Your Friendly “Glocal” Architect

(By: Allison Brooks)

yourself in the world

Defined by Wikipedia: By definition, the term “glocal” refers to the individual, group, division, unit, organisation, and community which is willing and able to “think globally and act locally.” The term has been used to show the human capacity to bridge scales (local and global) and to help overcome meso-scale, bounded, “little-box” thinking

As architects, in many ways we are forced to work “locally” – think “locally” and manage “locally.” In fact, there are rules about it, governing how and why and when this can happen. But in the larger world of this ever expanding global economy, our networks, knowledge centers and collaboration nodes are far exceeding our “local” reach towards the complex “global” system. How does this change the way we “local” architects work?

We all intuitively understand that the ways and means of “work” have changed. People can work from everywhere using an endless variety of tools. Obviously, technology has been a huge instigator in this work revolution. In the spirit of architecture without borders, we have found ourselves thrust into opportunities not based on zip code, but on our knowledge and innovation. Granted, some of these projects started locally. Based on a job well done on one client’s project, we got a chance at a bigger conversation with senior leadership. That conversation blossomed into a deeper understanding of how we could help each other, and has since garnered a trusted strategic partnership helping to sell this client’s services and products to customers all over the world.

It’s important to note, being “glocal” works the other way too. Bringing “global” ideas to our “local” network is part of how we engage and promote our own community.  A prime example is Massachusetts’ own Creative Economy Council – the first of its kind in the US, this concept spurred from a set of global ideas to promote and advocate for creative businesses and entrepreneurship. It is now a driving legislative and economic force in our local market.

Being “glocal” is more than a state of mind, it’s an actionable goal. Using the tools we have around us, like virtual meetings and virtual modeling software, we are no longer dictated by our brick and mortar legacy. The rules of the game have changed, my friends. As architects, we do not sell products or buildings; we sell ideas, and ultimately we try and manifest the future for our clients, wherever they may be. With that, we shouldn’t feel limited by our zip code. Instead, we can be open to possibilities of new work, collaboration and innovation with new partnerships, strategic planning and whenever possible – bringing a vision to life.

7 Responses to “Your Friendly “Glocal” Architect”
  1. Great post I couldn´t agree more with you I think architects should embrace all the technological tools there are out there to bring global inovations into local contexts we have no longer to wait until modern methodologies or technologies arrive into an educatioal or economical local system , we can go out there look for the people who is already handling this inovations and invite them to collaborate .
    I´m currently developing research for parametric architecture and also developing augmented reality interactive tools and much of this has been possible by using all the tools that are avialable today.

    • Thanks for the comment Rodrigo, we salute your advocacy for design without borders! We have more insight into this as well and look forward to posting additional thoughts that we can build conversation on. Keep watching our blog and many, many thanks.

  2. @Winter_Street pointed me to this post – great stuff! The line that connects with me most is your point that we “… sell ideas”. There is nothing more portable than a pure idea. It starts to get ‘heavy’ when it has to be applied to a particular context. I’ve been looking at what sort of contexts keep it fairly light.
    A few thoughts here

  3. Herwig Delvaux says:

    It’s all about SIZE.
    This was before, this is now, and this will be so in the future as well.
    The bigger the project, the more physical distance there can be between an architect and a client and a building site.
    Two feet firmly on the ground, good people…
    You WILL have to travel, and the size of the project is the only factor that can allow you to be paid for that travel. As simple as that.

    ” … As architects, we do not sell products or buildings; we sell ideas…. ”

    Yes, but then you strategically forget about liability. This is a LOCAL legal matter. If you are just designing the master plan, and then run away… meaning, give the job to a “local” (subcontracting or not architect), to get the thing develloped and supervised, it is easy talk but not honest.
    I am quite not impressed by the air of novelty in this article. If (legal) practise and further reality comes in, it is as I started above: it is all about SIZE.

    • We might have to agree to disagree on this one, Herwig. We recently finished (constructed) a project in Australia (which for us in half way around the world) that wasn’t more than 5,000sf. Size wasn’t a factor for us because we were able to closely partner with the local team to support implementation (we did not run away). So I believe that working globally doesn’t always have to be about the project girth; I will agree that it can help. There are many different ways to do architecture and design (as you know). And sometimes it’s not just about completing the project on your own or dropping the liability into someone elses hands. Sometimes it’s about partnering and finding a way to lift up the client or make the project better by working with others. The industry is changing and technology is allowing us to do things differently, so we’re acknowledging that. And by the way, a little novelty, adventure and imagination can go a long way these days.

  4. geokser says:

    3. Yes size does help to justify the added cost of global participation. But that is not generally the sole consideration that drives globalization of services and goods. If it is, global trade will be a non starter from day one and high fashion would never have made it to the Shanghai Nanjing Road or Shenyang, the centre of luxury goods in China for that matter.

    The issue is about perception of the value that a foreign team or input can add to the project. And that is where I reckon Allison is driving at in their article. ie. Architectural design consultancy with a local counterpart to bring the bar to a higher level on the global arena.

    Herwig’s emphasis on the liability aspect is precisely what’s stopping some clients from venturing into the ‘unknown’ of inviting global input. The world would have been that much poorer if not for the ‘heroic’ clients who have opted for ‘diversity of talents’ that is available on the global marketplace.

  5. pauldurand says:

    Traditional means and methods require that larger projects are necessary to dilute cost of travel but virtualized work requires much less travel and sometimes none at all. Our work abroad is based on relationships already established (and who we work with virtually quite a bit) who had a foreign client who helped us develop a local partner to handle jurisdictional and liability issues.

    Our necessity abroad was an expertise we have that is novel and not shared by many (yet) and we virtuallly built the project using building information modeling software and our communication was clear and thorough between our client, their client and our local partner. We could walk through, cut away, spin and zoom into detail any aspect of the project in real time among the team all sitting miles and miles apart. So a small project done half way around the globe was possible. Time zones differences being the biggest impediment…but as long as you don’t mind losing sleep…it’s no problem

    You have to craft roles differently. Working globally is about being and thinking global….not taking a local strategy somewhere else.

    Architects often hide behind issues of legality and liability (in just about every discussion about new ideas), and these are real and true concerns….but they are issues to overcome not to be overcome by. The question should always be: How can I? Not, why I can’t. Otherwise you always lose.

    Architects need to do is think creatively and strategically beyond their craft and apply it to business and marketing and operations and everything they do. If you think you can’t, then you won’t.

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