Three months in it is still too early to assess what has been achieved in our change to an Employee Owned Business. What we can say with certainty is we have a renewed determination to arrive at a consensus about our vision of a reassembled architectural praxis.
We have created a mental map of our new business setting, at its simplest it is a series of concentric and overlapping round tables. Everybody sits around the outside of our big table and are free to join any of the inner tables like Arts and Culture buildings, discussion on technologies, or business activities like finance. Each table is distinct but being generally concentric within our abstract solar system there is an implicit overlap and influence. Again breaking the office into fragments is compensated by a sense of understanding of the whole.
If the round tables are about discussion of the generalities of practice then we depict our actual projects, buildings, plans and studies, as wedge shaped workbenches cutting through our circular model in the manner of spokes of our wheel. The beauty of this mental work bench is that whilst focused on a particular project, it intersects with all the discussion tables and thereby is influenced by these lateral thinking groups. Again indirectly our fragmentation of office activity into parts is counterbalanced with work processes aimed at recovering a sense of architectural wholeness.
The benefits of this model are only just emerging but if we take as an example what we call our methodological CoGs, or round tables, we can see an emerging pattern. We have three tables, an outer table called City and Land which is preoccupied with context, and two inner tables, Conservation focused on history and Briefing and Interiors seeking to understand contemporary needs and activities.
Our wedge shaped workbench cuts through these methodological thinking groups, and they remind us that in any project, primacy must he given to the context of each project, that the history of that place or building has to be understood and there needs to be genuine examination of activity and need in shaping that project. Whilst we specialise individually on each of these aspects our process demands each project brings them back together particularly where need impacts on existing protected settings and buildings.
Of course for any architect that is implicit and understood intuitively, but when there is common ownership that intuitive understanding needs to be formalised and agreed not so much a prescription of action but simply to embed it in the collective understanding of the broad collaboration of the employee business.
Time will tell if our model is the right one. However like a good building, if designed well it will flex and adapt to changing circumstance without compromising the architectural concept.
That is to bring architecture back together, built on the understanding of the parts as a representation of all who contribute.