How Unusual Design Collaborations Can Deliver Great Results

Posted on February 26, 2020 by Karin • Filed under: ,

Every architectural design project we take on involves collaboration to some degree. At a minimum, we work with the property owner to develop the design, and in many cases, either the owner or our team brings in one or more additional experts. 

This most typically includes structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers – often shortened to “SMEP” engineers. Landscape architects, civil, and fire protection engineers often provide critical design services as well. Additional experts may include lighting consultants, surveyors and geotechnical experts, acousticians, and furniture vendors. 

Every once in a while, we’re brought into a project not by the owner, but by one of these other experts. These unusual collaborations are a nice change of pace for us, and create a different dynamic. The following are three examples of this type of scenario.


Let the Sunshine In!

In this engagement, our services were sought by an interior solutions firm specializing in furniture and demountable glass partitions. We collaborated with them—as well as mechanical and electrical engineers that we brought in—on the redesign of an office suite in an existing high-rise building. 

The team developed a plan featuring demountable glass partitions that create a row of offices and conference rooms at the perimeter of the building floor. The floor-to-ceiling transparency brings natural light to workstations in the middle area of the floor. Our contributions to the project included:

  • Code compliance input
  • Detailed documentation and drawing of the existing conditions
  • Reflected ceiling plans to show additional lighting
  • Mechanical distribution changes
  • Egress and sprinkler head changes
  • Documentation of finishes

Working closely with the interiors firm allowed for a streamlined approach to achieving the owner’s vision of a bright and airy space for employees. It also allowed us to deliver the project within a very tight schedule.

Photos by Kurt Garceau

“Fielding” a Request from Site Specialists

This project involved the expansion of the athletics fields and facilities for a private independent day school in Connecticut. We were asked to join the team by the civil engineer and landscape architect who were already on the job. We subsequently collaborated with other specialists, including SMEP engineers, a lighting consultant, and cost estimator.  

Our team was tasked with the design for a new, two-level field house facility. The lower level of the building combined locker rooms, bathrooms, meeting, and training space for student athletes and coaches. It would also house public restrooms and support spaces for the field complex. The upper level housed spectator seating for the public, a press box, and broadcast booth. This “integrated” field house concept is rising in popularity, particularly in colleges and universities, for its ability to provide many programmatic functions in a compact footprint. 

The project faced a complex series of site challenges involving wetlands, streams, and flood plain compliance. Close collaboration and teamwork across our disciplines enabled inventive solutions for adequate field drainage, safe site access and circulation, low-impact parking, and exterior lighting.


Up for Discussion

Contacted by a non-profit debate organization, we were asked to renovate a cramped, historic home into a debate floor and offices for university students. Given the many quirks and unknown conditions of the 200-year-old building, we expanded our team to include SMEP engineers, a lighting consultant, and ultimately, input from the project’s contractor.

The final design for the debate facilities includes a central debate floor with a second-floor balcony on three sides, creating a dedicated gathering space for the society’s frequent debates. Ancillary spaces create spillover areas for this exciting new venue. 

Our SMEP engineers were crucial in advising how to structure the double-height space and balconies, as well as how to upgrade the utilities to meet modern needs and efficiency standards. Additionally, extensive exploratory demolition (i.e., gutting) of the house before the design was finalized allowed for an extremely close and productive collaboration between the owner, design team, and the contractor who is pricing and executing the project.

Our Flexible Approach to Collaboration

Our goal in every project is to fully meet the client’s needs. Whether we serve as their primary point of contact, or are brought in by another professional, we look forward to working with a diverse team to successfully execute the project. 

If you have questions about our firm, other work we’ve done, or our portfolio of architectural design services, please contact us at your convenience.