2014 Design Forum: Amassing for collaborative discussion

By: Jim Beal
19 November 2014

There are no excuses. Just make beautiful work. Make it elegant; keep it simple.

“Elegant simplicity” was explored by 44 colleagues from multiple disciplines, six states, and 11 offices, and included the board of directors for the 3rd CTA/Cushing Terrell Design Forum in Seattle, WA, on Oct. 9-10. In addition to design aesthetics, the group engaged in a broader dialogue on collaboration and “growth through mentoring” to improve the quality of our design work, to “think as one,” and to inform the annual CTA Principals Retreat, which followed.

What if we had a design philosophy for CTA – not a style, but a philosophy?

I presented a philosophical standard for our work that we will use to govern our process and judge what is “good” in the future. This standard has a parallel with a centuries-old Japanese aesthetic known as shibui, and can be loosely described as “elegant simplicity.”

How do we create an environment that fosters creativity, values ideas, and creates good work?

Joel Anderson, Design Director in Billings, MT, shared research on methods of coaching and mentoring, and how to develop design talent and an active design office community. He related these to recent experiences with “Design Pinups” and project work in the Billings office.

What can we learn from the work of other firms?

Architects-in-training Nick Bowers from Billings; Charlie Deese from Kalispell, MT; Alex Bingham from Austin, TX; John Borer from Seattle; Jason Yates from Boise, ID; and Kody Nathe from Denver, CO, individually presented, PechaKucha-style, on some of Seattle’s current landmark projects. Members of the forum found inspiration by touring a few, including:

David Koel, Design Director in Kalispell, reflected on tours of the offices of Miller Hull and Olson Kundig.

How can we leverage our advantage as a multi-disciplinary firm and express our integration through architecture?

A synthesis discussion bridged the Design Forum with the annual Principals Retreat and mostly explored the topic of collaboration. The “big ideas” centered around creating an emotional experience for our teams, capitalizing on the creativity of all our staff, and finding the best mediums to share our culture and talent across offices.

Main image: Architect Jimmy Talarico of Bozeman at Olympic Sculpture Park
Small image 1: Teams brainstorm on collaborative design during the forum
Small image 2: Billings landscape architect Dayton Rush looks in the Seattle Library
Small image 3: A design idea for CTA’s Seattle office is put to paper
Small image 4: Forum attendees visit the Gates Foundation

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