This year’s masters candidates at the Yale School of Architecture finished a design studio co-taught by architects and developers. The studio is a strange mix given the sometimes contentious relationship between the two disciplines. Throw in the tendency of academic studios to focus on design explorations that ignore the limits of reality and the architect collaboratively teaching with a developer verges on the surreal.
The architects and developer in this situation are Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Christoffersen of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and developer Douglas Durst of the Durst Organization. BIG and Durst are currently collaborating on a 600 unit apartment building on Manhattan’s West 57th Street. Ingels and Durst presented the studio as a way for students about to enter the practice to create designs within the real constraints of construction and finance.
But taking a class from a starchitect who was hired by a design friendly developer isn’t exactly presenting real life constraints of architectural practice. Ingels has the luxury of working with a developer who values his international design cachet. More often, developer-led projects treat design and the designers as afterthoughts.
Learning about the finances behind realizing a built project is a good idea but it’s not new. A real twist would be developers taking a class on the value of design beyond how to create cookie cutter buildings with identical, stodgy marble covered lobbies that can be picked up and placed in cities across the country. A real innovation in the relationship between designers and developers would be discussing that design makes someone choose one space that costs $2-$4 a square foot in rent over another.
Architects don’t need more classes in calculating the value of buildings based on cost per square foot. Architects need to learn how to talk about design in a way that people understand and to convey the value of well designed spaces.
Image: Andreas Levers flickr