In the spring of 2008, Aaron Davis and I had a series of conversations regarding modes of architectural practice and wondered what a sort of collaborative office might constitute given our very different methods, approaches, and scales. We were graduate students with a year left while the bottom was falling out of the buiding industry in the US. A year later, we had our degrees in hand with almost no easy way to put what we had learned to use, save of course for the idea of collaborative practice we conconcted a year before. Along with two others, we formed PRE-Office, and we got busy researching the business of architecture. Perhaps more specifically, we researched the aspects of practice that were allowing some offices to weather the storm better than others, those others being seeimingly hopelessly tied to the larger economy. While we did a few other little things, it was this body of research that has had a lasting effect on me, my thinking, and my work.
1. habitual or customary performance; operation. 2. habit; custom. 3. repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency. 4. condition arrived at by experience or exercise. 5. the action or process of performing or doing something.
The complex relationship between architecture (the academic discipline, the profession, and the practice) and the world it helps create continues to fuel my investigation of multiple topics and at multiple scales. It has continued to shape my own relationship with what I see as my personal and professional agency. That there are modes of practice which remain not only relevant, but viable, despite an economy determined to see them fail is telling. What has been the fate of offices that follow profit-seeking development without diversifying their practice is also telling. That social responsibility is also a means toward financial sustainability is critical. That architecture should be held accountable for its role (however large or small, however active or passive) in the creation of the crisis is, to me, undeniable. It was through that research that I found the need to identify the functional, pragmatic, and instrumental meanings ofpractice, intervention, and place-making. The research asked whether what we design is directly influenced by how we work, by our business models, by our office structures -- sometimes asking whether a principal's relationship to his/her staff or partners might perhaps reveal something about his/her relationship with the work and with the world. Absolutely. The places we make are, in every way, the result of how we make them.
Last week, over a few beers, I signed myself out of PRE-Office, handing over my share of the company to Aaron who will be carrying on as only he could. I am very much looking forward to the future of PRE, the future of the thing that comes before, whatever that might mean or be. I want to thank him, along with Danny and Zach, for all the things people do when they don't know what they're doing, for the opportunity to live out a most unusual research experiment, and for the opportunity to practice in so many ways. As should always be the case I think, I can say that the thing that comes next for me comes out of the thing that came before.