Planned succession ~ SOM case study

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is recognised throughout the AEC industry as one of the largest architecture and engineering firms in the world. On 3 September SOM managing partner, Richard F. Tomlinson II retired in accordance with their partnership agreement. His career retrospective provides more than an interesting insight into a major firm in transition. See (DesignIntelligence).

Richard Tomlinson includes a long and worthy list of principles that guided him through over 44 years at SOM and nearly 28 years as an elected partner. How many consulting firms can demonstrate not just years of success, but a sound set of guiding principles and adherence to a succession process?

Call 0408 403 439 or email me to adopt the best strategy for you and your firm.

A parallel universe: Two identical stories with different endings

Amsterdam University Murray Street BThe Architects Journal’s announcement of an important UK architectural award to the University of Amsterdam may be of interest to not just our readers in Tasmania. On 17 September, AJ announced that the winner of the 2014 AJ Retrofit Award went to the university’s Roeters Island campus, a 1960’s Modernist structure. The building, originally by Norbert Gawronski, was retrofitted by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris. AHMM’s Simon Allford explained that they saw the building as ‘a record of the 60s and a bold invention that we were keen to keep and build upon’.

See photos

The concept behind the appearance of the 60s building (photo on the left) has some interesting similarities to the original design by Dirk Bolt for the 10 Murray Street building (photo on the right) designed for the Government of Tasmania. In both cases, the different scales of the buildings and their urban settings linked through the shared proportions of the composition of the facades. After Bolt moved to Canberra, the design was amended by D Hartley Wilson’s office but continued to be a leading Hobart example of the architecture of the 60s.

The story of the now eminent demolition of the Hobart building is in contrast to that in Amsterdam, as their recent histories are both parallel and divergent. In 2006, Palmboom and Van den Bout proposed a master plan for refurbishing Gawronski’s effort and a design competition initiated, which was won by AHMM. Around the same time a similar competition was called in the case of 10 Murray Street but in 2009 a proposal by the Cita group was selected that obliterated the Hobart landmark. The ‘Save 10 Murray’ group objected but finally lost. The government ignored Bolt’s view that, in a more enlightened 21st century, buildings are no longer demolished but refurbished, irrespective of their heritage value.

In the case of the AJ Award, the judges praised AHMM ‘for its decision to retain the concrete frame – a carbon intensive element of the original building – while transforming the building’s external appearance and also upgrading the envelope and services.’ Alfred commented that, had the building been demolished, ‘the same mistake of previous generations would have been made of throwing everything away’. Gawronski’s 2014 message to Allford said: ‘How fortunate am I that that ‘my child’ can develop into such a handsome being under your sensitive hands and mind.’

In Tasmania’s parallel universe, not all is lost. In 2013, Bolt’s earlier building at 152 Macquarie Street, Hobart, which was renovated by a thoughtful owner, won the 2013 Enduring Architecture Award of the AIA Tasmanian Chapter. At the same time the refurbishment architects, Rosevaer, won the Colorbond Award for Steel Architecture for the ‘omnipod’ they had courageously perched on its roof as part of the refurbishment. Dirk Bolt’s 2013 message to Craig Rosevear said: ‘Happy to see the pod gaining the award. Well done!’

Letter from Scotland ~ Profession reacts to referendum vote

So much discussion in the UK about the need for change ~ exemplified by Peter Wilson, director of the Wood Studio research centre at Edinburgh Napier University: “If you don’t want to talk about change that is the route to extinction.” See AJ.

Discussion covers the questions of confidence within the profession, the role of government and impact of procurement processes, technology and need for new approaches to the built environment ~ all so relevant in Australia, whether or not we endure referenda.

An interesting and related insight is provided by Kennedy Consulting. Opportunities for management consulting, but risks as well. What about the AEC sector?

The Future for Architects? Gratitude to the RIBA

Changes in the economy, project procurement methods, technology and even climate are confronting practitioners in their thoughts about the sustainability of their role as consultants to the built environment.

In 2013 the Building Futures team, based at the RIBA HQ in London produced a report that has generated much debate in the UK and elsewhere. It superbly summarises so many of the comments heard in discussions throughout the architecture profession in Australia. Despite growth in global population and consequent demand for built infrastructure, so many architects feel marginalised and their role threatened.

Every architect and firm will assess their own position against the predictions that the report postulates for the profession ~ it does outline a diverse range of options. The real challenge is to endeavour to take control of that positioning, recognise what it means for next year and those that follow.

The report with associated documents is highly recommended and can be found at the Building Futures website