Future roles for architects: an academic design guide
‘Future Roles for Architects’ describes the core insights from a research project into new role structures in the Dutch architectural sector, conducted as part of the futurA project on “future value chains of architectural services”. For four years a joint team from Delft University of Technology and Radboud University in Nijmegen, working in close collaboration with BNA, the Royal Institute of Dutch Architects, studied the future of the professional roles performed by architectural firms within the broader construction process.
FuturA was one of 23 projects funded by NWO, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, in 2013 as part of the CLICK.NL programme, to strengthen knowledge about and innovation in the creative sector. The objective of this particular project was to better understand changes to the architectural profession arising out of ongoing social trends and the recent financial crisis, as well as to expose opportunities for the future. I believe that we have accomplished that mission very well.
Our professional consortium made up of De Zwarte Hond, EGM Architects, IAA Architects, JHK Architecten, Rothuizen, Ballast Nedam, Havensteder and the Studio of the Chief Government Architect (Atelier Rijksbouwmeester) has been of inestimable value. Twice a year, they helped us to critically examine our findings in “living lab” sessions against their own experiences in leading their own firms and in cooperating with partners in the building sector.
The members of the consortium and various other industry players were also generous in allowed us to gather data in their organisations. In line with the vision behind CLICK.NL — collaboration between curious researchers and entrepreneurial creative professionals — we have really invested jointly in knowledge and innovation to build a strong economy and a sustainable society. For me personally, this has been a most pleasant and inspiring process. I am therefore convinced that we will continue to work together beyond the duration of this project to enhance the innovative capability of the Dutch creative industry.
The architect “as entrepreneur” has long been a largely neglected topic in research on the construction industry. Thankfully, entrepreneurship has now become an accepted concept within the architectural sector. The Royal Institute of Dutch Architects (BNA), for example, has developed many activities in this field. As a team, we are extremely proud of the enthusiasm with which our PhD students Marina Bos-de Vos and Bente Lieftink have foraged for scientific understanding amidst the forest of interesting practical examples and personal experiences in their respective areas of expertise. As a result of their efforts, we have not only been able to gather solid know-how about the creation and capture of professional, financial and use value, but also gained a good understanding of the various role structures within the construction supply chain, as well as the consolidation of changes to them.
This academic design guide for the architectural firm of the future is one of the products of our research. As well as providing theoretical insights into the architectural firm itself and into project collaboration in general, we present four practical role identities that architectural firms can take on within the construction process: “initiator”, “specialist”, “product developer” and “integrator”. The board game with cards accompanying this publication can be used in a variety of ways to stimulate collective reflection about the direction you as a firm want to take with a particular project and about which revenue models and collaborative strategies are best suited to that trajectory.
For each role identity, we present the most crucial professional challenges and opportunities facing the architectural firm as part of the supply chain. This should enable you to design your own role within a given project. But with that our task is complete. From here, it is up to you as a reader of this book and a player of the game to translate the lessons you learn into financially and professionally sustainable roles as an architect of the future.