Effects of Corporate Culture on Architectural Experimentation

I was wondering how Corporate culture affects experimentation and innovation in an Architectural Design studio…

These days, there are but few high profile architects who are known worldwide for their designs. Nowadays, Architects rarely work solo on major projects. More often than not, there is a group of Architects working for a consortium or a corporation that bags major projects. There are large corporations built around the business of architecture. So, an iconic & monumental project is seldom credited to the creativity of one architect. Rather, it is the credit of the corporation. The honour is distributed to the entire team. Its not like old times anymore when a building would represent the character of an architect…

Great Architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Great Architect Frank Lloyd Wright

We begin to wonder whether work in corporate environment leads to suppression of artistic fervor and zeal of experimentation in an Architect,.

Historically, architectural firms have always been sole proprietorship or partnerships. But in recent years, many successful Architectural studios have gone the corporate route, thus operating under the umbrella of a corporation, for legal and tax benefits. The Corporation becomes a living entity that may retain the rights of an architect’s work.

Generally, corporations are governed by a Board of Directors. The main responsibility of the Board is to ensure profitability of the firm.While it is  the right thing to do, but in some instances, such obsession with cutting costs and increasing profits corrupts the creativity culture in an Architectural firm. This corruption could permeate to such an extent that long-term growth is sacrificed for short-term profitability.

Due to this mindset, experimentation is discouraged in such organizations. Overhead costs are minimized in ways that could hamper the overall quality of designs in the firm. Such ruthless cost-minimization instills a sense of fear in employees and they are afraid to try new things. This kind of culture of fear in a design-oriented firm could become its death knell. Creativity and innovation are seriously hampered in such environments.

This is my take on it… There may be exceptions to it. But I feel a corporate environment limits freedom of thought to some extent. And it certainly does affect the end product, the designs of the architect.

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