Team Building in the Age of BIM

April 1, 2014
Andrew Pressman’s new book offers a tipsheet for how to collaborate more effectively. Hint: BIM is not the magic bullet.

Contrary to the long-glamorized Howard Roark model, architecture is a team sport. But getting a team to work together seamlessly can be a challenge. In his book, Designing Relationships: The Art of Collaboration in Architecture, Andrew Pressman, FAIA, argues that effective collaboration is a prerequisite for good design work. Pressman, a professor emeritus at the University of New Mexico and a lecturer at the University of Maryland, runs his own architectural practice in Washington, D.C. In his book—a brisk read at 120 pages—he offers tips and tricks about how to inspire the best creative give-and-take from any team.

Berg: The message of your book is pretty straightforward—collaboration is important. Do architects need to be reminded of this?

Pressman: Absolutely. Collaboration may be messy—and it’s a challenge to do it well—but both design and productivity can be improved. I think innovative practice, creative ways of delivering services and discovering new practice opportunities is now part of the mix with innovative design, and collaboration is an essential means to achieve both.

There’s a reason why architects have been inherently non-collaborative. Architecture schools have promoted a subculture in which graduates spend their careers working as heroic, solitary, isolated designers. And then there’s also the traditional way projects are procured and delivered—the design-bid-build delivery method—in which the architect and contractor are natural adversaries. The tension between the parties is intended to be part of the system of checks and balances.

But in the current practice environment, a completely different mindset is required, with all stakeholders working together for the good of the project. That’s easy to say but not so easy to do.