Designing Relationships: The Art of Collaboration in Architecture

Designing Relationships: The Art of Collaboration in Architecture
by Andrew Pressman, FAIA
New York City, Routledge
2014, 120 pages, hardback $170, paperback $34.95

PressmanAndrew Pressman is at it again. The author of Designing Architecture: The Elements of Process and The Fountainhead-Ache, in which he explored the relationships between clients and architects, now focuses his attention on interdisciplinary relationships in the very complex processes that go into creating architecture.

At the outset, Designing Relationships lays down the conundrum Pressman has set out to unravel: “it is the careful nurturing of comradeship among complementary but distinctive egos that drives creativity underlying the hi-tech algorithms that help shape complex projects.”

Having taught architecture and practiced throughout his career, Pressman brings a methodical and learned approach to his presentation. Along with many quotations to make his points palatable—from AIA Gold Medalist and teaming guru William Caudill to comedian John Cleese—Pressman hews close to reality with constant references to design and construction teams that worked very well together on well-recognized projects and some that did not.

In very short work (barely 100 pages), Designing Relationships brings forth a heartening look at the future of architects, engineers, landscape architects, interior designers, and constructors working through commonly understood, mutual goals, by communicating effectively and using an array of tools, such as building information modeling (BIM)—a whole chapter is devoted to BIM—correctly. And lest one begins to believe that this book is just a string of platitudes (as was the preceding sentence), here are Pressman’s 11 principles of collaboration. They are intentionally provocative, in that each sounds counter-intuitive, but once you’ve read through to this book’s conclusion, you will see why they are not.

  1. Do not automatically trust your fellow team members.
  2. Malignant narcissism is important for effective teamwork.
  3. Work independently to collaborate better.
  4. Bad ideas are essential.
  5. Teamwork can dilute powerful ideas.
  6. Effective teamwork is significant independent of technology and tools.
  7. The best leadership is plastic, not necessarily transparent.
  8. Personality can be misleading in selecting an optimal collaborative team.
  9. Great design can be achieved as much by an individual as by a collaborative effort.
  10. A great team could be characterized as one big unhappy dysfunctional family.
  11. Collaborate with your fiercest competition.
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