|Re: Using an architect from within the group||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: MWorswick (MWorswickaol.com)|
|Date: Tue, 21 Jul 1998 16:20:46 -0500|
In a message dated 98-07-19 15:00:41 EDT, you write: << Our group is ready to choose an architect as we are close to buying land. One of our members (well, me actually) is an architect who's been totally committed to the project from the beginning. The group is unsure about the advisability of hiring the architect (or any other professional) from within the group and how that would affect power dynamics and accountability. Of course if I applied for the job I would do so on the same basis as other architects we invited to apply (and would not be part of the selection process), so the issue is not about the ability to do the job. I'd be really interested to hear from other groups who have used or are using professionals from within your group: what were the problems and the benefits? What would you do differently next time? Any other advice? Are there architects on this list who have played that role for their group? I still have to decide how my skills could be most useful to the group so I'd appreciate any replies. Thanks Robin Allison Waitakere Eco-Neighbourhood Cohousing Project Auckland, New Zealand. >> Matt Worswick, Synergy Design, responding - As was mentioned in previous postings, I was one of the survivors of this challenging role !! I was a founding member ( read sole surviving original member ) and designer of Harmony Village in Golden, Colorado. My professional roles included the group process, conceptual development and construction documents for our site design, common house and 5 models of standard units plus customizations. It was a very challenging undertaking but I'm a patient & persistent person. It was also my third cohousing project, having also worked with the Highline Crossing and Nyland communities here in Colorado. There is no good short way to address all the potential issues and ramifications of taking on the design role from within your own group. Frankly, I don't have the time to cover it in detail. But this topic was covered very well by Mary Kraus (who took on this role for the Pioneer Valley Coho group in Amherst Massachusetts) in an article published in the winter 1995 CoHousing Journal. I'll mail a copy to Robin if you send me your address. As an overview let me paraphrase some of the critical points that Mary covers - 1) Be aware that many architects have failed at this endeavor and the consequences for you and the group can be painful at the least and disastrous in a worst case. 2) Distinct advantages for the group include the fact that you know the history, personalities and process of the group already. Your commitment level is also higher so you'll go the extra mile. 3) Inherent problems include the difficulty in remaining objective ( not pushing your own agenda ) and the difficulty in setting limits ( telling people "no", etc.) 4) Of course, it is critical for the group to carefully evaluate credentials. They should hire the best qualified candidate, and not give special consideration to a group member. 5) During the evaluation period, openly discuss the fears and expectations of the group and the member / professional. Identify conflicts of interest and potential processes to deal with them. 6) Also evaluate personal characteristics that are well suited to group design process such as being a good listener, integrating others ideas, accepting constructive criticism and separating personal desires from the professional role. The group also needs a professional that can be firm and help set limits when needed. Big egos, lack of flexibility and private agendas are very dangerous. 7) The less tangible characteristics of personality are also important in creating trust and confidence. Managing the increased power and authority that goes with the design role without damaging the interpersonal chemistry is a big challenge. 8) Remember that you will live with your successes and your mistakes for a long time. They will be in your face virtually every day. Some may even be discussed in those ongoing meetings that never seem to dissapear from the cohousing scene. You will be proud of your accomplishment, but you will also be painfully aware of all the things that did not get done right or that you wish you would have done differently .... In summary, both the group and the member / architect should carefully evaluate the risks and benefits as well as the alternatives. And of course the ultimate decision should be based on the best interests of the whole. One thing I can say personally is that the old adage applies - there is no way to please everyone all the time. If you do a good job, you will have many "satisfied clients" surrounding you, ( an admirable situation for any professional ). During the design process most members of your group will understand if they don't get their way, and move on. But some may carry an issue or grudge around for some time. Oddly enough, even if you succeed spectacularly and receive numerous accolades, a few members may well begrudge you your success. Human nature is an interesting beast. So be aware that you can't win 'em all. If someone asked me if I'd do it again, my answer ( and clarification ) would be " I'd do it once !" If, after considering all of the above, you Robin, and your group feel that you have the temperament and talent to do the job then make a committment to make it work and go for it !!! I guarantee you that you will learn a lot in the process !! This survivor is wishing you well, Matt Worswick Synergy Design Cohousing Design Services and Consulting (303) 278-1880
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