International Practice


What is the workflow like in an international practice? I feel as though it must be very exciting to work on a big cultural project, but what I am confused about is without knowing the local zoning regulations and codes, where would you start as a designer? 

I can totally picture Bjark starting to design something and two seconds into his sketch, a local architect he hires that is standing over his should say - "yeah- you can't do that because you have to maintain a certain clearance here (etc)".

So- how what is the workflow like in an international practice? It must be incredibly inefficient in terms of time...  

Sep 14, 18 3:24 pm

Most of my international experience has been in China where everything is as clear as mud. It was typical to be hit by some sort of weird land use restriction well into the design process. Also had program randomly added or removed on the whim of an important Party member. I don’t think we were ever given a copy of local regulations or even an official building code, we just went with the International Building Code and stuck to that. In China the Architect of Record is from one a handful of state companies called Local Design Institutes (LDIs). Up until somewhat recently they were one of the last Soviet-style systems where you could only use that location’s LDI and this guarantee of work wasn’t exactly a driver of quality. In the one instance where we worked simultaneously with the LDI were couldn’t really tell what they were changing from our DD set besides deleting the English notes. 

Sep 14, 18 4:56 pm

Ok, but code is different than zoning... I can only imagine an an international architect trying to navigate the NYC zoning resolution... lol

Sep 15, 18 12:51 pm

We have offices across Asia and North America and a number of clients based in the UK who are expanding in SE Asia. That means that someone is always working on a project 24/7.  

US offices work 8 hours a day and then Asia takes over. We’ll have a handover meeting with Asia offices at 4:00pm PDT for the west coast and/or 7:00am for the east coast teams as needed. Typically once or twice a week when things are very busy.

I’ve been on both sides of the coin, staying up late on the Asia end to do two hand offs a day(which is quite exhausting and only when things are getting out of hand) and now I run our west coast meetings once a week.

For all of the headaches of getting it set up our teams work together quite well after a couple years and when they’re in sync they can knock out a design in days instead of weeks at a very competitive cost.

It just takes a few key people on the North American side who are open to working flexible hours and answering questions after hours. Some people have been burned out by it and left and others seem to genuinely enjoy it. I got pretty burned out and told them that I would help out from the west coast but no more back and forth over the pacific. 

Permitting in different countries has been enlightening. Singapore is the most intense and complicated of anywhere I’ve come across. Meanwhile Malaysia has been the most wildly corrupt, even worse than dealing with the PRC. This coming from someone living in the Bay Area with all of its useless agencies.

Sep 15, 18 1:27 pm

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