April 25, 2013
Expanding the Scope of Architectural Thinking
A crowd of 200 assembled for the first panel in a series called Changing Architecture
On Monday night, a crowd of 200 assembled at a construction site in Harlem for the first panel in a series called “Changing Architecture.” The discussion, moderated by Metropolis editor-in-chief Susan S. Szenasy, focused on the need for architects to develop a wider skill set that will enable them to take a more involved role in the building process of their projects. Among the evening’s panelists was Peter Gluck, founder and principal at the firm Gluck+. He is a strong believer in architects getting their hands dirty at the construction site, working with communities, and being held responsible for a project coming in on budget. He remarked that “Architectural thinking is seen as a luxury item not relevant to the real needs of the development process…Architects need to acquire multi-faceted knowledge and accept previously shunned responsibilities in order to change this perception.”
Design-build firms like Gluck+ have established successful practices by creating teams of skilled architects who have a firm grasp of making a building and everything that goes with it—a deep understanding of how their designs will be made by the craftsmen and builders involved. By utilizing this knowledge and following their work through the entire building process, the firm can ensure that the quality and cost of the finished building is in keeping with the needs of the developer and the surrounding community. The panel was held at the Malt House, an upper-Manhattan factory undergoing conversion into a mixed use space. The location proved to be an illustrative venue for the conversation. Scott Metzner, principal at Janus Property, which is developing the site, spoke on the importance of collaboration between developer, community, and architect. Such a collaboration, he said, “has produced architectural and master-planning solutions that… meet the requisite real world needs of the community, the various government agencies, and the leasing market.” There is a precious little work that brings this type of collaboration and broad knowledge to the forefront. More frequently, the assumption is that once the designs have been completed, the work of the architect has ended. Yet if architectural thinking is to play a significant role in the process of urban development, it is important to keep architecture grounded in the actual world it inhabits – as design balanced with the community, budgets, and the building process.
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Photos courtesy Gluck+
Brian Bruegge is an undergraduate student at Fordham University, majoring in communications and media studies, and history. He also studies visual arts and environmental policy, and has previously written for several other websites and publications on a range of topics.