To build without engaging the “cluster” is impossible. To design without engaging the “cluster” is a missed opportunity.
Though it had been published several years prior, I can recall being captivated by the notion of “clusters” in Michael Porter’s article in the Harvard Business Review called “Clusters And The New Economics of Competition”. As Porter has described it, clusters are geographic concentration of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field. As I had interpreted it, the “architecture cluster” is the network of interrelated professionals – with whom I was responsible to be exchanging information with.
As architects, we are traditionally very good at exchanging information among our peers – essentially only a single sector within the “architecture cluster.” This phenomenon can perhaps be traced back to our days in studio when the entire design process was transparent to our colleagues, professors and critics alike. This form of information exchange is embedded in our working models and should remain. However, where I see huge potential for improvement is within the “architecture cluster.”
Recognizing the value that other professionals can add to our design process is the first step. As mentioned, architecture can not be realized without the participation of interrelated disciplines such as; finance, development, engineering, planning, environmental sciences, marketing, journalism, product design, product suppliers, construction, etc. We share space within the “architecture cluster” with these professionals but too often exclude them from the design process.
In Porter’s article, he draws upon the example of the California Wine Cluster. Among the 680 commercial wineries, it includes grape growers, suppliers, irrigation utilities, harvesting equipment suppliers, label printers, advertising firms, etc. Recognizing all too well that without one of these components, the availability of wine to the consumer would be compromised.
Admittedly, it will most often be the architect’s responsibility to organize and engage the related disciplines when working on a new project but with digital communication and social media marketing tools available to us today, this is significantly easier to organize and facilitate.
As always, I welcome the opportunity for this to be more of an open dialogue. Perhaps a suggestion to others who are contributing to this topic to think back on projects in which information was exchanged within the “architecture cluster” and how beneficial the information was to the help deliver a successful project……….