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Monday, June 26, 2017


Diagramming the Architect-Developer Roles

One piece of advice I give to architecture students who are required to do a capstone thesis project like I was in 2010, is to do something they can leverage in their career after they graduate. For me, exploring the model of Architect as Developer for my thesis and going through the process of proposing a development that featured both a building design and pro-forma has proven to be an incredibly valuable resource 7+ years later with the relationships, mindset and reference materials that came out of that exercise.
Revisiting my 'Architect as Developer: A model for Triple Top Line Development' document recently to see how my academic assumptions translated to professional realities, I was pleasantly surprised to see how accurate several of my diagrams were in illustrating the differences I observed between a traditional architect and architect-developer in the building process. Below are three of these diagrams along with some additional context and commentary that have proven true from my experience working in both worlds.
Development Process and Architect Involvement Diagram: The diagram below illustrates the fact that many of the major design decisions for buildings take place before the architect even joins the project. Traditional architects are seldom consulted about building location, size, or use, and the assumptions that developers make about the budgets tend to determine the structural systems and materials used. As a result, the scope of responsibility for architects is often limited to the translation of other people's decisions into technical drawings. This is not the case for architect-developers however, as the ownership of capital entitles them to authority over all design decisions from the beginning of the concept phase, all the way through the end of construction.
Architect and Architect-Developer Role Diagram: The lower left-hand diagram shows the traditional relationship between architect, contractor and client, whereas the lower right-hand diagram shows the architect-developer relationship where the architect plays the central role in all decision making. The architect-developer still relies on different trades to help finance, build, and manage projects, but everything is coordinated through the designer from the start of design to the final certificate of occupancy. The buck stops with the architect-developer, and as a result, he or she is accountable for all aspects of every job.
Traditional and Architect-Developer Team Organizational Charts: The following charts created as supplements to the role diagrams provide more in-depth looks at the different players involved in the development process and where traditional architects and architect-developers find themselves within these constructs. I found these charts to be especially effective in illustrating the importance (or lack there of) that traditional architects tend to have in developer driven projects.