CTA talks “Design Profession of the Future” with students during AIAS Forum

By: CTA In The News
22 March 2018

This post is Part 2 of an ongoing series about the American Institute of Architecture Students’ Forum in December 2017. Click here to read Part 1.

Time passed quickly as CTA team-members facilitated an interactive workshop on the “Design Profession of the Future.” The topic was intentionally wide and malleable, much like the future of design promises to be. The team opted to use an un-conference format–one in which the floor is opened to the attendees to determine the course of the discussion in order to curate a highly interactive discussion with lots of engagement from the students. After briefly touching on a range of topics related to the future of the profession, we asked the attendees to write down topics and questions they would like to hear more about. The student proposals ranged from matters of natural disasters to maker-technology to sustainability. Then, with a show of hands from the students, discussion topics were narrowed down to the two they were most interested in: career paths and technology.

Our team was inspired by the students and enjoyed spending the next 90 minutes fielding questions and facilitating a robust dialogue in two smaller groups. The discussion on technology in design was moderated by CTA architect Blair Onyekanne as well as Daniel Verdin, owner of Rise Building Company. Onyekanne’s and Verdin’s insights and experience with maker-technology were invaluable and enlightening. Verdin’s design-process showed the students how utilizing technology can push design further than expected. While the students did raise concerns about knowing the latest technology to begin their career, the discussion held steady around the inspiration technology has been in their lives. From creating video game worlds to enhancing hand-rendered perspectives, the students’ passion to wield technology for design was evident.

On the other side of the room, James Foster, AIA, and Joshua McCalip, PE, hosted the career-path conversation. The discussion focused mainly on individualization and leadership. While these are not necessarily new ideas when it comes to careers and professions, their application to the future of the design profession was poignant. As the conversation turned to diversity and equity in the workplace, the students’ curiosity spilled over. They later took the chance to ask Onyekanne about her experience as a woman in the professional world and ask specific advice for navigating potentially uncomfortable situations. The conversation was great proof of the emerging generation’s engagement in their collective future.

For the duration of their careers, the design professionals of the future will need to remain engaged in the collective and individual realms. As Lance Josal, FAIA, chairman of CallisonRTKL, speculates in his article Future Architecture Practice, the practice of architecture may one day resemble a movie production team more than a traditional firm. This will be fueled by the nearly cliché fact that emerging professionals “no longer have an allegiance to an organization; they are wedded to their craft.” The unstifled fluidity of young professionals will be aided by technology, a gig-economy and influences from non-architecture creative fields.

We may be heading toward a profession of free agents who can move in and out of a dynamic employment model, similar to the collective creativity of a movie set.

Lance Josal, FAIA

The specific experiences, design aesthetic, tools, and project resumes will shape a personal brand that will be critical whether in a more traditional corporate environment or in a gig or distributed economy. James encouraged the students to find their innate strengths and develop their passions around those strengths. He gave specific resources such as the Strength Finders and DiSC assessments which CTA has used previously with the staff.

Also discussed was the vision of architects in leadership roles in previously uncharted industries and the public sphere–places where intricate problems and systems are constantly manifesting. In these situations, students of architecture and design can thrive because they have become comfortable with the pain of complexity, nuance, and divergent thinking. In the words of James P. Cramer, “no nonchalance permitted”–in the educational, nor the professional world.

Overall, creativity was deemed king: creativity in design, in technology, and in career paths. It seems to us that the future of design is a future of integration by people on individually-curated career paths. It won’t look like design of yesterday, and we found it thrilling to see the future in the eyes of those students.

Resources for further thought: AIA – Where Architects Stand | Lance Josal, FAIA – Future Architecture Practice | Rem Koolhaas – Architecture Has a Serious Problem Today | James P. Cramer – Great Today Better Tomorrow | Stephen Gates – The Crazy One podcast

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