Taubman College

College Events / Special Events

Symposium: Advancing Architectural Praxis

Architectural practice, and its affiliated practices, habits, rituals, and conventions, can collectively be referred to as "architectural praxis." The cognitive dimension of architectural thinking – never fully realized by mere building or the representation of technological processes of building production – must now be more integrated with the underlying logics of other disciplines such as industrial design, urban planning, real estate development, and engineering to name a few. How receptive are these disciplines to incorporating architectural thinking? Is the architect a political agent, provocateur, or service provider? How are architectural practices changing to meet global, technological, and cultural demands? How does the rise of the megafirm and other strategic partnerships allow firms to take greater risks?

As part of Taubman College's questioning of the present predicaments facing the profession and discipline of architecture, Advancing Architectural Praxis is an inauguration of an upcoming series that will explore the opportunities for the discipline.

Event details:
March 26, 2011 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
University of Michigan Museum of Art
Helmut Stern Auditorium
525 S. State St. Ann Arbor, MI

The event was free and open to the public.

To watch all of the presentations: vimeo.com/album/1583631/

Architectural Praxis Gallery

Symposium Program

8:45 am – 9:30 am Networking Breakfast Reception
9:30 am – 9:40 am Opening Remarks:
Monica Ponce de Leon, Dean, Taubman College
9:40 am – 9:45 am Introduction:
Milton S. F. Curry, Associate Dean, Taubman College
9:45 am – 11:15 am Presentations:

Shawn Rickenbacker
Partner, Rickenbacker + Leung Architects, New York

Claire Weisz
Partner, WXY Architects + Urban Design, New York

Gregg Pasquarelli
Principal, SHOP Architects / SHoP Construction, New York

William Gustafson
President / CEO, Ballinger Architects and Engineers, Philadelphia

Marianne McKenna
Partner, KPMB Architects, Toronto

Ben Uyeda
Chief Architectural Officer, FreeGreen, Boston
11:15 am – 11:30 am Break / Refreshments
11:30 am – 12:45 pm Discussion Moderated By Milton S. F. Curry
With Presenters, and Discussants

Howard F. Sims
Partner, SDG Associates, Detroit / Atlanta

Catherine Seavitt Nordenson
Principal, Catherine Seavitt Studio, New York

Ed Schulak
President, ES Equities LLC, Birmingham, Michigan
12:45 pm – 1:15 pm Open Discussion With Audience Participation
1:15 pm – 1:20 pm Closing Remarks
John McMorrough, Chair Architecture, Taubman College

Symposium Themes

Architectural practice, and its affiliated practices, habits, rituals, and conventions, can collectively be referred to as "architectural praxis." As part of Taubman College's questioning of the present predicaments facing the profession and discipline of architecture, Advancing Architectural Praxis is an inauguration of an upcoming series that will explore the opportunities for the discipline.

Interdisciplinarity

The cognitive dimension of architectural thinking – never fully realized by mere building or the representation of technological processes of building production – can now be more integrated with the underlying logics of other disciplines such as industrial design, urban planning, real estate development, and engineering to name a few. How receptive are these disciplines to incorporating architectural thinking? Is the architect a political agent, provocateur, or service provider?

Economic Cyclicality

As the economic downturn that started in 2008 continues, what lessons are to be learned for the profession of architecture. How do real estate and economic cycles effect the profitability and the types of commissions that you engage in your firm? In the mid 1970's, Kohn Pedersen Fox was founded in the midst of a recession. Are economic downturns a propitious time to consider radical changes in the way that one practices? Does the current downturn present an opportune time to forge new strategic alliances or partnerships?

Technology and Collaboration

As technology continues to dominate the discussion of how architecture is produced, what is the most significant alteration in your firm's protocols of practice that have changed as a result of your adoption of a particular technological tool? Has the sprint towards more efficiency, more quantifiable metrics of sustainability, and more sophisticated material choices been good for the profession? Is the profession relying too much on technology to wreak out efficiencies, or is "efficiency" the wrong metric to begin with? If so, what would be your firm's metric be for evaluating the quality of the work produced?

Urbanization

As urbanization takes hold globally, and as alternative forms of urbanization and suburbanization emerge, what is your take on the individual building's role in new cities, old cities, and cities undergoing large-scale revitalization? How does your firm deal with the vast cultural differences within the United States and globally – does this matter in considering the diversity of your workforce and consultants, and in being educated about customs and cultures different from your own?

Megafirm, Boutique Practice, Critical Practice

As the size and scale of architecture firms changes, there seems to be a movement towards the so-called "megafirm" with broad capabilities in architecture, engineering, in-house consultant expertise, and exclusive strategic partnerships. Does the megafirm model present problems for smaller firms? Are there really "economies of scale" in the profession, or are these artificial attempts to align architecture with other professions in which there are economies of scale? How large do you want your firm to be and why? How do you take into consideration economic cyclicality, ethical treatment of employees, and cost management in deciding on an appropriate size for your firm?