The Best Idea Wins: Solutions from Every Seat in the Office
At Curtis Miner Architecture (CMA), we foster mutual respect and collaboration for people and their ideas. We like to call it “The Best Idea Wins.” The concept got its start as principal and founder Curtis Miner pondered the concept of exceptional design. He saw the biggest obstacle to creating value through excellent design and outstanding service: ego, the “protect your turf” attitude common in the architectural profession.
Living Your Mission Begins with Hiring Choices
Bringing a company’s mission statement and values to life doesn’t happen by accident. It means integrating who and how you hire and making decisions that develop and foster a firm’s culture. Our job interview process can be unique. “We tell the candidate if they have an ego, leave it at the door,” Curtis divulges. Why? “Because at CMA we look for the best solution, no matter where or who it comes from.”
Our design approach starts with discussions about design solutions. We look for and gather input from all corners of our office. It helps to have created an environment where each of us feels comfortable sharing ideas without fear of having them laughed at or pushed aside. The definition of team goes on to extend well beyond the walls of our office to include all stakeholders, including owners, engineers, and contractors.
When ego rears its head, firm leadership pushes back and makes sure no ideas are quashed and voices are heard as we synthesize data and build consensus around the best solution.
Inclusive Design Charettes
While the process can be informal and occur naturally, CMA also utilizes internal processes to meet client needs. The concept of a design charette came together a few centuries ago in France. Architect professors would send a cart around to pick up work from students. If the work wasn’t done, the students would jump in the cart or run alongside it, making final touches to their work.
These days, charettes are collaborative and problem seeking, pushing creative boundaries while contributing to a big and best idea. We like to engage participants and begin defining the client’s needs and goals, challenges and constraints. Then the sketch paper and markers come out; ideas start to flow as the group draws, sketches, and diagrams design ideas. By creating an environment of safe participation, the amplitude and diversity of ideas shift with conversation and drawing and over time build up to the best idea.
Collaborative Design Solutions
We saw this evolution of thought when working with Lehi City to master plan its civic campus plan and design the Joseph D. Adams Public Safety Building. While City leaders could have chosen an architect with a standard police station design and put it on a new site, they chose CMA because of our passion for creating a cohesive campus that reflected the city’s character. “We peeled off the layers and asked what this new building meant to the community. What it could represent and the behaviors it could influence and promote,” says Curtis. The team shared ideas about the historical, social, and physical design context of the community. Eventually, we proposed an idea to preserve the city’s heritage and build to the edge of the street, which they had done historically. The design solution reinforced the concept of a cohesive campus while creating a new standard of architecture for the community.
We know our work has meaning and purpose. That’s why we continually strive to prepare clear, high-quality documents that facilitate efficient and trouble-free construction. We know there will be times when our ideas and concepts may be rejected or not met with the level of enthusiasm we anticipated. That’s where we again let go of ego, listen to the client, and feel the needs of the users to elevate the design solution to something better that one of us alone could muster.