Thursday, February 20, 2014

Leadership and Trust

By Phil Mevert

            Reading “Leadership By Design: Creating an Architect of Trust” by Richard N. Swett, FAIA, and assessing the building community through community engagement and connection to leadership and trust the following article results.
            The merging of place making and architecture by the design firm of Freedman Tung & Bottomley (FTB) is an excellent example of leadership and trust building in the design profession. FTB working primarily with city planning and design has more city regulations to deal with on during the design process than what is common in building design.  Some of the requirements are to have city representatives involved more involved in the design process. Luckily for FTB, involving the city is a standard practice on jobs, as is getting the general public involved for design suggestion and to inform them of what is being proposed. FTB showed to be good servant leaders by showing and giving citizens expert advice in planning and assist and represents them before official bodies at communal and state level.  By doing this it showed characteristics of Awareness, Persuasion, Receptive listening, Commitment to the growth of people and Building of community among those who work together. 
            FTB worked hard at building a bridge of trust with their clients through their unique approach to the design process. One of the biggest motivators for FTB is their love for creating great cities and beautiful places.  A main goal was to create new memorable synthesis. Part of the design process was working with local character (architecture, urbanism and landscape).  As part of involving the community and to educate both the general public and public officials, FTB would how a series of workshops with several weeks between them.  This gave the public an opportunity to have input on the design and planning, as well as, voice their opinions.  Public officials who attend become more informed of the project, allowing for better decision making.

            With the process that FTB takes on their projects, with the community involvement in the early stages, it allows for the technical drawing potion of the design process to be relatively freed of distraction and most likely reduces the chance of having major changes to the design late in the process.  Some of the ideas of FTB’s design process are becoming a standard in the design process for many designers and if they are not then they should be.  The best way to gain a client’s trust is to make them feel as if they are making a difference and the right decision with the changes that are being made.  One approach to achieve this is to get the client involved in the design early in the process.  For FTB this was accomplished by having the public workshop series, this allowed officials and general public to be informed of the changes and voice their opinions how the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of the proposed design.  Given the work that FTB was doing, a larger portion of the public would be effected by their design, so having the large public design workshops was the best approach to achieve their desired results of client input.  In the case for having a somewhat more direct client, such as a school, the approach might change slightly.  For a school client the workshops could be with a select group of students or faculty, so that they would be able to voice what they would like to have in their new building.  The United Kingdom has used this approach with school design on a few occasions and has had great success with it.  With this approach the client develops great trust, by feeling that their needs and desires were being listened to. The most rewarding achievement an Architect can achieve is the trust of their clients.

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