Session 02: Entrepreneurship + Management

Date: March 19, 2021
Location: Virtual
Led by: Charlotte Fleishel, Assoc. AIA | Studio Twenty Seven Architecture; Micheal Holliday, RIBA, RIAS, International Assoc. AIA | Balodemas Architect
Session Downloads: CKLDP 2021 Session 02 Entrepreneurship + Management

Architecture, Entrepreneurship + Management in Different Contexts

Luanne Greene, FAIA, LEED AP -President at Ayers Saint Gross

Christine M. Hurt, CPA, MBA -CEO at Ayers Saint Gross

During the first presentation, Luanne Greene and Christine Hurt described how Ayers Saint Gross, a 102 year old firm transitioned into becoming an ESOP recently. Some of the key goals behind the shift were separating the employees’ leadership and ownership trajectory in order to allow all to become shareholders, and being able to benefit from the multiple advantages an ESOP offers.

The financial benefits include a productivity rate growth 50% faster and revenue growth 2-4% faster than non-ESOP models. Luanne and Christine believe the success of their implementation is due to their employee engagement program.

Gregg Pasquarelli, AIA -Founding Principal at SHoP Architects

Gregg Pasquarelli discussed the importance of academia and service firms, leading to the both/and concept of SHoP Architects. After discussing the typical project players and relationships, Gregg emphasized how SHoP Architects is structured differently in order to avoid the cycle of mediocrity and create a new relationship between the architect, developer, and lender. SHoP determined that the architects contribute more intellectually and in doing so, need to take more risk for that and thus also receive a higher reward. To help mitigate the risk from contractors with this unconventional and innovative approach to detailing and constructing a building, a SHoP architect is typically onsite full time during construction.

The Research and Development aspect of SHoP pushed the way of thinking to visualize the way things go together before the creation of BIM. Pasquarelli discussed the creation of an app used to see how the pieces go together as well as the finished building on site through the application’s camera both prior to and under construction and the advantages it provided to the construction team as well as city approvers. He also showed photos and discussed the process of fabricating all pieces of a project off-site and having IKEA-esque pieces that all fit together with no saw required on site ever. Pasquarelli explained that having more design freedom to laser cut all of the panels, have an architectural detailing be the instruction set versus a typical construction set, and operate under their current design model is possible because they are also fully invested in the project whether it succeeds or fails. Gregg discussed multiple projects that were part of the both/and concept such as the Uber Headquarters, 9 Dekalb, and Barclays Arena. SHoP Architects has proven that the model does succeed, and their design and construction approach has beaten market comps, been extremely precise, led to growth of the firm, and continues to test and prove the capabilities of new software.

The Power of an Employee-Owned Architecture Practice

David Montalba, FAIA, SIA -Founding Principal at Montalba Architects

Barry Yoakum, FAIA, LEED AP -Co-Partner and Principal-in-Charge of Vision and Collaboration at archimania

Claire Weisz, FAIA -Principal-in-Charge at WXY architecture + urban design

A panel discussion with David Montalba, FAIA, SIA, Barry Yoakum, FAIA, LEED AP, and Claire Weisz, FAIA was moderated by scholars Charlotte Fleishel, Assoc. AIA and Micheal Holliday, RIBA, RIAS, International Assoc. AIA. The panel focused on four aspects of firm management –growth, location, leadership, and business operations. Each panelist gave an overview of their firm and discussed how they started their practice. Claire emphasized the importance of reacting quickly and that not all projects are glamorous, but they can turn into another project so do not turn down an opportunity because of the label. Similarly, David discussed the importance of making lemonade out of lemons and in terms of growth, it is important to create the right environment and that a practice is bigger than just the people in the office –it is community wide and building the right relationships is important because architecture is a team sport. Barry’s advice and experience regarding growth was to do it slow and purposefully because location and market are the biggest factors. He also emphasized the importance of keeping archimania scalable, meaning that it is big enough to get any kind of job, but small enough to be mobile and still connected to people and clients.

As the panel shifted toward leadership, the ability to think quickly and take responsibility were common themes as the panelists reflected on what skills have contributed to their success as leaders. Claire dove further into the need to be responsive and not delay. Simultaneously, she also emphasized the need to slow things down to understand the real issue which she feels is necessary of a good leader because an architect needs to help people do their best work and understanding the real issues is critical to that. David’s approach was focused on responsibility and the importance of setting the expectation and caliber of design and excellence. He emphasized that it is important not to tiptoe around things that are not up to par because we all need to be critical of our value to clients, projects, and our work in order to do great work. Barry discussed the idea that people want leaders, not managers and a person becomes a leader when they can say “I don’t know” and “I’m sorry” especially to clients and associates. He also highlighted the importance of reinforcing the good and bad right when it happens.

The scholars participated in a Q&A session and dialogue with the panelists and were very appreciative for the openness and thought-provoking discussion..

Architecture, Entrepreneurship & Management in Different Contexts

Katie Swenson -Senior Principal at MASS Design

Albeit an architectural firm, MASS Design has a very different modus operandi -it is a non-profit that only works with organizations and partners to help amplify their missions. Katie shared projects the company has completed in Rwanda and in the US, and described multiple ways in which the design and construction impact into the community being affected by the project arean integral part of their process.

Based on core values of Good/Clean/Fair Design, they propose a shift in thinking from ‘What a building’ is to ‘What a building can do’. MASS gets involved in all phases from Vision, Planning, Design, Construction and Evaluation & Research for their projects.