Chris Groesbeck | On Process

“Architecture is one of the most collaborative processes that we engage in in our culture and societies.”

Architecture is often represented as a finished product, but it is the people and the process that are most important to design. This series profiles a variety of architects and designers across markets engaging in a conversation about the design of process. Architects must consciously design a process that celebrates input from diverse stakeholder groups—which may include clients, end-users, contractors, developers and the wider community. [Interview by Dana Taylor]

A collaborative process

Building client trust is essential throughout the design process. While the architect is hired based on experience, technical expertise, and knowledge of the market, the client knows more about their own business. It’s important to understand what you don’t know—this type of transparent communication with the client builds trust, creating an understanding that lays the groundwork for the potential of the project. The client should trust that you understand who they are—not just as a brand, but their true identity. Successful projects depend on a partnership that develops through the initial design stages.

It’s the architect’s role to interpret and question the client’s idea in order to thoroughly understand it. What is the client really asking you? For example, if the project is a museum, the central idea may be to create a center of culture, not just a place to showcase a great art collection. These questions come from a genuine interest in defining the central problem statement. Throughout this process, partnership is critical. Architecture is one of the most collaborative processes in which we engage in our culture and society.

ChrisStudio

Developing a language

In the early stages of a project, a program is developed that quantifies the client’s needs. This is an important guideline, but it is an abstraction. The process must be driven by an intelligent and open analysis of the program to establish a clear problem statement. This becomes the basis for the design process. Our approach must look beyond traditional approaches and anticipate the future which changes more rapidly than ever before. We must always try to be ahead of this change.

The design process must consider function first and foremost. This includes everyone who’s affected by program. We consider the user, we do so in terms of interaction, relationship, and context. How do the pieces fit together? What patterns of behavior define the pieces, and what spatial relationships will support these behaviors? Architecture is not a process of developing form but a process of developing meaning.

Architecture, like poetry, music, and art has a language which expresses ideas and purpose. This language must be coherent and speak to every aspect of the project. It also implies how we resolve planning on all scales of the project. It drives every aspect of what we do. Ultimately, this is our our contribution to the community.

The architect’s role

This is all part of the skill set the architect brings to the table, along with an inquisitive disposition and a future-focused outlook. It is the architect’s responsibility to understand the market and partner with the client in order to understand their business and vision. The trust built through the design process results in a successful partnership and that makes innovation possible. We must respect the opinions of everyone involved to challenge our own ideas and also think about the long-term consequences of any proposed plan. No one has sole possession of the truth; we can only empty our preconceptions and be open to discovering it together.

 

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