This is less a question to be answered directly, but rather a provocation for a conceptual business model for the continuation of the architectural profession. I believe that this concept is interesting for the professional practice in that practices are interested both in the innovation of the built environment and the longevity of the profession itself. I would, therefore, not be looking for a direct answer, but rather a moment of reflection for the future of the architectural profession and how we [architypes] might secure our longevity and relevance in a dynamic and ever-changing political and economic landscape.
With the future uncertainties of the architectural profession, among many other trades, in lieu of a declining economy, it appears to be critical to rethink current business models (relationship between architects/clients/cities/etc.) that limit the discipline to a confined linear model. It is important to note precedents in other fields whom are ahead of the economic curve despite recessions and ever-changing cultural climates. Two trends I believe architectural practice could be doing more to take advantage of (both for internal monetary gain and overall building performance); cloud-computing and the media-driven frenzy of “the green movement”. These movements can be better leveraged to finance sustainable building research and digital innovations.
This year, Boeing will no longer sell jet engines; rather they will lease them, so that overtime they may continually monitor the performance of the jet engines from larger ranges as opposed to only monitoring an individual engine—where little information can be gathered compared to the emergent information that will be seen from looking at the entire field of engines within the world. As a business model this allows them to have access to a continuous flow of finances from both a product and service. Their monitoring not only allows them to see in real-time the performance of their product/design, but how to better re-design future engines—which will undoubtedly lead to patentable products/designs.
Similarly, this type of business model can be seen in relation to another profession that was at once losing out on it services/product due to piracy and outsourced/generic models—mass-media: music, videos and software. To combat the problem of piracy, in conjunction with novel ideas of distributed networking and cloud computing, allowed software companies to hold on to their product while the users merely tap into this continuous stream of product. This allows both the company to monitor the popularity and profitability of their services (the performance) and also allows for a continuous stream of financial income by increasing their web-of-influence. To increase longevity, as do species in biological nature fighting for survival, increased their diversity and stretched their web-of-influence within their ecology.
These examples are interesting models considering the current developer-driven atmosphere that the architectural profession is now immersed. Architectural studios/firms developed under this model would operate under a research and design model where research is simulated and tested for architectural solutions on real-world projects, where clients are actively sought-out to lease a product (the building) to the client in need, and continue to monitor the product throughout its life-cycle to ensure building performance sustainability. This would allow the profession to take a lead role in the enhancement of building performance through quantitative and qualitative monitoring—where currently we lack real-time quantitative data to back up our computer simulated data of building performance. This would produce valuable information for the sustainability of built environment through a greater understanding by way of data–as a scientific and technological vantage through the increased data afforded by the monitoring of multiple buildings in the environment. This type of model might, in fact, be a more pleasurable model considering the changing sociocultural landscape for those seeking rapid exchanges/transactions (mobility as opposed to stability/lease as opposed to outright ownership). The second cultural shift affecting this movement is the increased call for sustainable technologies over the lifecycle of a product [decreased carbon footprint and waste reduction] and the increased monitoring, simulating, and tracking of every known product and service in both the present and past.
In addition to the beneficial gain in knowledge through greater understanding of our environment by way of the monitoring, sensing, and simulation, during a time when large fluctuations of instability in the global economy shifts the architectural profession through troughs and peaks, creating a web of interdependence that would be too great between the two for either to be pulled apart— co evolving into a symbiotic relationship.