As originally seen on The Designated Sketcher
This past weekend, I traveled to the ENYA Future Now Summit to gather with fellow architecture professionals and hopefuls. The goal of the event focused on the future of the profession and how emerging professionals in the field can shape upcoming challenges, future iterations and harness the potential of a coming paradigm shift. That shift is personified in the additional layers of social media, digital representation, marketing, etc. that will be required to be successful in the current turbulent environment.
Based on its location, New York City, it was not a surprise that a number of design heavyweights were present to discuss ideas, offer opinions and inform on how to best take advantage of the tools before us. This delivery came in a couple different forms: The Keynote speech, the panel discussion, the intimate mentoring meeting, and finally in a group charrette. Each has its own benefit and flaws, but what I thought was going to be most captivating was the collection of industry giants kickin’ knowledge. So, as I sat in the audience with my equivalent of a coach class reservation, I waited with baited breath as each brand name gave their past accomplishments, qualifications and offered their opinions with varying degrees of focus.
While their ideas alone were sparks meant to ignite discussion, I felt that there was little follow up between the panelists and the audience to get a sense of agreement. As a running theme, one panelist would offer an opinion, a second would chime in with a different stance, yet nothing was defended, vetted or debated. It was as if they were dictating their response without actually reacting to the questions that had already been raised. In response I decided to run a series of posts dedicated to expounding on each idea from my own perspective. These ideas are meant to incite, conjure and engage, so please respond with thoughts!
Idea One: Value Added Service
David Fano was the sharp business mind in this discussion and I thought he really nailed the idea of the Valued Added Service (V.A.S.). He even gave a very relatable scenario that we all should be familiar with. That was as follows: Get to know your client, their personal business model or reason for choosing an architect and offer advice on how their future space can be the most effective it can be. That can come in the form of an efficient design for how a couple lives or how to maximize revenue potential for a retail client. The idea is all about VAS because that is something that they can’t get elsewhere and certainly not without paying for it.
Architecture is an elective service industry and clients have choices when they decide to take on a project. I think we can all agree that good design can lead to a healthier lifestyle, but that idea is still undervalued by the general public. Many potential clients believe they can either; Do it Themselves, have a contractor design a solution, or do the bare minimum (aka find a plan stamper) to just “get a permit”. This is quite an unappealing and, truthfully, unacceptable reality. It not only takes money off of the table for the design profession, but it sets a standard of design-less spaces.
As civic leaders who shape our built environment, our expertise should put us in the unique position to convey our value. Tangible worth is possible with good design & proper specifications because it leads to healthier living, more efficient buildings, and cost effective solutions. Once clients realize our potential to offer additional value, involving an architect in matters of design should be synonymous as legal representation in court or professional medical service at a hospital. For that standard to be possible though, it starts with VAS, and making sure that if a client has a problem (design or not), we go to the lengths to solve it.
Visiting Critic is a continuing series of thought provoking observations from architectural insider Jeffrey Pastva - Editor in Chief at YAF Connection, Communications Director for the AIA National Young Architects Forum and a Project Architect at JDavis in Philadelphia. His critical eye will cover everything from the state of architectural education to the future fate of the profession. Expect ideas in your inbox bi-weekly.