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March 10, 2009
by Murrye Bernard Assoc. AIA LEED AP

Event: New Practices | New Landscapes: A Call to Action
Location: Center for Architecture, 02.25.09
Speakers: Farnaz Mansuri, Assoc. AIA — Lead Designer, De-Spec; Ruperto Arvelo, AIA — Principal, Arvelo Architecture + Interiors; Matthew Bremer, AIA — Principal, Architecture in Formation; Roberta Kravette — Director, Nieuw Amsterdam Kitchens
Moderator: Marc Clemenceau Bailly, AIA — Principal, Gage/Clemenceau Architects
Organizer: AIANY New Practices Committee

The Navy Green Master Plan and Affordable Housing Development. The collaborative design team: FXFOWLE Architects (lead), Curtis+Ginsberg Architects, Architecture in Formation, and Rader+Crews (landscape). Client: Pratt Area Community Council with Dunn Development and L&M Equities.

Architecture in Formation

If large, established firms are laying off qualified workers at alarming rates, how can new or small practices stay afloat? In the first of a five-part series, the AIANY New Practices Committee attempted to answer that question.

Roberta Kravette, director of Nieuw Amsterdam Kitchens, encouraged emerging practitioners to “hang tight and be resilient.” This downtime provides an opportunity to reflect on their strengths and missions, she said. New firm practitioners could trade time with friends in other fields for business coaching and accounting advice — skills that architects often lack.

New practitioners should engage with colleagues in allied fields through community organizations, including community boards and neighborhood coalitions, according to Ruperto Arvelo, AIA, principal of Arvelo Architecture + Interiors. Volunteer organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Architecture for Humanity and professional referral organizations such as Business Network International (BNI) are networking opportunities that allow architects to educate others about their work and can occasionally lead to paid projects.

Matthew Bremer, AIA, principal of Architecture in Formation, discussed the importance of collaboration for emerging practices. Smaller firms can merge and pool resources, ideas, and capital to form a team that can compete with “the big guys,” he said. Bremer speaks from experience: his firm is currently collaborating with several firms as part of the Navy Green Master Plan and Affordable Housing Development. The overall design team is FXFOWLE Architects (lead) with Curtis+Ginsberg Architects, Architecture in Formation, and Rader+Crews (landscape). The Supportive Housing building is also being done by Architecture in Formation (design architect) with Curtis+Ginsberg Architects (executive architect).

Farnaz Mansuri, Assoc. AIA, principal of De-Spec, noted that doctors and lawyers get their work primarily through referrals and are typically more diligent about billing than architects. She suggested that architects establish a forum where city agencies, developers, private clients, and larger architecture firms seeking collaboration could post projects, similar to classified ads. “This would encourage both entrepreneurship, camaraderie, and ultimately lead to better work.” [Note: the AIANY launched Exchange Point, for this reason. Click the link for more information.]

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