Friday, May 30, 2008

53. Take a lesson from IKEA

IKEA sells a brilliantly envisioned, meticulously conceived, inter-operational collection of constructed "components" of individual identity, situated in the domestic sphere, and supported by a global system of logistics, engineering, marketing, operations, but most of all DESIGN, that is really remarkable.

The connection that I made with all of this is the increasing significance of design, in the most universal, far-reaching sense, in the world of software. Apple Computers' incredible success of the last few years since the introduction of MacOS X, the iPod, and its super-sexy notebooks, is not about selling a Unix-based operating system, a digital personal music player, and mass-market commodity laptops - it's about DESIGN, transformative, transcendent design that engages us in experiences which makes our inner ape feel safe, happy, sexy, powerful - emotional experiences which stimulate our pleasure centers and form habits of use, habits of consumption.


Similarly Starchitects are not about designing a building, they about designing a brand of architecture and ideas that stimulates us in a certain way. To accomplish this, some are pushing a pre-existing trend of outsourcing to a whole new level.

REX for example is a relatively young firm. Both partners Joshua Prince-Ramus and Erez Ella are in their 30's and so are most of their staff for that matter.

They were able to design Museum Plaza [a complex multi program 62 floor skyscraper] relying on an equally complex team of consultants. In fact they see themselves as orchestraters of the design process. They hand pick the team, they coordinate communications, set the goals, and direct the conceptual ideas. Their contribution to the design is simply the initial concept and mission control from there on.

Below is their philosophy statement directly from their website.
We design collaborations rather than dictate solutions.
The media sells simple, catchy ideas; it reduces teams to individuals and their collaborative work to genius sketches. The proliferation of this false notion of "starchitecture" diminishes the real teamwork that drives celebrated architecture. [Read here why this Denunciation of Starchitecture is important to your mystique] REX believes architects should guide collaboration rather than impose solutions. We replace the traditional notion of authorship: "I created this object," with a new one: "We nurtured this process."

But REX is just one of many famous firms on this bandwagon. Listen to Thom Mayne of Morphosis on this very subject:

How does that team function, You are the lead guy on these projects, but what do you leave to the other people that work with you, how does that work?

Oh, I leave a lot.

We are called Morphosis and we were started in 1972
It was a kind of a very 60's idea
It was an idea about a collective practice

I was looking at film a lot and I saw architecture very parallel to film in its collaborative nature.

It was very conscious of removing authorship in a singular way. So the name Thom Mayne came out of the firm. It happens to be that Morphosis is a very generic name: the development of form. It applies to architecture, planning, landscape, and to industrial design etc. and we very much work like that. I guess my position very simply, would be that of the auteur: the director. I am definitely guiding conceptually the interests, etc of the group.

there are discussions and sometimes I am putting down the first hunch. Sometimes a form already closer to architecture and other times its just about ideas; about the land, or about a slope, or a force of movement or something else. Its just words working back and forth.

Its a collective practice where I am part of the directorship but it is absolutely collaborative. Then of course with that comes the huge amounts of people that work on large scale projects, the structural engineers, the mechanical engineers, the landscape architects, the cost estimators, on and on.

I left a meeting today and there were 20 of us at the table and we are at the very beginning of the project, just introducing the basic components and getting a pre-schematic together: The beginning essence of what a project is going to be.

I love that , I love working with a lot of people

A lot of people think of the kind of Ayn Rand- Frank Lloyd Wright idea of the architect. You enter the room, everything is in your brain [wherever it is located] you have this incredible creative instinct, you already have this genius idea in your head and you are going to lay it down for everybody.

For me it's the complete opposite, [Again, Read here why this Disassociation from Starchitecture is important] you walk in the room absolutely blank, nothing up there, and you start a discussion. If you put me in a room by myself, I would go nutty, I need interaction, I need push-back. I need dynamism of the group activity...

In essence what we are beginning to see is a gradual reshaping of the traditional model of the Architecture Firm. One that does not require the architect to be a specialist in the technicalities of building design within his own firm, but one that is a director of a team of consultants. By outsourcing much of the technicalities, this type of firm leaves itself room to focus more on concepts, research, brand, image, and publicity. The Architect becomes [as Mayne puts it] an auteur where he acts very much in the same way as a film director tweaking and stoking his crew and actors to achieve a certain effect on our inner ape.


baumgar1 said...

When are you going to update again? I wake up every morning hoping for another post, but alas nothing.