Foster + Partners

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Open space at Foster+Partners: an inspirational place for working on exciting new projects.
A Good Design Manager should be extremely open-minded and investigate the crucial trends that will draw the future.

Foster + Partners (F+P) is one of the most innovative architecture and integrated design practices in the world. Pioneer of a sustainable approach to architecture through a broad range of work, from public infrastructure, cultural buildings to private houses and product design, F+P combines an expertise of techniques inherited from a rich architectural tradition with advanced building technology. For instance, one of the most recent challenges for the company is to build habitable buildings on the moon through 3D printing.

A recent visit to F+P’s London headquarter, one of the six offices worldwide, has been extremely interesting in order to understand how design mangers can be a part of such a great company.
In fact, within the company not only pure architects contribute to the success, but also an enthusiastic inspirational environment of engineers and integrated design teams.

‘From an organizational perspective, design does not operate in isolation, but in relation to a range of different disciplines, organizational units and functions’

(Best, K. 2015, p.21)

In F+P the company structure is hierarchical and the design of each project is reviewed regularly, both formally and informally by founder and chairman Norman Foster as the head of the Partnership Board and the Design Board team, that strongly rely on the collaboration of design/project managers These people coordinate all the projects and have an overall responsibility, through excellent skills in brief analysis, communication, and a can-do-attitude, that allow to support different departments in a challenging and creative environment.

Whereas the daily management of the practice and the strategic decisions about design, as well as budgets, and forecasts are monitored from the Board teams and managers, young employees are the actual work force behind each project, and the ones who stays until late making research and prototyping.
From a student perspective this might be discouraging, but on the other hand it is clear that with such a big and ambitious company with an international reputation, a hierarchical structure is required.

Reference:

Best, K. (2011) What can design bring to strategy? Designing thinking as a tool for innovation and change. Rotterdam: Inholland University of applied sciences.

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