NEW PRACTICES NEED THE ESTABLISHED ONES, AND THE ESTABLISHED NEED THE NEW
Perhaps it's human nature to always want what you haven't got. When you're a newly qualified architect, you yearn for the knowledge and confidence experience gives you. Yet as you get older you desire a return to the fearless design zeal that the young seem to have in abundance.
Without the help of established architects, commissions for youngsters are hard to come by and projects of any scale are hard to deliver.
However, more established practitioners need a fresh, energetic eye on their projects with a contemporary skills base to visualise their architectural ideas. We all know that the new need the established and the established need the new: so where are the opportunities for crossover between the two?
The concept of incubation, where a start-up practice is given free office space and the use of infrastructure in a larger, more established firm, is a relatively new phenomenon in architecture. It cements a bond between the practitioners through direct cohabitation and can be a mutually beneficial relationship.
A young architect going it alone faces a terrifying array of options for office space: long leaseholds which they are unable to commit to financially, shared desk space in a suspect postcode (then try getting a bank loan), or, if they can rope their long-suffering partner into it, perhaps a live/work unit.
Although set-up costs are now minimal - one trip to PC World and you have a fully functioning office for half your PII fee - those without financial backing can struggle.
In contrast, an 'incubatee' can enjoy:
? financial security (low risk, low overheads);
? a professional 'front door' for clients;
? experienced advice and industry knowledge (from daily contact with their mentor); and - work opportunities (smaller projects that come into the larger office may be passed on to the fledgling incubatee, larger contracts can be bid for in partnership).
On the other hand, the experienced practitioner gets:
? an influx of new thinking, skills and experience;
? a committed design team, who can get smaller projects that financially, as a larger practice, they would be unable to sustain. The client stays in contact with the practice, which may mean more work;
? the possibility of a highprofile win due to the young bucks' flair and visuals combined with the incubator's professional standing; and - a chance to raise their media profile by association with a 'bright, new thing in the architectural world'.
Exciting, progressive and inclusive, this new way of working benefits the profession as a whole in two ways:
? young architects not 'flying by the seat of their pants'; and - a strong, competent and diverse new generation of practices, whose talent is not hamstrung by lack of cash or contacts, is created.
A rash of incubation centres aimed at hi-tech and IT start-ups has sprung up around the UK, offering workspace and high-level guidance on intellectual property, law, fund-raising and business development.
But architecture is a very specific field and young practices shouldn't have to work in a bubble. Perhaps it is time for the RIBA or the Architecture Foundation to step up and enable this new working phenomenon by actively bringing new and established practitioners together.