On Thursday, December 1, the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) hosted the 15th annual Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA) Discourse. Akin to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in the U.S., RIBA is a professional organization supporting architects in the U.K. and abroad.
This year’s discourse invited four New England area speakers to take on the topic, Change: Creating opportunity from external challenges. “The purpose of this year’s discourse was to start discussing how architects have and will have to alter the way we practice in order to survive as a profession,” says Debbie Bentley, co-chair of RIBA NE and board member of RIBA. “I was inspired by both the presentations and the robust conversation we had following. It certainly is an interesting time to practice.”
Presenters spoke to the RIBA’s prompt:
The year 2016 could be referred to as the year of change. Across the world, the political status quo is being challenged and altered. Architects are trained to analyze and come up with possible scenarios to answer the “What if?” question. However, the AEC industry overall can be slow to respond, and it is questionable if the profession of architecture has adapted enough to recent changes in the way cities, suburbs, and buildings are being developed and procured. The profession globally is under threat and fees are stagnant while the risks increase, yet architecture of the few disciplines that can help combat the effects of climate change. Architects are desperately needed in the world, so why are they not considered valuable, and what can be done to change that?
Each designer gave a short presentation on a topic of their choice, offering perspectives on trends in the profession and an array of recommendations on how to adapt:
The Brain, the Lobster, and the Pie
Frank Mruk FAIA, RIBA, NY Center for Strategic Innovation Founder
Originally titled, “Disrupting Deprofessionalization with Design” Mruk examined this very topic through the lens of memorable metaphors. He drew upon his background in financial strategy, architectural practice, and academia to examine how we can use the brain to compete more strategically, learn from the lobster who sheds its shell to grow, and capture a larger piece of the AEC pie as designers.
Building Resilience: Diversification Strategies in the Design Industry
Pablo Buteler-Savid, LEED AP, Sasaki Managing Principal
In the years since the Great Recession of 2007-2009, Savid as a leader of a mid-sized global design firm, led a shift from contingency planning to notions of resilience, adaptability, and relevance. Looking toward the future of design, Savid details how the practice embraced new strategies in leadership transition, diversifying at all levels, branding, making and rapid-prototyping, forging new partnerships, and exploring alternate business models to move beyond fee-for-service.
The Making of MAKETANK: An Intersection of Architecture, Fabrication, and New Technologies
Brad Prestbo, Sasaki Senior Associate and founder of the BSA MAKETANK
Making is re-emerging not just as a craft movement but a critical input into architectural design, allowing designers to explore materiality, construction feasibility, and the outer bounds of technological integration. Founded in July, the BSA MakeTank convenes a group of local “Tankers,” designers, fabricators, and technologists interested in experimenting through rapid prototyping and refinement together, unified in a belief that the marriage of architecture and fabrication will unveil new frontiers for design.
2016: the Year Everything Changed?
Debbie Bentley co-chair of RIBA NE and board member of RIBA
In the context of recent and impending political upheavals in the U.K. and U.S. Bentley calls for architects on both sides of the pond to take on the big challenges of the day as change agents who are equipped to problem solve on a larger scale. Bentley invites individual professionals to work together on improving reciprocity between designers in the U.S. and U.K., improve education on the business of architecture and design, develop platforms for knowledge sharing, and foster leadership for the architectural profession globally. Bentley believes that designers cannot await RFPs from governmental agencies to solve major issues of our time.
The evening was inspiring and thought-provoking. Following the formal presentations, the audience stayed on for another 45 lively minutes delving into the ideas presented and venturing into other territories. Given the success of the discourse, RIBA and BSA are looking for future opportunities to engage in dialogue. More details to come.
The RIBA, its 40,000 worldwide members and its practices are the collective voice of architecture. We work together to enhance and promote the architectural profession and to champion good design the world over. We also work to influence UK government policy and legislation that impacts on the profession