Architects Communicating with a Variety of Audiences

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Mr. Brooks (far left) and I (far right) with a mockup for the ARCH 335 project

Robert Brooks is an associate professor at Louisiana Tech University in the School of Design, teaching both architecture and interior design courses.  Both before arriving in Ruston and since, Mr. Brooks has worked in an architecture firm/office setting either as an intern, project manager, or director. His firm, Studio Brooks + Emory, LLC, formerly Studio Brooks, LLC, was founded in 2005 and has continued to today, having done projects in and around the area, such as the Co:Lab house. The Co:Lab house, built initially for a Tech student, has since been transformed into a studio building for the School of Design under Mr. Brooks’ direction. Through the ARCH 335 Design Build program, Mr. Brooks has helped to foster relationships in the community and build charity projects as seen fit.  I have the privilege to be in Mr. Brooks’ class this quarter for ARCH 335 Design Build and got a chance to sit down with him during the hectic schedule associated with the class.

COMMUNICATING IN THE WORKPLACE

As Mr. Brooks explained, most in house workplace communication happens in an informal way. “99% of all internal communication happens face to face or via text message”, he said. Skipping formalities and really getting to quick communication is paramount to making as many decisions as are required to keep a project running at top speed. Communicating with co-workers in message services such as GroupMe means that no one is out of the loop on decision making for more than a few hours and makes slower communication methods such as email inefficient. Communication in the workplace has become so quick and efficient, in fact, that it hardly breaks down if ever. As he put it so simply,” The best way to solve communication issues is to communicate!”

COMMUNICATING TO THE PUBLIC

As ideas leave the firm walls and is distributed to the public and the clients in particularly, communication becomes more important. As Mr. Brooks put it, “All communication is dependent upon the audience in which it is intended. We generally know our subject material well enough to tailor its delivery to the intended audience. Most of the language used to talk to our engineering consultants is technical in nature, while the language used to communicate with our clients is generally persuasive in nature, and the language used to communicate with collaborators is generally informal in nature.” Again in this area of communication, technology shows its ability to solve problems at large. “Technology has made it much easier to communicate complex ideas, regardless of physical location. We have even presented work to a client over their mobile phone using a PowerPoint app. Technology has also made it easier to quickly and effectively customize presentations for specific audience groups.”

COMMUNICATING IN ACADEMIA

As a professor as well as a professional, Mr. Brooks has a special perspective on how to communicate with fellow architectural minds, albeit developing minds. “Generally I have to be much more patient with students than I do with any other contact group”, Mr. Brooks said, to which we both responded with a chuckle. Because formative places for architecture such as academia are the roots of new ideas these days, Mr. Brooks ended the interview with a statement on a better future with change. He articulates, “The biggest change I would like to see is not between architects and clients, or architects to architects… but rather I would like to see academia engage the public more. Academia has the potential to help change the world for the better. But unfortunately, most academics are only talking to each other rather than the people that they could benefit the most.”

Cody Pate, Guest Blogger

The Influence of Technical Communication in Architecture

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Matt Huffman: Architect

 


Matt Huffman grew up in Ruston, Louisiana, and graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a Master of Architecture in 2014. He is an architect who is currently a part of the TBA Architecture firm based in Monroe, Louisiana. The firm he works for has built many projects, including both the Athletics Center and the new press box that is currently under construction at the Joe Aillet stadium. On a daily basis, Matt will interact with many people whether it be his boss, co-workers, partners, or clients. This being the case, all aspects of communication are vital to his success in the field of architecture.

 

Written communication


In architecture, written communication is the most important asset in the construction stage of a project. In construction, written communication is not presented in the form of a letter or conversation, but rather in the form of construction documents. Construction Documents (CD’s) are detailed drawings “loaded with information” on how to build each individual component of the project. If a single part is overlooked, it could affect the structural or visual integrity of the design.

 

Verbal communication


When Matt is meeting with a client, it is crucial that he listens intently “to understand the client’s desires, needs, and wants.” If it is not fully understood what the client is asking for, the architect risks building something that dissatisfies the client. Simple gestures like repeating things back to the client or asking them to clarify more specifically what they are trying to explain, will prevent any miscommunication. The next step in this process would be the explanation of Matt’s design to the contractor. It is the Architect’s responsibility to take the design based on the client’s needs and express it clearly to the contractor. If this step is not taken, the final product will not line up with what was designed. This would untimely leave the client unhappy with a product that does not meet their needs.

 

Visual communication


Throughout a work day, Matt will look through many official documents that express the design of a project. While these documents may be familiar to an architect and easy to understand, a client who is not frequently exposed to these drawings may not be able to visualize what the completed work will look like. It is for this reason that Matt and his co-workers show renderings and precedents. Using these tools closely resembles what the finished product will look like, making it “the easiest way to get the point across” to the client. These renderings make it easy for the clients to perceive the atmosphere of the design.

 

Advice for student


Matt has been working as an architect for three years now. Because he was in school only three years ago, it is easy for him to recall what those times were like. When asked about his college experience, as well as his experience in the actual work place, Matt had an important piece of advice to give. He emphasizes that in the real world the client is the most important factor. His number one mission is to meet the needs of those clients. Likewise, Matt believes that in school, you should treat your teachers as if they are your actual client. Taking advice and following their direction is how you will be most successful in school.

Joshua Maxfield, Guest Blogger