SMALL AND EMERGING PRACTITIONERS

Over the past year, a number of members have been working together in an effort to identify ways to increase benefits of membership in Architecture Canada (RAIC) for small and emerging practitioners. To date, there have been two meetings and follow-up documentation. In follow-up to the most recent meeting, four initiatives were identified and are being followed up:

  1. Mentoring;
  2. RFP and Marketing Support; and
  3. Open Competitions.

Descriptions for the initiatives are outlined following. Please review them, and do two things:

  1. Let us know by email response to Karl Gustavson ( karl@kgarchitect.ca ) if you are interesting in participating in one or more of these initiatives; and
  2. Forward this on to those that you believe may be interested – the more practitioners involved, the greater the impact we can make.

In an effort to establish some momentum, we intend to schedule meetings for each of the three named initiatives, so early responses are appreciated.

MENTORING

What this is not, is the intern architect type of mentoring. It is similar but has a somewhat different purpose, and hopefully it will be as engaging and meaningful for the experienced elders in the profession as it is for those acquiring experience through their own practices, after having completed the intern/registration process.

What is envisioned for mentoring in this context, is the linking up of vast experience with inexperience (or little experience). This should encourage a full range of discussion which probably has 2 main elements:

  1. The ‘experienced’ identifying and articulating their view what the ‘inexperienced’ would most benefit from, and
  2. The ‘inexperienced’ requesting insight from the ‘experienced’ on specific areas the ‘inexperienced’ feel is an area of support they need in their view.

The “mentoring” initiative: to facilitate such a linking dialogue, informally at first and later, if advantageous more formally. Maybe networking café discussions with both experienced and inexperienced face to face, etc., is a good starting point.

This is central to “defining support”; by looking at small practice from both sides to confirm what kind of ‘support’ for small practice is best to address their needs. We should proceed with some early ‘urgency’ to get it started as a catalyst to driving interest in the small practice group – since it will be responsive to what they are asking for.

It will be a challenge to stay focused on “advocacy” because the need of an advocate to be exemplary and successful as a practitioner is a precondition of feeling good and comfortable and proud of your work/role so you can yourself be a confident advocate of what we are all doing in our communities.

RFP AND MARKETING SUPPORT

Thoughts about RFP support fall into three main categories:

  1. Seminars from various purchasing departments, specifically geared to how smaller firms can compete for appropriately sized jobs with mid and large sized firms.
  2. Workshops for small practitioners with RFP responses as case studies so that participants get direct and relevant exposure/ feedback.
  3. Outreach to purchasing departments so they understand the difference between buying architectural services and furniture. To elaborate: educating purchasing departments on the benefits of going with a smaller firm to do smaller work as opposed to just continuing on with the status quo of hiring the “known brands” or big guys.
  4. Encourage members (small practitioners) to collaborate in order to respond to RFPs (see 4 below).

Thoughts about Marketing support include:

  1. How can smaller firms manage/ pay for and incorporate marketing techniques with limited personnel and financial resources. Perhaps connect smaller architectural practitioners with smaller marketing firms?
  2. How to take photos of your projects seminars/ workshops/courses – taught by a photographer. Smaller and/ or emerging firms usually often can’t afford a professional photography.
  3. How to build your website seminars/ courses/ workshops.
  4. Provide a list of architects with areas of expertise on Architecture Canada’s website. This could not only be useful to prospective clients but for other architects looking to collaborate with each other and respond to RFP’s, etc (see 4 above)
  5. Promote the profession by hosting an architectural film festival/ photo exhibit by non architects/ non-professionals – open to the general public that promotes new movies/ documentaries etc related to architecture/ the built environment, etc. Or similar event that is engaging enough to the general public (i.e. entertaining) and builds awareness – and targeted to the general public more than to architects.

OPEN COMPETITIONS

Architectural design competitions are in many jurisdictions a means of enhancing the design calibre of built works, public or private, and also provide a means for young, smaller or emerging firms to pursue works that would otherwise be the domain of established firms. In many European jurisdictions for instance, the awarding of built work contracts to smaller younger firms in competition formats is a time honoured means of generating interest and design discussion about important public works of the day. In the current climate, in which public commissions are being increasingly offered in nontraditional delivery methods such as P3, design-build or other alternate forms of delivery, the pressure on small firms to compete is high and often unbalanced. To encourage levels of government, municipalities, school districts and other groups to consider design competitions as a means of project procurement would benefit smaller firms and arguably increase design dialogue and design awareness, of benefit to all practitioners.

The proposal:

British Columbia would benefit from a focused initiative to promote, support, and advocate for the creation of open architectural competitions for a variety of public and private sector works. Using existing standard documents outlining competition process and requirements, the effort would be on promoting awareness of this project procurement option.