|Services of the Certified SEED Firm
Who architects serve, the few or the many, directly addresses the relevance of architecture in society. Should our role be large or small? Our services will have to changed and expanded if we are to serve those currently un-served.
The traditional role of architects is to come in late on a project and leave early. However, a few architects that we could call “public interest designers” come in early to the project and leave late. These designers help to define problems and locate opportunities where design has the potential to change the lives of individual people and communities. They remain late in the project to ensure that the designs they have created are serving the needs of their clients. The tangible result of both traditional and community design is architectural form, but the role of a Certified SEED Firm is to address more than the physical object alone. Form is still the physical manifestation, but they take more time in the beginning to understand the people and community they serve and make sure that the design works afterwards by measuring results. Transparency and accountability assure that the community’s trust is deserved and rewarded.
This type of design is well illustrated by a quote from Maurice Cox about his work at the Bayview community. His goal, Cox says, is “to give form to what is in the hearts of the Bayview community.” Cox did much more than give form to the buildings. His role involved pre-form and post-form components so that the form-making was relevant.
Pre-form -> Built form -> Post-form
Architects, at their best, are more than form givers. To be effective and engaged, our roles involve pre-form and post-form as well.
To illustrate again the pre-form and post-form role that SEED Certified Consultants play, we borrow a concept from the sustainable movement: upstream and downstream. To be responsible, designers must not think only about the short-term act of making form, but what happens before and after the physical object is built. In sustainability, the idea of “upstream” and “downstream” relate to environmental impact. In our case, the concept can relate to the impact a building can have on a community as well as the environment.
Upstream —————————– Downstream
Pre-form ——— Built form ——– Post-form
The two concepts – this expanded notion of service and our emphasis on design as a positive impact on people – are the healthy future of the profession. Why limit ourselves just to the narrow role of building form? Why limit ourselves to only the traditional narrow slice of what we can contribute? Our goal is not the state of design today and the few that it serves, but what it could be and the many more that could benefit from design.