Sunday, March 5, 2017

Architecture is Awesome #13: Teamwork

Members of the Robertson/Sherwood/Architects team.
This is another in my series of posts inspired by 1000 Awesome Things, the Webby Award winning blog written by Neil Pasricha. The series is my meditation on the awesome reasons why I was and continue to be attracted to the art of architecture. 

The myth of the heroic, lone architect at odds with philistine clients persists even though the reality is much different. Almost every building project today is the product of teams of many people working together to realize a shared vision. Architects operate not only with design partners but also with owners, users, contractors, craftspeople, and the countless others necessary to realize something as complex as a building. Teamwork is an indispensable and essential aspect of the process of creating architecture. 
Numerous tomes on business management have expounded on the virtues of teamwork. When done properly, teamwork stimulates communication and sharing of ideas. Teamwork engenders a broad sense of ownership in a project, increases efficiency, and leverages multiple talents. Effective teamwork also fosters learning, creativity, and innovation. A productive team shares a common vision and a commitment to success and its associated expectations. 
The 1996 Chicago Bulls (photo source:

The best teams aren’t made up of people who all think alike, or who all have the same skillsets. Michael Jordan may be the most talented basketball player of all time but his 1990’s Chicago Bulls dynasty would never have been as successful if he wasn’t surrounded by precisely the right teammates and coaches. Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, Dennis Rodman, Phil Jackson, and the other key members of those championship teams provided a diversity of personalities and strengths that perfectly complemented Michael’s. 
Despite the necessity of teamwork, there’s no doubting the indispensable genius of individual architects. Like Michael Jordan, their brilliance has often been the genesis of truly dazzling achievements. The many great architects we can cite are too numerous to ignore; however, their work unquestionably bears the marks of many hands. Even Howard Roark, the hero of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, would rely upon assistants—a team—to pursue his rational self-interest. 
Gary Cooper as Howard Roark in The Fountainhead.
The master architect is most successful when he or she is also a consummate team player. The most successful firms value teamwork because they understand that a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The empirical evidence is clear: What one can do, many can do better. 
Effective communication is critical to achieving the goal of wholeness in teamwork. Architects are fortunate today to have powerful collaboration tools at their disposal. For example, far-flung team members can share a common, cloud-based BIM model around the clock, a virtual embodiment of project synergy and the compounding power of group effort. As the complexity of architecture inexorably increases, the value of teamwork and tools to facilitate it will likewise appreciate. 
When a great team is on its game, it can win at anything. When the game in play is architecture, and the results are some of the greatest buildings and places humans have ever created, the AWESOME power of teamwork is undeniable.

Next Architecture is Awesome: #14 Harmony

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