Architecture must adapt, or else

Architecture must adapt, or else

by BRAD KREIGER, cofounder & CMO, Hard Hat Hub | May 13, 2015

The following is a conversation with Eva Maddox of Perkins+Will. Earlier this month in Chicago, she delivered the keynote, "Future Casting in Design", at the 2015 SMPS Heartland regional conference.  

A storyline that’s familiar to many professions today: technology disrupts, culture shifts and entire industries are forced to adapt. Some businesses adapt and thrive, others risk isolation.

If you’re fortunate enough to spend a moment with renowned architect, Eva Maddox, a design principal at Chicago-based Perkins+Will, and founder of Branded Environments, you’ll understand a critique of an industry from someone who’s very passionate and opportunistic, and also very outspoken about urging the architecture industry to adapt. 

Issue #1: Classic design process is linear. The world is nOt.

According to Maddox, the traditional linear design-thinking model isn’t serving the architecture industry well.

“The pace is too fast. Our clients are under tremendous pressure (stakeholder & financial) to perform. The linear research-design-implement model won’t be able to keep up,” said Maddox.

The alternative? She prefers a process with a much higher degree of collaboration from all of the stakeholders (think client/owner, end users, architect, real estate broker, construction manager, marketing, etc.). She thinks breaking down communication barriers, checking egos at the door, and being more inclusive all lead to better client outcomes.

Mentor + more: Maddox is doing her part to cultivate a next generation architect that collaborates with ease.

Mentor + more: Maddox is doing her part to cultivate a next generation architect that collaborates with ease.

Issue #2: Our industry is still trying to put things in boxes

“Design is design. We’re trying to solve very real challenges for our clients. But organizationally, our industry still thinks in terms of boxes and vertical industries,” said Maddox.

Take healthcare, for instance. While there are certainly unique challenges and nuances in that sector, those clients would benefit more from teams with a diversity of experiences.

Issue #3: Talent!

“We need good people. We need more people. People who can bring a diverse, multi-disciplined, and collaborative way of thinking into our industry.”

In addition to founding the nonprofit ARCHEWORKS, a socially oriented design laboratory and multi-disciplinary school established in 1994, Maddox is still very involved in mentoring the next generation.  A current mentee is helping to redesign senior living solutions for Japan, from design school in New York. 

So, what does it all mean for today’s professionals?

“The world really needs design right now, more than ever.”

Eva’s career tips:

  • Be persistent – It’s hard to be fulfilled if you don’t really dig in over the course of a career. Stay with it.
  • Learn as much about urban design as you can – The next generation will be solving very human, very complex issues.
  • Add research tools to your skills portfolio – In a fast-paced, data-driven world, clients demand proof points. There are no assumptions in design anymore.

The author is co-founder and chief marketing officer at Hard Hat Hub, the fastest-growing careers site and job search engine for the design, construction, real estate, and facilities management industries. A digital strategist and former marketing executive at Jones Lang LaSalle, he also oversees the content of Hard Hat Hub's blog, where this article first appeared. Email:

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