation documents. When information from several people get compiled, it is important that someone acts as a quality control. Quality control is crucial to collaboration to be presented in a unified manner. To combat this, the Design+Make Studio assigns a keeper of design intent to make sure that the deliverables are portraying what is intended of them. This image shows one of my peers being supervised while welding to ensure the end product is high quality. 

Collaboration is essential to success of the Design+Make Studio. It is the beauty of the studio and makes it possible for real life projects to be completed by architecture students. The idea-sharing that occurs in this studio exploits the intention of the architectural studio environment. It prepares us for the real struggles that we will encounter in practice. By collaborating, designs become more finely tuned. The holes that could otherwise be in an individual’s work disappear. Finally, collaboration provides the Design+Make Studio with the means to carry out large feats in a short amount of time. 

Written by Andy McAllister