is "corporate" a dirty word in architecture?


so znapz, what I'm gathering from the replies is, outside people (academia, archi-porn blogs, etc) prefer boutique and starchitect firms. They're more exciting to look at and talk about. But from the perspective of the people working there, many seem to appreciate the working environment of the larger firms. Sounds like people want others to work for the controlling visionaries at their own expense, for the common good so that people can enjoy it vicariously. Just more architectural S&M.

Mar 18, 13 4:09 pm

"Just more architectural S&M."

That comment made my day. Thanks rationalist.

Mar 18, 13 4:11 pm

One needs to look into the "critique of corporate social responsibility" in order to response your question in a more relevant context.

These critiques cover wide areas, anywhere from green washing to putting small companies out of business. Corporate farming and environmental issues are good places to start.

Mar 18, 13 4:30 pm

Lots of corporate firms look like starchitecture lately. Some good copies of OMA out there coming from traditionally non design-led firms.

Corporate architecture means shallow expensive and well built. It is qualitatively different from what gets in the magazines. Palpably falling short, not because of bad design but BY design. It's windows compared to apple. Good enough, not good.

At least that is how it seems from context of most texts about it. It's kind of an epithet although it could become badge as well.

I can give a basket of fish for the argument about legal definitions.

don't think it's an either/or debate myself, just a matter of ambition and intention. There is room enough for it all.

Mar 18, 13 7:27 pm

Will, the last I heard, OMA was also run like a corporation (yes, I dont give a rats ass about definitions), but we all get the point.

From OMA's website:

"Victor van der Chijs joined OMA in 2005 as Managing Partner. Next to the day-to-day responsibility for OMA's operations, he is responsible for business development and expanding and diversifying OMA's activities. Before joining OMA, he was Managing Director of Schiphol International BV (international airport management company). He also worked for the financial services group ING for over 10 years. Victor van der Chijs holds a masters degree in Law from the University of Amsterdam, and has followed extensive post-graduate education at the Amsterdam School of International Relations and at INSEAD, France."

Does that mean that the quality of work suffers? I dont think so. After a certain critical mass, offices need to go this route to survive, and be even slightly profitable...

Mar 18, 13 10:41 pm

Wondering out loud here. Is archinect a corporation?

Mar 19, 13 10:12 am

good question there is no there.  the site is registered directly through mr. petrunia, so i would assume not.

anyway, i'm sold.  i don't want to be a "corporate" architect anymore, despite the widely varying scopes of what that label may contain.  i want to be a "real" architect.  i'm just going to draw cool pictures of buildings.  i'll get the good clients who want to give me piles of money to freely exercise my personal creativity.  i don't really think the ones who offer their own opinions on leasability of a spec building or requirements for an actual business are any fun.  i'll get some consultants that don't want to take too much of my pile money to flush out the non-architectural stuff like gravity, rain and snow, utilities, site, etc.  that stuff isn't as much fun either.  i have complete respect for people who want to do that sort of thing, like accountants, but i just don't think for me personally it would be as fun.  thanks for the inspiration.

Mar 19, 13 10:21 am

Archinect is Tim Tebow of corporations. 'Livin' on a prayer'.

Mar 19, 13 10:23 am
won and done williams

You mean Archinect is the Bon Jovi of corporations.

Mar 19, 13 11:32 am

No, no, no.  Tim Tebow is the Bon Jovi of Archinect.

Mar 19, 13 11:35 am

Archinect is one long power ballad of cock-rockitecture. 

Mar 19, 13 12:06 pm

When I first saw the title of this thread, I could not help but remember when a client of mine commented that a design I submitted for the retail project was 'too corporate'.  Though he liked its massing and modernist style, he meant that it didn't seem welcoming enough, that it didn't seem to facilitate social interaction outside the storefronts--it all felt too uniform. My solution to this was to add canopies, trellises, screen walls, more landscaping, as well as varying the proportions of the curtain wall and storefront modules .  Using warmer marterials, such as stone and wood as well as introducing subtle color palette also helped. In the end the client liked the result and thus was when I learned what was meant by 'corporate' architecture.

 I have worked for a variety of firms of all sizes, and so far I prefer working in a 'corporate' environment.  The advantages listed earlier in the thread, are very true- better pay, better benefits, better tech resources, and bigger projects. One thing I would add is that big 'corporate' firms seem a bit more accepting of people from a variety of backgrounds.  The culture in these big offices is so dilluted that it matters little where you come from or if you are a bit eccentric. I found the small offices felt more like a tightly-knit family, with the boss and his veteran associates acting like parents, and new hires wondering if they would ever fit-in the family culture. If your cultural background was quite different from the boss, there was a good chance that your personal relationship with your boss would never quite gel, and he would become pretty annoying over time.  Othertimes it just clicks, and you feel like you've become a real part of that family and you would find yourself 'at home'.  With small firms, it has to feel just right, otherwise you would probably be happier elsewhere. 

Mar 19, 13 12:09 pm

aww, I'm blushing distant!

As to whether archinect itself is a corporation, I get to see the dudes behind it from time to time and can wholeheartedly say that whether they are a registered corporate entity or not, the vibe is decidedly more family than corporate.

Mar 19, 13 1:58 pm

Archinect is definitely more like a family, or rather like a "band of brothers".

Mar 20, 13 12:24 pm

After 2 days in that world, I have to say it sucks ass. I was looking forward to it, but the office politics and the ass-kissing gets to me!

Mar 23, 13 5:48 pm
chatter of clouds

some questions:

can corporate outfits design interesting idiosynchratic architecture?

can boutique/atelier stye outfits end up with corporate looking architecture?

is OMA a boutique style firm or a corporate entity designing boutique or corporate architecture?

is the difference between a corporate office and a boutique firm simply that the former is not associated with the personality of its owners and principals whereas the latter is?

is corporate architecture more a consequence of its designer or its client?

or is corporate architecture solely based on architectural formulas i.e. predictable and generic assembly of materials that bring to mind "corporation"?

i'm asking these different questions because i can see that people above are using "corporate" in different ways and some are challenging whether it even has a tangible application anymore in a world where every business is a corporation of a sort.

Mar 24, 13 1:10 pm

no dirtier than the word architecture

Mar 25, 13 1:43 am

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