Fostering a Collaborative Environment | Höhe Design Group

Posted on December 11, 2018 in General

Architecture is not about ego.  It’s not (always) about creating the grandest building in town.  It’s not pushing your ideas onto clients and forcing them to accept your thoughts; and it’s not being closed minded about input.  

There…I said it. 

All too often in this profession the ego found at the tops of firms is monstrous, and often crushing.  It tears apart the fabric and essence of a project, and in the process alienates the client, firm employees, and leaves everyone ripe for dissent.    

Jorge and myself have 30+ years in this field and have worked at multiple firms throughout the area.  We’ve seen first hand how other firms operated, and felt the weight of the ego from others.  We’ve seen “standard operating procedure” and the status quo and we’ve set out to change how the practice of architecture is done.   

To get a truly GREAT project you have to have client buy-in.  It’s ultimately, their new headquarters, home, office suite, church, retail center, etc.  We feel this buy-in starts at the beginning.  We help our clients develop a vision, strategy, and create a perceived scope of work.  While that is typical throughout the industry, what often happens is architects stick a design in front of a client after this point and just expect them to be happy with their design.  

And if the client doesn’t…the architect takes OFFENSE.  

Let’s step back and look at this more closely.  The client came to us for help developing an idea and vision they had.  Shouldn’t that mean we do everything in our power to deliver a project that captures THAT essence AND provide quality design?! 

You could design the best looking building in town-but if it doesn’t capture the heart of the client-it’s all for naught.   

This is where collaboration comes in.  Our view on collaboration is radically different.  To most architect’s they feel they collaborate with every client.  But our past experiences show that this superficial “collaboration” is just that.  To this end we truly believe that every client should have a chance to have their voice heard so that they ultimately get the project they want. 

We check any ego we have at the door; as it’s just not right for the client to go into a meeting with us thinking we have the only answer.  We want the feedback, criticism, and comments on anything we set before a client.  Why?? Because every thing that comes out of design meetings can either be discarded or closely examined to see if it’s a good viable solution to a problem.  We want our clients to leave a meeting feeling like they helped design their vision.  This creates an engaged client whose heart is truly in the project.

But our collaboration doesn’t stop with just the client.  We truly believe in the contractors we choose to be a part of our projects.  We’ve built buildings with them, seen how they operate,  know the quality of their work, and most importantly we know which contractors are up for collaborating with us to ensure the client gets the project they ultimately are dreaming for!  Once a project goes into budgeting and construction, we want to maintain a great relationship with our contractors.  That means our timeliness in responding to questions, field visits, and all the paperwork that comes in a construction contract. 

Ultimately we prefer to work with a chosen contractor early on in the design process. This helps the client with cost control and we can work within the parameters the contractor has budgeted out.  This means no surprises when the bids come in as the client knows up front what they are looking at.  As the contractor is ultimately responsible for building the building-doesn’t it make sense for them to be involved from an early stage?  This means they know the plans inside and out before the project ever goes to bid. 

We are working to bridge the divide between the contractor and us. 

Finally, collaboration isn’t just between the client and the contractor.  It’s between US.  Our firm operates differently in that we do collaborate and listen to each other’s ideas.  We have an office full of creative, and intelligent people.  It would be foolish not to seriously listen to their ideas, concerns, and suggestions!  This helps in multiple ways. 

We ALL as a firm feel ownership in every project we put out the door.  This keeps everyone motivated and excited about the next project to hit their desks.  Knowing that they are doing more than drafting improves buy-in at an emotional level.  Our firm collaboration and cross checking each other’s work also leads to a tighter set of plans heading into construction.  By keeping everyone in the loop on every project it also makes us flexible in terms of taking leads, questions, and meetings as we have multiple people with working knowledge of each project.  At the end of the day we want everyone in our company to feel pride in the work they are doing and have true satisfaction in knowing that EVERYONE helped to get a project out the door. 

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