Fresh ideas about design
The design community is overwrought with certain buzzwords. Among them are the terms Collaboration, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Academic institutions are in a race to develop programs and build new spaces that foster all three. But a few moveable tables and comfortable lounge seats do not an entrepreneur make.
I’ve had the tremendous opportunity to work with true entrepreneurs. These are people who, in many cases, have put their entire lives on the line to pursue their ideas and dreams. They’ve invented ground breaking drugs (AVID Radiopharmaceuticals), created innovative new devices (Invisible Sentinel and Pacific Edge), saved lives through their research (Integral Molecular), and devised new technologies to make the world a safer place (ipConfigure). They are clients who have incubated and commercialized their concepts into successful ventures. And in almost all cases, these are clients with impossibly strained budgets; they are at the point where they need a space to advance their concepts but do not yet have the capital to do so. Despite their small size and limited means, entrepreneurial projects are often the most rewarding.
The joy comes through working with clients who have a personal stake in their project. Unlike large corporations or academic institutions, entrepreneurial clients demand a hands-on approach because it is critically important to the success of their venture. A poorly designed space can hamper workflow, detract potential investors, or worse yet, cause an environmental situation that makes the development of their product impossible. A well-designed space can foster creativity without users being conscious of the “architecture” behind it. Furthermore, the excitement of a start-up company is contagious. The stakes are high, but the possibilities are endless. Like the first few dates of a new relationship, it is impossible to know where the path may lead. Could the next Fortune 500 company be among us?
The challenge comes in working with users who have never designed a commercial facility before. Buildings are inherently complex, and science and technology facilities even more so. Add in users who have to manage staff and clients of their own while simultaneously being asked to think about such mundane details as drawer configurations or exhaust snorkel diameters and the challenges can become compounded. But alas, this is where architects can shine! Just as an architect may not understand the science behind their clients’ work, it is impossible to expect an entrepreneur to understand all of the systems and infrastructure supporting their new facility. The key is to ask the right questions, focus on the essentials, and come prepared with a vision that meets their needs. Tools such as 3D modeling aid in this task.
In the end, the success of a project can be measured in many ways. A happy client never hurts. But receiving a phone call 10 months later asking about the potential for an expansion of their facility is even better.
Sustainability is fundamentally about having the humility to use only what we need, live within our means, and let the specific climate and ecosystem of our region inform our daily lives. It lies in the humble acknowledgement of mistakes, and the sacrifice to change our way of life.
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"I can imagine Western State Penitentiary becoming a mixed-use development (along an extended light rail that goes to the airport!) that could include housing, hospitality, cultural uses, and community functions." - Larry Fabbroni
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