Blending Research, Service and Practice
Within the allied professions of architecture, engineering, and construction, there is an imminent need to creatively hybridize the disparate realms of research, public interest design, and traditional practice. This hybrid has the potential to reinvigorate these professions and shift the relevance of the industry in line with the current and future issues facing the built environment. Snow Kreilich Architects, has begun to combine these disparate realms of practice/inquiry into a hybridized studio model in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This paper will use case study methodology to document and summarize the process of forming such a hybrid. The topics discussed will include: (1) Drawing precedent for research-oriented and purpose-oriented organizations and from the fields of medicine, law, and technology. (2) The underpinnings of hybrid design organizations, drawing precedent from the University of Minnesota’s Master of Research Practices in Architecture (MS-RP) program (3) evaluate and discuss the successes and shortcomings associated with hybridizing an existing studio- based architectural practice. (4) Discuss the potential benefits of combining these realms from a financial, operational, and relevance point of view. As a case study, Snow Kreilich Architects’ existing architectural practice explored how research within the firm has potential to elevate the everyday work we do and also provide design services through alternative means to marginalized topics and populations, both domestically and abroad. Critically, both types of service are arranged logistically to behave in symbiosis. Within this evolving environment at Snow Kreilich Architects, the unlikely combination of research, architectural services, and public interest design agendas found common ground to be pursued through an innovative business model. Identifying alternative, recurring sources of funding was a critical step in forming an operational and budgetary plan for how research and pro bono activities could function alongside the existing structure of the firm. These two modes of practice were already an integral part of the way the studio worked but both research and pro bono projects were treated as entirely philanthropic activities. Leveraging interdisciplinary partnerships under the umbrella of a non-profit status allowed previously anecdotal research and philanthropic design projects to go further and have larger impact backed by calculated research methodology and dedicated research staff. The hybrid studio offers possibilities for the profession to broaden its lens, work with unlikely interdisciplinary partners, and design for segments of the population outside the profession’s traditional reach. The hybrid structure piloted and evolving at Snow Kreilich Architects allows the studio the flexibility and capacity to deal with complex problems presented in the world. We see the opportunities for this type of hybrid operational model to expand its application and to grow in importance as the architectural profession, and other professions, are asked to creatively produce thoughtful solutions to urgent issues in the built and unbuilt environments.