the field, a decision about a technical matter is also a decision
about an artistic judgment, and it is also a business decisionabout
liability, for example, about cost, he adds. If we cant control
all those things holistically, then were not architectswere
artists or businesspeople, but were not architects.
In addition to varied responsibilities at the firm, a good balance
between work and family is another creative plus. What really
has enabled Steve and me to do what weve been able to do is
that we have spouses who also have businessesnot togetherbut
who are active and have their own work that they pursue, and
then also families, says Timberlake.
He is married to Marguerite Rodgers, an interior designer whose
portfolio includes several high-profile Philadelphia restaurants,
including Rouge, Striped Bass, and Susanna Foo, as well as residential
work. They have a six-year old son named Harrison. Kieran and
his wife, Barbara Degrange Kieran, a vice president with reseach-and-consulting
firm National Analysts, have two children: Christopher, now
in college at Vassar, and Caitlin, now in high school. Rather
than one or the other partner running a given project, the model
that they have moved toward has an associate in charge with
us acting as design partners, says Timberlake. This allows
Steve and me the freedom to collaborate and employ the collective
intelligence of the firm on projects.
This collaborative model is becoming more common among architecture
firms, serving as a useful counterweight to the prevailing cultural
value placed on specialization. We think specialization is
the death knell, Kieran says.
a time when the complexity of the world and the materials we
had to deal with, the sciences involved, was significantly simpler
than they are now, he explains. As an architect you were not
just a designer; you were a materials scientist, you were an
engineer, you were the builder, you were the conceiver. This
era yielded some extraordinarily profound art that we all still,
when we get the chance, run around the world trying to find
and see because it moves our souls.
One of the saddest legacies of Modernism, in architecture
and other fields, he adds, is the belief that to advance knowledge
we all have to quadrant ourselves into a narrow specialization.
While this may (or may not) be fine for fields such as medicine,
for example, Whats lost for architects is the ability to bring
the whole of an artifact as complex as a building to life in
a holistic and integrated way.
The profession has narrowed its focus over the last 50 years,
says Timberlake, both through fragmentation into sub-disciplines
and by deciding that we dont want to design a certain aspect
of the building, thats for somebody else. For example, landscape
architecture is part and parcel of the program that makes up
Levine Hall, he says. Engineering is very much a part of the
architecturethats why the wall, the infrastructure in that
building, and the choice of structural systems is very much
celebrated. All of thats an act of design, in collaboration
with the engineers and the landscape architects that participated
in that team.
The argument that the profession should take on less has led
to a failure in quality, in control, in an exercise of making
products that have human scale, he says. And thats why weve
been practicing an integrated philosophy, and now in this new
book we argue for it.
Architecture: How Manufacturing Methodologies Are Poised to
Transform Building Construction, published this month by
McGraw-Hill, is their manifesto for a new architecture, in which
the profession will reclaim its central role in creating buildings
by adopting practices developed in other industries such as
shipbuilding and automotive and aircraft manufacturing. (The
partners have previously collaborated on Manual: The Architecture
of KieranTimberlake, published by Princeton Architectural
Press in 2002.)
Architecture came out of research made possible by the Benjamin
Latrobe Fellowship, a two-year grant of $50,000 from the American
Institute of Architects College of Fellows. The award, for architectural
design research, was established in 2001, with KieranTimberlake
as the inaugural winner. In the first year of the fellowship,
they crisscrossed the countrythey mention Steinbecks Travels
with Charley, then Jack Kerouac as a better comparisonmeeting
with managers, engineers, and product designers at companies
like Boeing, DaimlerChrysler, and the shipbuilder Kvaerner in
an attempt to identify transfer technologies that could be adapted
to building design and construction. They basically have this
integrated model, and its had a huge impact on the quality
of what they can do, says Kieran. It is largely a computer-based
model that allows for integrated, cross-disciplinary discussions
and working together across continents.
The partners also helped to organize and were featured at The
Architectural Record Innovation Conference, held in New York
on October 8-9. Speakers included Nobel Laureate (and former
Penn physics professor) Alan Heeger of the University of California,
Santa Barbara; Segway inventor Dean Kamen; and representatives
from NASA, Lockheed Martin, and Walt Disney Imagineering, among
others. By having people other than architects present whats
going on in their worlds, followed by a roundtable thats directed
by architects in each of those sessions, the idea was to talk
about ways of integration, ideas that might be transferable,
strategies that we can learn from, explains Timberlake.
Besides supporting their investigations into innovations in
other industries, the fellowship also provided funds that allowed
them to hire an in-house research staff, a distinct rarity for
a U.S. architecture firm. Corporate grants have supplemented
this support more recently, and if it turns out it cant support
itself, well support it, says Kieran.
Both men place a high value on teaching, whether in their written
work, mentoring the members of their firm, or in the classroom.
The design lab that theyve taught at Penn for the past four
years, they say, has been valuable both as a place to share
their expertise and try out new ideas.
The lab suits their philosophy better than a conventional design
studio, says Kieran. It allows us to set the agendas and direct
the work, and its a way of combining our research interests
with academics and having students learn in a different and
more directed way. That helps justify the time they spend teachingsince
we are, after all, mostly practicing architectsas well as
giving students insight into the world of actually making things.
In contrast to the view that architectural form is everything,
which was prevalent when they were in school and still exists
in some quarters, says Timberlake, Our philosophy is really
that form is one leg of a triad. Vitruviuss term is Commodity,
Firmness, and Delight, and weve always subscribed to that:
It has to be useful, it has to work and be maintained and last
a long time, and it has to be beautiful. If youre only solving
for beautiful, youre forgetting the other two legs of that
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