Method Acting and Architecture


Method acting is a method developed by Stanilasvski in which an actor liferally tries to become the person he/she is trying to portray.

There are certain market sectors in the architecture industry- namely those where “branding” is important (ex. retail, hospitality, banking) - where the architectural firm itself starts to embody certain business attributes and aspects of the client culture or brand of its clientele. In essence, the architecture firm almost becomes the client while bringing in its design expertise. To some, this may be the most successful example of listening and responding to client needs. To others (like me) however, I see it as a transformation from a design practice to a faux-branch of the usually corporate entity it is serving. 

My question:

Does listening and internalization of client needs (especially to repeat corporate clients) play a role in how how an architecture firm operates; does that process of engaging your client transform the way you work- from dresscode and phone answering, to billing and project management? 

Feb 8, 18 9:05 am

Does listening and internalization of client needs (especially to repeat corporate clients) play a role in how how an architecture firm operates; does that process of engaging your client transform the way you work- from dresscode and phone answering, to billing and project management?

Oh I have the same thoughts. I was watching a roundtable discussion amongst actors (the ones done by The Hollywood Reporter) and the actors always talk about the process of becoming their characters by filling in their shoes or being in their space, etc. and I can't help but think architects possess a similar process where we get into the minds or shoes of our clients to be able to understand what they need for us to design. 

So Yes and No? Well Yes because for one when designing for clients, we have to get into the detail of the space or building they're inhabiting. Whether if it's residential, health care, or corporate, we try and get into their shoes and internalize (more like list down) what activities they do in a particular space for us to better translate those requirements into a spatial design and experience. Such is very crucial to residential design because, unlike health care which has graphic/building standards or corporate that follows their own mission/vision or branding, residential can get very gritty especially when you're trying to enter the head space of your client (a.k.a. their tastes). 

And No because I don't think we necessarily have to become them in order to be able to design for them. I think as architects, as designers, we have to maintain a level or a common ground when it comes to handling or approaching different projects and different clients, or else end up becoming something that's not really you as an architect/designer/whatever. We can try on different clothes, but we don't have to stick to just one brand. 

Also, I can totally see Leonardo Di Caprio playing Bjarke Ingels and Steve Buscemi playing Patrik Schumacher. And Helena Bonham Carter as Odile Decq.

Feb 8, 18 10:08 am

The Architecture industry is a service industry. We provide design services to clients. Similar to an Add agency, a law firm or other professional service provider we are at the whims of clients who have their own image they want to project and we play a role if forming and projecting that image. The clientele normally expects the firms they hire to be able to operate within the business environment they see themselves inhabiting. From my experience an architecture firm emulates, but not necessarily copies, the business culture of the clients. If you design healthcare projects you have a different culture than if you design offices, schools, churches or any other kind of project. Mimicking the business culture signals your firms understandings of the client's business community and makes them more comfortable dealing with you. Some firms and especially the people who deal with clients have this knowledge and they can change and adapt to the subtle differences. For example In healthcare the last thing you want to do on a site visit is accidentally take a picture of a patient in a facility, being aware of this causes you to work differently then if you were dealing with a restaurateur or retailer.

Over and OUT

Peter N

Feb 8, 18 10:38 am

'We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful

Excellent topic!

Feb 8, 18 11:14 am

Errr... 'We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful what we pretend to be.'

I don't know why that got truncated.


I once worked for a firm that had a buzzer at the door and management would time an employee's lunch breaks... their bread and butter was retail... go figure.

Feb 8, 18 12:20 pm

Does listening and internalization of client needs (especially to repeat corporate clients) play a role in how how an architecture firm operates; does that process of engaging your client transform the way you work- from dress code and phone answering, to billing and project management? 

The firm I work for has a variety of different clients - universities, churches, city/state/federal government, K-12, etc., - which means almost every project is different in terms of billing and project management.  Contractually, on various projects, we are not always the prime but sometimes work in conjunction with other firms, as in there are two primes with two separate contracts that happen to be occurring at the same time and require coordination.  Getting a view into another firm's culture/graphic standards/how they run CA has sometimes changed ours, often times more than the client has.  This has certainly been the case as we've transitioned to BIM and worked in conjunction with firms that have BIM well-implemented.  It's allowed us to see how they work together successfully (and not so much) and start to work out our own BIM standards based off of our experiences with them.

Feb 8, 18 2:08 pm

This is an interesting post I stumbled upon and great to read. At one point in time, outside my architecture job, I found myself taking improv and acting classes. I have always been fascinated by theatre because it was refreshing to see a story being told through the body and not four walls and a roof as to what we have been trained. There's so much parallels.

Listening is critical, and the opposite of Stanislavsky's Method is Sanford Meisner's technique. It's about listening, but instead of going inward and internalizing, it is about going outward and presently chasing after the moment - a surge of impulse and reaction to ride the scene and keep your partner actively engaged and bring you to life on stage/film. It requires one to get out of their head by staying focused and committed on their scene partner to the point that you understand what your partner is doing to you and how it makes you feel. When applied to a scene study, it's about putting yourself in the shoes of the character, understanding their circumstances and knowing how it would make you feel, so you can perform the scene as if those circumstances are applied to you, to emotionally invest in the scene. In some ways it's about looking into ones humanity and understanding. I can argue that design has to do with really listening to behaviour (brief) and seeing subtext, what does it make you feel to generate a response (proposal) and chase after the big idea from impulse, as with any art - even designing from a point of empathy. Especially at the conceptual stages of design. Later on, i can see it more on the business skills for design - working with people.  

Now, both Stanislavski and Meisner's techniques are both questionable (i've taken meisner classes) as they are presentational as opposed to RE-presentational means of acting - but they are both a means to bring something looking natural and not contrived on camera or on stage. IMHO, They are like Le Corbusier & Neimeyer is to Architecture as they are to Acting if not thoughtfully done. Disclaimer: It can bring people to a dark and vulnerable place if you're not comfortable with it...and hence why i'm seeing a therapist, haven't touched an acting class ever since, and more so invested in my architecture career!       

Feb 28, 18 12:21 am

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