Portland is a city known for its progressive spirit, its (mostly) good-natured acceptance of the rain, and a generous embrace of creativity and collaboration. So much so that the City has become a destination for émigrés from North America’s “creative class”.
From boutique bike designers and craft microbrewers, to writer’s collectives and modern dance cooperatives, to co-working office spaces and designers’ workshops, Portland is an epicenter for cross-pollination between artists, designers, and artisans of all stripes. Creative collaboration has become a cultural force in its own right here, one that crosses traditional boundaries between disciplines and communities.
Charles Heying, Associate Professor at Portland State University, labels this emergence the “Artisan Economy”. Old, in-house hierarchies are being thrown out for new relationships, outsourced and networked. According to Heying there’s a loss of security with this shift, but also an exciting creative dynamism – a new take on the oft-cited “creative destruction” of capitalism.
Given the turmoil that the past couple of years has brought to the construction industry, it should come as no surprise that these creative forces are reshaping the way we design and build Portland’s houses and other spaces.
Portland’s Design-Build Model Transformed
Perhaps the most exciting shift in this regard is in design-build development. Traditionally, “design-build” has referred to the contractor who takes over design functions for projects, or conversely, the architect who handles all construction functions herself. This conventional model is all about maintaining “in-house hierarchy”. And, unfortunately, the client often suffers because they are left out of the project development process; clients’ needs are neglected because everything happens behind closed doors at conventional design-build firms.
But the Portland trend away from in-house hierarchy and toward collaborative networks is changing all of this and transforming the design-build model in the process.
Today, more and more practitioners in Portland’s building and design communities are recognizing the creative possibilities (and business opportunities) that collaboration uncovers. So firms are reaching out to one another, transforming “design-build” into a collaboration between an independent builder and an independent designer, with space for a fully-empowered client.
This is excellent news for clients, because they now find themselves at the project development table as one of three equal stakeholders – each working together, advocating for what is important, discovering joint solutions, and crafting a final product that is stronger for the dynamic process from which it has emerged: tested, hard-won, and greater than the sum of its parts.
As a Portland remodeler and general contractor, we’ve experimented with collaborative home remodeling and construction project development since 1995. Please check out this page about our design-build approach.
-ZackBack to Field Notes