the melting pot

Although it complicates record-keeping, architects do attest to the benefits of having multiple designers, especially on community-revitalization projects. At Greenbridge, a HOPE VI community south of Seattle in King County, Wash., Seattle-based GGLO is working with Seattle-based subconsultant Arellano/Christofides Architects. Both firms are designing townhouses, and although GGLO is coordinating design and construction, Arellano/Christofides acts as architect of record on its own buildings. Team meetings are held at GGLO's office, and the two firms go on site-observation visits together and separately. “The contractor wants to rely on a common set of documents to build the project, so there's a lot of commonality in the buildings we've designed,” says GGLO principal Jeff Foster, AIA. “But having a different design hand adds variety and diversity and helps to create an illusion of the happy accident of time in a large new neighborhood.”

Roger Goldstein, FAIA, a principal at Goody Clancy, Boston, agrees that the hardest aspect of partnering is figuring out how to manage as a single design team. Even with e-mail and FTP sites for sharing drawings, he finds it's often easier to trade staff for awhile. “We work with other architects all the time and complain about it, but it's the world we're in and we're always trying to figure out how to do it better,” Goldstein explains. “Because there are fewer minority firms, it's hard to find good ones to fill a need. I understand the reason for having these percentage targets,” he adds, “but I'm not sure it always leads to better buildings.”

If current demographic trends continue, some of these issues will likely fade. The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that between 1997 and 2002, racial and ethnic minority groups launched their own ventures at rates two to four times faster than that of the general population. It's possible that in the next decade, minority entrepreneurs will face the same growth challenges as any other fledging enterprise.

beyond quotas

Shalom Baranes, FAIA, first crossed paths with Shaun Benson-Frazier on an American Red Cross project about four years ago. Benson-Frazier, an architecture-trained black woman, was managing the design and construction of the organization's new headquarters building in downtown Washington, D.C., which Baranes' firm designed.

Baranes was impressed with Benson-Frazier's managerial skills, so when she hung out her shingle in 2003, he engaged her as a design/build subconsultant for a large tenant-build-out project for the Pentagon, offering her office space in which to conduct business and access to professional services at no charge. “We look for individuals who want to go into business on their own, guarantee them projects, and then support them with the use of a phone, fax, and legal, accounting, and marketing services,” he says.

“Partnering with Shalom has worked out well,” says Benson-Frazier, founder of BOC & Associates, a Silver Spring, Md.-based construction-management firm. “He has been very supportive of our efforts to expand and to acquire new projects.”

Baranes notes that this relationship grew out of a history of general contractors working at the Pentagon who have dedicated themselves to helping new businesses get started. “It just seemed like there was a need for us to mirror those values,” he says.