Lecture Series: Stephen Emmitt

NewSchool Auditorium
Street address
1249 F Street, San Diego CA
November 9, 2016, 6:30PM

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The quality of our built environment, and indeed our lives, is influenced by the individual and collective decisions taken by architects and engineers (designers) and the constructors, fixers and fitters (producers). Drawing on experience of projects and research interventions, Emmitt puts forward an argument for improving the way in which architects manage design at a project and practice level - the architecture of practice. The proposition is that architects need to demonstrate the value of good design to their clients. This can be achieved by (re) engaging with construction and applying effective management, resulting in architects being better positioned to influence the quality of what is built.

Professor Emmitt addresses an area of architectural practice that is often overlooked in education and research; architectural management. It is the management of the architect’s office and the management of the project portfolio that influences the performance of the project, the performance of the building and of course the performance of the building users. Emmitt starts by asking a simple question ‘why are our buildings not better than they are?’ to which the answers lie in how we work: the architecture of practice.

The lecture is structured as a journey. Starting in practice Emmitt reflects on his education and the challenges of his first project as an architect; an experience that stimulated his interest in management and shaped his career. The emphasis is on demonstrating and delivering value to clients and building users. In the second phase of the journey we move from practice to research. Stephen reports two successful applied research projects, one in Denmark and one in the UK, where the focus is on collaborative working, understanding requirements and better managing flow of information and resources. The final part of the journey brings us to the current day and the challenges of delivering great architecture in an ever changing marketplace.

This lecture is aimed at students of architecture who may be skeptical about the management issues and the influence of management on design creativity. The argument put forward in the lecture, evidenced by research findings, interventions and practice experience, is that effective architectural management does provide the space for creative work; and it does result in quality buildings delivered on time and on budget. Examples draw on process improvement, collaborative working and lean thinking. The emphasis is clearly on the importance of people and the way in which they are managed in creative, temporal, project environments. The take home message is that we do not need more management, what architects need is better management.

Stephen worked as a design manager in architectural practice prior to moving into an academic role. Over the past 21 years he has published widely on the issues of architectural management and design management. He is recognized as a leading authority in the field, with his student textbook Design Management for Architects (Second Edition), Wiley Blackwell, 2014 providing essential information to students of architecture. His most recent book Design Management is part of the Architecture PocketGuide series by Routledge, which is written for the American market and is published November 2016.