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Eduard Sancho Pou

Function Follows Strategy Architects’ Strategies from the Fifties to the Present

F unction Follow s Str ategy

Author: Eduard Sancho Pou Editors: Cornelia Hellstern (project manager), Katinka Johanning Editorial services: Florian Köhler, Michaela Linder, Anna Zwenger Translations: Kirsten Heininger , Keiki Communication, Berlin Copy editing: Kathrin Enke, Ludwigsburg Art direction and graphic design: Christoph Kienzle, ROSE PISTOLA GmbH Typesetting /DTP: Simone Soesters Reproduction: Repro Ludwig Prepress & Multimedia GmbH, Zell am See (A) Printing and Bindung: Kessler Druck + Medien, Bobingen

© 2015, first edition DETAIL − Institut für internationale Architektur-Dokumentation GmbH & Co. KG, Munich ISBN: 978-3-95553-196-6 (Print) ISBN: 978-3-95553-197-3 (E-Book) ISBN: 978-3-95553-198-0 (Bundle)

This work is subject to copyright. All rights reserved, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, recitation, reuse of illustrations and tables, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilm or in other ways, and storage in data processing systems. Reproduction of any part of this work in individual cases, too, is only permitted within the limits of the provisions of the applicable copyright law. A fine will be levied. Infringements will be subject to the penalty clauses of the copyright law. Bibliographical information published by the German National Library. The German National Library lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographical data are available on the Internet at

Cover: James Rouse (1914–96), urban planner, project developer and strategist


P RE F ACE p. 6








Making the rules p. 134

OUTLOO K p. 162

e p i l o g UE p. 172

I n t e r v i e w p. 174

A P P EN D I X p. 184


Fu n c ti on Fo l l ow s S tra t e g y

Pr e fa c e Eduard Bru

This book’s message is clear: To work as an architect, you need commissions. To gain ­commissions, you have to operate in the market for intangible goods – because in contrast to fruit and vegetables, say, when you contract to build something, the good you are selling does not yet exist. For this reason, some architects have developed business strategies – even if, as the author points out here, they don’t always want to admit it. A building intrinsically reflects its design strategy. What are the relationships between the sales strategy and the strategy used to develop something material and habitable that brings together all the necessary parameters, such as usage, form, technology and materials? Is one strategy more important than the other? Didn’t the design strategy once determine the sales strategy? And isn’t the reverse true now? What would happen if both culminated in a single strategy? And would it be interesting if it were so? Certainly, students don’t learn what the author calls “sales know-how” in the course of their architecture studies – or rather, he posits that it has not been taught until now. So his thesis that supply now determines demand is new to

us. It also contradicts the generally held belief that demand determines supply. Given these new conditions, how should an architect deal with small and medium-sized budgets, and what about large ones? Is only a repetition of what works possible in the first case – while in the latter the architect can design without sense or purpose, simply because the money is there? This analysis also includes the context and boundaries within which the author’s heroes – or perhaps anti-heroes? – move. Rem Koolhaas, for example, always tries to derive a system out of everything, beginning with his two companies, AMO and OMA, whose names mirror each other, through to the commissions he obtains to create buildings with great symbolic power. What Koolhaas sells is ideas and designs. Clearly, they meet a demand for symbolic ­values; at the same time, however, they maintain credible architectural principles: logic in structure, flexibility, repeatability, circulation and an avoidance of trivial ornamentation. I would assume that for Koolhaas, the idea of selling enters into a project as an additional component – the necessity of selling is not


negated, but rather used deliberately to interact with other variables. After his extensive and thorough research, Sancho Pou has established that the major change lies in the increasing involvement of corporate clients, who demand strategies. But is this really a major change? In its original form, classic Modernism was characterized by a tireless defence of the strategies of its protagonists – from Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier to Mies van der Rohe – against all comers. The enemy, though, is not one of the architects analysed by Sancho Pou, nor is it the “seller” of strategies; the true enemy is the architect who keeps going round in circles by himself and who never innovates. This brings to mind Walter Benjamin’s “Angelus Novus”, who, with his eyes turned to the smouldering ruins of the past, is relentlessly driven by a storm into the future. Benjamin’s storm stands for progress. Sancho Pou’s modern Angelus Novus, too, moves through a chaotic reality and finds a way to bring order to it, even if we don’t necessarily realize it at first.



Fu n c ti on Fo l l ow s S tra t e g y


We live in a society in which companies and even individuals try to sell us something every day. This is most apparent in the ubiquity of advertising. The scramble for ratings, for a larger audience share, has spilled over from the mass media into our everyday environment and has even reached buildings. To understand this phenomenon, it’s best to borrow from advertising’s own methods and make use of images. An image is worth a thousand words in the attempt to convey the concept of strategies in the marketing of architecture. Two examples will serve to illustrate both the initial situation and the way things are today. The first example is a Joseph Beuys installation from 1980 titled “Wirtschaftswerte” (economic values), which can be taken to represent architecture in the mid-20th century. In the ample display of merchandise, the products are not in competition, despite their abundance. Similarly, every architect once had enough space to develop his project (his object) and place it in its surroundings (on a shelf ). The objects, like their forms, are diverse, but convey a certain feeling of unity, distinguishing themselves from the gold-framed paintings behind the shelves. That generation of architects, then, all employed the same design

Wirtschaftswerte, Installation (1980), Joseph Beuys, S.M.A.K., Gent



Telephone bids for 99 Cent II Diptychon, photograph (2001), Andreas Gursky

tools in their attempts to outdo previous achievements with a new kind of ­architecture. The second example, a photograph taken by Andreas Gursky in 2001 titled “99 Cent II Diptychon”, represents architecture at the beginning of this century. Its scope has been expanded; there is more merchandise on display. More architecture is being designed, and everyone is trying to stand out. Given the pre­ vailing  monotony of the goods, only those that offer the brightest yellow, the most stripes or the biggest box count. Manufacturing the packaging is of course expensive, as is seducing consumers, but if you want to sell, you have to attract attention. The result is visual chaos. Everything seems perfectly ordered, yet it is  difficult to distinguish one package from another because so many things are  vying for our attention that they all seem the same in the overall mass of objects. If we have to be guided by neon signs to find the right lemon-based hair conditioner that fights dandruff and smells of honey, and we don’t understand the order of the system, we won’t be able to identify the product and the product won’t find a buyer. Sales strategies can help one to grasp how to present oneself in such a fragmented commercial space and how one’s own product – be it a toothbrush or a building – can achieve prominence. The desire to stand out and develop an individual design language is resulting in increasingly arbitrary and playful forms in architecture. There is a push to build buildings we don’t need. Designs which don’t even try to solve problems and which serve only to boost sales are in demand. Every effort is made to persuade customers and win over the public, but it is all done on a scale and at a price that in practice is turning out to be too high.


Chapter 1



In the middle of the past century, Charles ­Luckman, himself an architect, began applying the methods of marketing to architecture. He had already very successfully implemented marketing strategies in large companies by occupying himself intensively with his clients’ needs and processes and by helping them to achieve the goals they set with an optimum use of the funds available. His approach was similar to that of a management consultant. He worked at the client’s premises so as to thoroughly get to know and understand operations and to stay in constant dialogue with the staff. This enabled him to develop a useful and efficient solution. Constructing a new building was a last resort. Before such a step was taken, he would do an in-depth analysis of all the renovation and conversion possibilities of the client’s existing buildings. This process made it possible to go back to models that had already been used with success. In his eagerness to satisfy others, Luckman did not pursue his own style. Rather his firm planned buildings based on the client’s style, clearly focusing on the client’s goals. He created architecture that lacked the “signature” of its architect and that was characterized by the following qualities: problem solving, compliance with a set budget, and long-term value creation. An architect must understand the mechanisms on which decisions made by the board or by

shareholders are based, justifying his decisions in relation to their impact on the client’s business situation. With this approach, a client is no longer obliged to recoup his investment in a building through amortization. This opens up the option of increasing individual budget items for the maintenance and construction of buildings. Justifying a building project based on capital returns implies that the building is seen as an independent advertising medium. A single building can change consumers’ perceptions and create what is for many companies a desirable intangible value that eventually results in higher sales figures. The building may also be used to optimize the working processes within the company. If the quality of the working environment improves, there will be positive effects such as a decrease in absenteeism, an improved loyalty to the employer, and a boost in productivity in the medium term. Going far beyond his classic role, the architect provides consulting services. Whether he charges for his services no longer depends on whether a building is built or not. The architect now earns his fee by providing the company with added value and helping its board to make strategic decisions. Luckman is an example of this practice. Comparisons and parallels with other architects are described in the final chapter. It will become clear that architects like Gensler or Koolhaas interpret business strategies for the companies they work for or even help entire countries define their identities.


Chapter 1


Charles Luckman’s autobiography, Twice in a Lifetime: From Soap to Skyscrapers. New York /London 1988


rchitecture and marketing are two very closely linked disciplines. If you can’t persuade others, you won’t be able to sell, so an architect must be able to design as well as seduce. An online search using the terms “architect” and “marketing expert” yields not greats such as Norman Foster or Renzo Piano, creators of major projects that sell well, but personalities such as Benjamin Netanyahu or Ratan Tata, who are unexpected in this context. It’s surprising to learn that the Israeli Prime Minister holds a degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1975) and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management (1977). Ratan Tata, former chairman of Tata Motors, one of India’s biggest companies, and developer of the Tata Nano Car, completed an architecture degree at Cornell University (1962) before going on to complete an MBA at Harvard Business School. The connection between architecture and marketing harbours great potential, exploding the boundaries of the architectural profession. Every architect has his own method of attracting customers. In one camp are those who prefer a traditional approach and who use personal or family contacts, participate in public tenders, or rely on the prestige of awards or university courses. In the other camp are architects who have developed new forms of approaching potential clients: architects like Cedric Price, an Englishman who joined of all kinds of societies and associations to make contacts and establish himself in society. He belonged, of course, to the Architectural Association, but also to more than 20 other associations and institutions, including the National Mouse Club, the National Lending Library and the Hot Staff Club. Membership in all these groups offered Price a way of understanding society and allowed him to use them as a “preliminary sieve” to find projects that nobody had yet commissioned him with. Taking the initiative – that was his kind of marketing. No one embodies the symbiosis between architecture and marketing better than Charles Luckman (*1909 in Kansas City, †1999 in Los Angeles). The key to his success – first in retail marketing and later in selling architecture – was doubtless his power of persuasion, with which he seems to have been born. He was the student body president at primary school and later in high school. During his architecture studies, he represented his fellow students at the University of Illinois and was renowned for his unbeatable eloquence. He spoke well in public and was able to make his case convincingly. All this was of little use to him, however, when, after completing his studies in 1931, he set out to look for a job during the Great Depression.


Earning a paltry wage as an office clerk, he was barely able to feed his young family. By night, he was taking his first steps as an architect and working as an illustrator on advertising campaigns for the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Company. There he had difficulties convincing his superiors, who systematically undervalued his work, of the uniqueness of his ideas. But Luckman would not be cowed and kept insisting that he did good work. He argued that if a product could not be established on the market, it was due to the inability of the sales staff. So in a period of deepest recession, he was made to visit the retailers himself. He acquired seven new customers in a single day. “On Chicago’s tough South Side, Chuck Luckman sold soap to seven of the first eight stores he visited. Later he (Luckman) quipped: ‘If I couldn’t sell soap in a dirty slum area I might as well quit.’ He went on to chalk up an office sales record.”2 In fact, Luckman’s success was not based on the advertisements he illustrated. His tactic was to offer the proprietor of every shop he visited, in return for buying his whole batch of products, an illustrated sign with the shop’s name on it as a gift, on the condition that the logo of Luckman’s company would also appear on the sign. He invested a great deal of time in negotiations and won the trust of potential customers, which was soon clearly reflected in his sales figures. The company recognized his talent and moved Luckman to the marketing department, where he soon broke all records. At 30 he became president of Pepsodent and at 37 president of the multinational Lever Brothers company. He was made president of Unilever before the age of 40. During this entire time, Luckman was not working as an architect, but learning – or more precisely, developing – the methods of modern marketing. With the help of Arthur Charles Nielsen (who later marketed target-group-specific television viewing using the AC Nielsen Method), he integrated market analyses and sales quotas into his strategy and spearheaded discount promotions in large shopping centres designed to entice the masses. He invested large amounts of money in advertising and succeeded in sponsoring Bob Hope’s radio programme, the most popular show of its time. Major soap brands were the most important advertising clients of these programmes, which is where the term “soap opera” originated. It was the beginning of reality TV, the music of Bing Crosby and the heyday of radio as an advertising medium.

Charles Luckman. Cover of Time magazine, 10 June 1946

2 “Old Empire, New Prince”, Time, 10 June 1946


Chapter 1

Charles Luckman proved that he knew the secrets that were vital to selling a product, right down to the last detail: its positioning on the market, the advertising for the product or the sponsoring of a programme to introduce new offers. He was also able to balance accounts so that they always showed a profit.

Pepsodent products. Detail from an advertisement run during the Second World War telling consumers, “Don’t waste Pepsodent” (1942)

3 “Unilever corporation“,

Newsweek, 6 June 1949

He became a legend in his own time, at one point advising both the White House and the unions, while also negotiating deals for cleaning products, oil, toothpaste and instant soup. Unilever was already a retail giant in both major business sectors of the time – margarine and soap – and had positioned itself as market leader in consumer goods. Dove, Omo, Hellmann’s, Knorr, Lipton, Lux, Magnum, Rama, Rexona and Sunsilk are brands or brand-name products that Luckman partly or wholly developed and that are still on the market. “Unilever became the world’s largest corporation outside the United States. It grew into an ordered maze of incomparable intricacy, more widely dispersed along lines of geography and product than any other corporation in the world. Unilever owns and operates five hundred and sixteen companies and employs nearly two hundred thousand people in every country of the world – barring only Russia. The American subsidiary, Lever Brothers, used the managerial talents of men like Charles Luckman. Around the world, they took in $1,364,000,000 in 1946, on which the profit was almost $48,000,000.”3 Determined to offer excellent product design, Luckman hired French industrial designer Raymond Loewy, originator of the Lucky Strike packaging and the Shell logo, among others. During Luckman’s tenure at Lever, the Frenchman not only helped Pepsodent products become extremely popular, he also improved the working environment for the company’s staff. For example, Loewy designed the interior of the canteen at Lever’s headquarters in Boston, where almost 1,000 employees ate daily. This canteen, with its view of the Charles River, sported vibrant colours and was air-conditioned, which was highly unusual at the time. With such building projects, Luckman always fell back on what he had learned in his architecture studies; with this intervention, he made the company more attractive and more innovative. In the early 1950s, Luckman decided to merge the Lever Brothers offices, hitherto located in Boston and Chicago, and bring them to New York. The move would enable him to better manage the company’s various business activities; he would be closer to the research and development laboratories in Edgewater, New Jersey, and could work together with the Big Apple’s best advertising agencies. Organizing the move, restructuring the team and looking for housing for their families involved an enormous managerial effort, but Luckman was able to convince the shareholders that the investment would pay off within three years, after which the company would again be competitive. At the time, the firm’s survival hung in the balance. If it was to make a new start, it needed a building that would symbolize this change.


Lever House, New York (1952), Gordon Bunshaft (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill): the first building whose design was based on sales strategies


Chapter 2



A building that stands out from its surroundings because of its form, colour or structure becomes a stage from which messages are transmitted. It delivers a “slogan”, promoting the identity of a company or a group, and uses familiar symbols, metaphors and traditions to create connections. Buildings that enable such connections, similar to hyperlinks on the Internet, allow us to take mental leaps and delve into new images or more deeply into existing ideas. These buildings might resemble a mountain, emulate a wave or assume the form of a company logo. The observer perceives a certain linkage and promptly associates it with the extraordinary and the special, recognizing that this building stands out from the rest. The structure becomes a focus of public attention and rises in the public’s “ranking”. This kind of architecture can raise a client’s profile. Its exclusivity and uniqueness position him in the market in a special way. The architect can in turn justify a striking design, even if he knows he is taking on a role specified by the client, thus functioning as an “actorarchitect”. By planning a building that reflects another’s identity, he merges his own style with the client’s. This style is oriented towards

the demands of marketing. The architect’s task is to develop that style, making it visible in a building, or on a website, or even on a T-shirt. He aims for a result that will be different from all the others and represent his client’s brand values. It is hard to stand out when everybody is trying to be unique, but the higher the stakes, the more exciting the game. In the past century, a building was supposed to stand out as a landmark from the physical environment of its city. It had to be the highest, the most daring or the most luxurious in town. Today, buildings are no longer measured against their locally existing, physical competitors; they have to prevail in the virtual world of the Internet. They have to be the highest, the most daring or the most luxurious “in the world”. It is precisely this globalization that creates boundless competition. A building has to attract public attention and launch a “slogan” on the market that fits in with whatever the company is selling. Architecture that makes these connections is creating a new generation of iconic buildings, platforms not only for products, but also for their clients’ identities and values. They transport images, promise a happy future and thus stand for the best the company has to offer.


Chapter 2



ome architects can sell their work simply on the strength of their name. These professionals have become famous, achieving the name recognition of politicians or top athletes. They stand confidently in the limelight, presenting their work to seemingly universal acclaim. They seek an immediate reaction to their work – to its design and to the built result. Every one of their projects or buildings tells a story and has its raison d’être, which can be described succinctly in just a few words. These architects generate images to bring their work closer to a broad public. This is how iconic buildings are developed. Yet, to reach the masses, persuade them, and gain recognition from them, you first have to approach them.

1 Zaera-Polo, Alejandro: “La ola

de Hokusai”, Quaderns 245/April 2005

The architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo (*1963 in Madrid), in an attempt to convince clients and provide the local press with headlines, boils down his projects to a pithy concept, as he lays out in a 2005 article titled “Hokusai’s wave”.1 The key, as Zaera sees it, is to “tell a story” that convinces the reader that the project, despite its uniqueness and newness, despite its possibly strange and unusual shape and excessive costs, is closely connected to the local traditions and people. One also has to be able to give evidence proving that the project was not arbitrarily chosen and that it fits in perfectly with its surroundings. Zaera cites the example of the Yokohama Passenger Terminal (1995), his first major building project, which he won a competition to build. The project was in Japan, a country with which neither Zaera nor his then wife and business partner, Farshid Moussavi (*1965 in Shiraz, Iran), had any kind of connection at the time. So they had won this competition, one presided over by an international jury that included his former boss, Rem Koolhaas. Still, the media and particularly  politicians harboured doubts as to whether two people as young as this Spaniard and this Iranian would be able to manage a project of this significance and complexity. The press conference held in February 1995 in Yokohama City Hall, which attracted a huge media crowd hungry to learn all about the winning project, dispelled any doubts. For the two speakers, it was an opportunity to finally put into


The Great Wave off Kanagawa (1830), Katsushika Hokusai. ­Japanese woodblock print

practice everything they had learned in years of academic training and show what they could do. So they started their presentation by going into great detail. The audience members, not all of them architecture experts, soon grew restless and bored with the overly technical language and explanations. The media wanted to get to know the design without all the preliminaries, and the competition was not interested in the traffic concept, geometrical transformations or building technology. They wanted to see the result, the building. They wanted to know what would happen to their city. Zaera and Moussavi noticed their restlessness and decided to depart from their prepared script. They spontaneously fell back on an image they had initially not intended to use in their presentation. “It was ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’,” explained Zaera in the article mentioned above, “a woodblock print by a local artist [Katsushika Hokusai] that we had in mind when we were working out the geometrical modifications and possible construction methods.” And so they decided to rely on the familiar, the direct, the easily recognizable image. They invented a story that what had really inspired them was Hokusai’s wave, declaring the work of art to be the foundation of the project. With this improvisation, they succeeded in making a lasting impression. The audience reaction was immediate. There were cries of astonishment. Finally, after so much detailed technical information, here was an image that could help them identify with the project. The future terminal would be like a wave, which of


Moynihan’s Guiding Principles for American government ­buildings

Chapter 3

GU I D I N G PR I N C I PL E S F O R F E D E R AL AR C H I T ECT U R E 1. The policy shall be to provide requisite and adequate facilities in an architectural style and form which is distinguished and which will reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American National Government. Major emphasis should be placed on the choice of designs that embody the finest contemporary American architectural thought. Specific attention should be paid to the possibilities of incorporating into such designs qualities which reflect the regional architectural traditions of the part of the Nation in which buildings are located. Where appropriate, fine art should be incorporated in the designs with emphasis on the work of living American artist. Design shall adhere to sound construction practice and utilize materials, methods, and equipment of proven dependability. Building shall be economical to build, operate, and maintain, and should be accessible to the handicapped. 2. The development of an official style must be avoided. Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government and not vice versa. The Government should be willing to pay some additional cost to avoid excessive uniformity in design of Federal buildings. Competitions for the design of Federal buildings may be held where appropriate. The advice of distinguished architects ought to, as a rule, be sought prior to award of important design contracts. 3. The choice and development of the building site should be considered the first step of the design process. This choice should be made in cooperation with local agencies. Special attention should be paid to the general ensemble of streets and public places of which Federal buildings will form a part. Where possible, buildings should be located so as to permit a generous development of landscape.

Moynihan’s report also dealt with the topic of redeveloping Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, which was designed by Pierre Charles L’Enfant in 1791. This boulevard is one of the city’s main axes, comparable with the Champs-Élysées in Paris, and it was commissioned by President George Washington during the planning of the city. Processions and other celebrations are often held here on “America’s Main Street”, which links the Capitol with the White House. Some history books report that John F. Kennedy, on the day of his inauguration as President, looked out during his drive down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House and thought about how he could redesign the boulevard to make it livelier. Pennsylvania Avenue represented power, and he wanted to go down in history as the man who had modernized it. Some regard this anecdote as apocryphal, as Kennedy had travelled down Pennsylvania Avenue from his house in Georgetown on many occasions during his time as a senator. He had probably already had the idea of redesigning the avenue back then. What was decisive, though, is that in the midst of the campaign for re-elec-

77 The US Capitol

3rd Street

The Grant Memorial

4th Street

7th Street 9th Street 10th Street 12th Street 13th Street

14th Street 15th Street

The White House

Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington: aerial view of the Federal Triangle looking towards the Capitol (left); map (right)

tion in 1964, John F. Kennedy put his weight behind Pat Moynihan’s report, thus paving the way for the simple but daring proposals of his staffer to be implemented. The president set a date on which he would present the redesigning of Pennsylvania Avenue to Congress. Then he left for Dallas. It was the fateful day of 22 November 1963. Moynihan: “The last word from John F. Kennedy before he left for that trip to Dallas was that he wanted to have a coffee hour when he got back to show the plans for Pennsylvania Avenue to Congressional leaders. A group of us were meeting to talk about this when the phone rang to say the President had been shot.”5 A week after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the new president, Lyndon B. ­Johnson, received Kennedy’s widow, Jackie, in the Oval Office. She asked him to continue her husband’s legacy by building a cultural centre in Washington in his honour, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and to proceed with the redesign of Pennsylvania Avenue. Johnson agreed and Moynihan obtained the commission, which was to take 40 years to complete. Like every project, this one needed money. The first step, then, was to find financing, an endeavour that was complicated by the fact that the initiator of the project was deceased. A commission was set up to look into a resumption of the project,

5 Ibid., p. 10


Chapter 3

but funding would not be adequately secured until 1974. The necessary financing was finally provided via the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation (PADC) in the form of a publicly financed loan.

6 Jacobs, Jane: The death and life

of great American cities. New York 1961

Alexander Owings. Cover of Time, 2 August 1968

7 “To Cherish Rather than

Destroy”, Time, 2 August 1968

The redesign was to give the avenue a completely new face, more potential uses and even the occasional residential building. The goal was the kind of diversity Jane Jacobs described in her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”6. Above all, those involved wished to create a counterweight to the urban planning model of the giant city of Brasilia, which was full of institutions, but empty of life. They turned to Nat Owings, who at 65 headed the architecture firm with the most contracts in the whole country: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Himself an  expert negotiator, Owings was bowled over by Moynihan’s marked ability to assert himself in the face of resistance – whether it came from members of Congress, bureaucrats or commission members. Moynihan was not in a hurry, so his tactic sometimes was to wait out problems until events suited him better. What Nat Owings said of Moynihan is a fitting summary of the qualities of a mediator: “He is ebullient, competent and devoted – and also a randy rogue, a bandit and a buccaneer. His great ability is to get other people to do good work.”7 Giving the avenue an ordered appearance necessitated negotiations with developers of buildings that that were not originally within the avenue’s building line. Nat Owings had to personally confront FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to convince him to let them move by 22 metres a Bureau administrative building that was to be built in the northern section of the avenue. The FBI accepted the proposal. As well as Hoover, Owings was able to persuade Jerry Wolman, another developer on Pennsylvania Avenue, to change his plans. Wolman was involved in the planning phase for a building in a pedestrian zone on the avenue. In “exchange” for moving his building on to the building line, Owings granted him an extra storey. The two men got on so well that Wolman commissioned Owings to construct the John Hancock Center, a 100-storey skyscraper, which became a Chicago showpiece. Owings gained not only a new client, but also a new member of staff: David M. Childs, a member of the commission. The young architect was made head of the Washington office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and eventually became one of Owings’ most important partners. In 1975 President Gerald Ford made Childs chairman of the National Capital Planning Commission. The redevelopment of Pennsylvania Avenue lasted until the completion of the Ronald Reagan Building in 1996. Built by the Pei Cobb Freed architecture firm, the structure is distinguished more by its size than its architectural quality.


(Moynihan never got involved in questions of design; it was his opinion that everyone had his own role to play.) It is the second-largest federal building after the Pentagon and contains public and private offices, in keeping with Owings’ preference for mixed usage. The building is the centre of public life in Washington. It is often used for government receptions and ceremonies and is home to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Moynihan succeeded in redeveloping Pennsylvania Avenue and keeping the promise he made to Jackie Kennedy. In the 1990s, he bought a place to live there, between Seventh and Ninth Streets. He is commemorated in Daniel Patrick Moynihan Place, a section of plaza near the Ronald Reagan Building. In recognition of his life’s work, the monument there is inscribed with the text of his Guiding Principles. Interstate Highway sign

Moynihan’s strength lay in his ability to never stand still and to advance even difficult projects in the fog of bureaucracy. He had a knack for knowing which senator to join forces with and which official’s door to knock on, and he always had his goals clearly in mind. For him, persuasion was a question of figures and data, never of ideology. He was content to understand the economic formula according to which politics worked: “how you pay for things and how you vote determine changes in the government.”8 In 1991, construction of the Interstate Highway system, the motorway network linking all the states in the continental United States, was completed. The final costs vastly exceeded the sums originally quoted. Moynihan was commissioned to evaluate the connections between highway construction and the country’s productivity, to identify the effects of freeway construction on the economy. Planned as a simple analysis, the investigation became the basis for a financing system developed by Moynihan, a blueprint for infrastructure measures. With it, he proved the influence that various forms of financing can have on our built environment. As an opponent of motorways – he regarded entire sections of the highway network as superfluous – Moynihan showed that most highways, especially in the centre of the country, were underutilized and that, by contrast, there were serious congestion problems on ten per cent of the highways around major cities. Borrowing from Malthusian population theory, he foresaw the problem that the number of vehicles would increase until the road system collapsed. Traffic volume could be reduced in only two ways: by expanding the railroad network or by introducing tolls on certain routes. In an article he had published in “The Reporter” as far back as 14 April 1960, titled “New roads and urban chaos”, Moynihan had criticized the highway programme of Senator Albert Gore Sr. ( father of later Vice President Al Gore), which Gore

8 Robert A. Peck quoted in

­ eneral Services Administration, G op. cit., p. 210


Levittown in the press: Architectural Forum, April 1949

Chapter 4


Americans. There were restrictions on African-Americans, even black veterans, until as late as 1959. Strict rules such as “Hanging wash on Sunday is forbidden”, “Fences between houses are not allowed” and “The lawn must be mowed once a week” regulated communal life in town. The former soldiers were used to such rules and, for a while, a certain military order and neatness prevailed. In just three years, the potato field had become Levittown, NY, a town of 17,447 houses that Levitt built. It had become a symbol of American progress. There were lots of media reports about it, including the inevitable stream of jokes and anecdotes. Radio shows liked to tell stories of husbands who justified their affairs by claiming they had simply gone to the wrong house, or of children who went missing because they could not find their way home. Singer Pete Seeger satirized this in his song “Little Boxes”, which included the line “all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same”. Yet Levitt’s concept was so successful that he repeated it in other places. He built Levittowns in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and even Puerto Rico. By the end of the 1960s, he had built 140,000 houses worldwide. Levitt succeeded because he had found an answer to what was an urgent question at the end of the 1940s: How can suitable housing be built for 10 million lower-middle-class Americans? His success coincided with the spread of the car, which made it easy to transport shopping home, so it didn’t matter how far Levittown was from public transport. Levitt’s decision to look for development sites in the vicinity of industrial areas

Aerial photograph of Levittown in 1958 (left), and a view across Shanghai from the Oriental Pearl TV Tower (right)



Making the rules


In 1896, American architect Louis Sullivan summed up his thoughts on architecture in the renowned formula “form follows function”, one of the most important maxims of 20th-century architectural theory. He was breaking with the architectural tradition of past centuries to focus on the functional aspects of building projects. His maxim was widely acclaimed, becoming a fundamental concept of modernist architecture. Yet Charles Luckman’s Lever House heralded the emergence of a new approach, in which buildings were designed not only to be functional, but also for strategic considerations. In this approach, architecture was conceived as a means of advertising, a tool to help a ­company become more popular and thus to increase its profits. Luckman, as a leading expert on sales in the United States, knew how to use a building as a marketing instrument. He became successful the instant it became clear that he could solve his clients’ problems. His commissions multiplied. On the “hit list” of architects, Art Gensler is Number One in terms of budget size. His company employs the most architects and has the most offices worldwide. He uses strategies in his designs and does not like to see his work reduced to the construction of buildings. Instead of signing contracts with his clients as a contractor, he “opens accounts” with them and advises them in their decision making, whether it concerns the necessity of a building, an optimization of their business, or the hiring of a major contractor. He compiles data on the building site, the building and its efficiency, and is thus able to forecast the expected profit of a transaction. Companies commission him because he can anticipate the probable suc-

cess or failure of an idea. Managers at all levels seek him out for his opinion. It is in this way that he is involved in the strategic decisions of his clients. For a whole generation of architects, Rem Koolhaas represents the Number One. His often daring projects enthral students and experts alike. He, too, sets great store by strategies, and he has created a separate entity called AMO within his architecture firm that deals in pitching ideas to clients, regardless of whether these ideas are subsequently built. This enables him to offer a wider range of services and carry out research into subjects in which he is interested. He takes the view that a building’s physical manifestation, its tangible part, comprises only a small part of architecture. In contrast, he sees the activities of a consultant – in other words, the work with the intangible – as a process by which to deepen his architectural thinking and increase the value of unbuilt works. Koolhaas and Gensler both know strategies and use them in their projects. From case to case, then, they move away from the functionalism propagated by Sullivan and follow instead a new maxim: “function follows strategy”. Where once the strategy lay in designing a building to be as impressive and striking as possible so as to express a company’s ­economic might, as was the case with Lever House, companies now want to develop intangible concepts of experience and entertainment in order to strengthen their brands, an approach exemplified by the Apple Stores. The intangible now determines the tangible. The digital determines the physical. Consulting, in the form of strategic thinking, has found its way into architecture.



The first Gap store, San Francisco (1969) and the first Gap store in China, Shanghai (2010). Art Gensler

budgets. He opens an account with a client, and from then on, he administers their properties, seeking to adapt and optimize them. To be offer to offer these services, he first had to go through various phases. Like other architecture firms, Gensler’s offered the usual services in the 1960s, such as preliminary designs, approval planning and execution planning, albeit with a focus on interior design. The added value he offered was that his architects understood their clients’ language and were thus better able to adapt their work to the clients’ needs. In the next phase, in the 1970s, this range of services was expanded to include requirements analyses. Before developing preliminary designs, the Gensler team studied the company so that they could work more precisely to meet its needs. They covered issues such as which departments had to be close together, how many freelancers and salaried employees worked there, and so forth. This way, Gensler had become involved in a business that was quite unusual for architects to work in at that time. In the 1980s, he studied the organizational structures of companies more intensively – the step before requirements planning, as it were. The focus was not on physical space, but on the company’s structure and development, which a multidisciplinary team of business experts and consultants defined in cooperation with the company’s management. Clear goals and business strategies were first set out, and the actual space required was then planned on that basis. They supported the client in evaluating the advisability of constructing the building and in choosing the right location for it. In the 1990s, they decided to cover the entire process, again expanding their portfolio. As well as handling the design and the construction supervision, they now also took over the hiring of construction firms. As they were responsible for the budget, this made them better able to ensure that the construction work was done within budget and on schedule. Nowadays the focus is less on a concrete construction project than on the clients themselves. Support and consultation is provided in all phases of the process. In this context, Gensler likens his work to a racing car that can achieve extremely high speeds. It is designed and built, but eventually adaptations and improvements become necessary to ensure maximum driving performance. The same happens in an architecture firm, where the building is constantly being


o­ ptimized and analysed as to how many people work there and how, whether ­additional staff can be accommodated, whether more office space needs to be rented, how high property prices in the area are, what the actual maintenance status is, what tax incentives are available for the use of alternative energies, and so forth. This creates huge amounts of data that can be used to help in decision-making. The biggest change for architects is that they are now working for companies as consultants. The information they manage goes beyond mere recommendations. Rather, it consists of accurate data that is more useful than a balance sheet, an optimum mix of which can be used to calculate profitability and set quotas. The architect thus becomes a manager of information that is vital in deciding where, when and how many square metres will be built, “helping organizations to develop visions of their future.”17 Architects have long assumed that this way of working is exclusive to large firms like Luckman’s, where construction projects are designed and churned out assembly-line style and where it’s not the architectural quality of a project but its profitability that counts – as if the architecture were sacrificed to financial considerations. We like to think that we are above this kind of system and are not prepared to renounce our claim to creating high-quality architecture. We resist the apparent dictates of the market, even if our revenues suffer. We would rather keep designing buildings that bear our “signature” and run a firm that is not influenced by economic interests. But isn’t that unrealistic? For decades, though, this has been the message propagated at institutions of higher learning, which are finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that the market is changing the profession. Gensler is one of those who were quick to realize that companies want a service from architects, one they are not trained to deliver. This opens up a gap between the academic and the practical worlds that we need to address. There is only one Gehry, just as there was only one Picasso. It cannot be assumed that every architect can impose his own signature on his work. The future of our profession depends on whether we take on projects with which we can make a contribution to society. We need to leave our egos and certain unrealistic notions behind. We should not just concentrate on de­­ signing buildings, but come up with strategies, too. We should be able to find answers for the general public that are not restricted to the architectural, instead developing ideas, forms of action and strategies that will have a greater effect on social structures. Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas (*1944 in Rotterdam), another Number One, gives us hope and at the same time destroys our notions of the independent architect. He has succeeded in uniting the theory of a university professor with the practice of a seller, because he understands how the market works.

17 Ibid., p. 269


Fu n c ti on Fo l l ow s S tra t e g y


Now that the various strategies have been presented, it is time to take stock. The analysis has shown the importance of strategies in decision-making in the course of a project, and the compelling impact they can have on society. There is no magic formula or set of guidelines that guarantee a project’s success. This book seeks to reveal the power and influence of strategies, the origins of which it traces back to the 1950s. It is only recently, however, that have we come to expect architects to reveal their strategies publicly and to explain them. Design considerations that were originally based on context, specific proportions or an individual aesthetic have paved the way for other justifications based on the pragmatism of the economic and social environment. A gap has opened up between the formal and the informal, between the subjective – which is inherent in the practice of architecture – and the system. Some architects use strategies to defend a planned concept to a client, others to solve problems. The examples described in this book were selected to highlight the dilemma in which architects find themselves, and which they experience tangibly in a building’s concrete design and intangibly in projects that have to do with a brand, a relationship, the abstract. Luckman was the first to recognize the potential of the intangible. It became manifest in the construction of Lever House, which was built not simply to be used, but also to improve the image of a brand. This approach was new and led to the creation of architecture for which budget restrictions were almost entirely absent. The costs of constructing the building were lumped together with the costs of advertising, so architects could justify their arbitrary designs. This period, which only ended with the financial crisis in 2008, lasted for a good 50 years: half a century of fierce battles to erect the highest, biggest or most extravagant building. Yet to the extent to which these structures rose skywards, they also lost contact with the ground, with reality. In retrospect, it can be said that, thanks to the enormous financial resources that were made available for construction, it was a period in which architects had great leeway in the development of projects. Since the 1990s, CAD/CAM technol-


ogy has allowed architects to examine formal solutions in advance and plan increasingly complex and hitherto inconceivable forms. Computer-aided design, renderings and animations have given many politicians, government advisers and/or developers the confidence to have the model presented to them actually built. Society has been receptive to many of these designs, but the decision to build is not based on a structure’s appearance alone. Developers now also demand profitability, and architects have to resort to sales strategies to win clients over. Taking specific projects as examples, this book investigates the ways in which, departing from their respective starting situations, some architects have been able to assert themselves on the market. The events are viewed from an unconventional perspective, however, in which an evaluation of the results is of secondary importance. The resulting information might help architects in practising their profession, as strategies can yield proposals that will enable them to persuade prospective clients better and thus to develop new projects. The deeper we look into the material, the more indications we find that strategies not only serve to justify decisions made in the building process; they can also stand alone. Based on the fields of activity pursued by Rem Koolhaas (AMO) or Art Gensler (Gensler Information Solutions), we have looked at how architects have become consultants on numerous issues that go well beyond the scope of the construction of a building. Architects now also offer solutions to political, economic and social problems. The job of analysing the financial crisis is now the purview of economists and engineers, who inevitably focus on economic viability. The time may have come for architects to bring their visions and values to bear in society. This proposed step may be risky, yet it is indispensable to the survival of architects in today’s environment. In the long term, constructing buildings will no longer play a major role, at least not in our immediate environment. Building structures cannot be the only goal of architects. We must stop restricting ourselves to the tangible and get used to the idea of building the intangible, too: contacts, links, associations, ways of using space.



Fu n c ti on Fo l l ow s S tra t e g y

ARCHITECT S NO LONGER PL AN BUILDINGS BU T DECISIONS . H O W W I L L T H E F I R ST ST E P S L O O K ? Every period in history has had a tool that shaped the development of that era’s architecture. In the Renaissance, the discovery of geometrical perspective had a revolutionary impact. When planners began using it to design buildings, their plans came to life, and the ruling classes understood and accepted building ­projects far more readily than before. A similar thing happened when scaling methods were developed. They made new forms of urban planning and development possible. Palladio and Le Corbusier both used geometry and proportion to design buildings, but in radically different ways. More recently, the design of the Guggenheim Museum became possible only because Frank Gehry was able to scan his real models and translate their curves into data. Many building designs are based on complex curves created using a spline function, with which it is possible to draw curves, change values retrospectively and reduce the degree of the polynomials. An even simpler example is the ellipse. Until René Descartes defined the ellipse, it was known that it existed but nobody knew how to describe it. Descartes developed a new method of curve sketching, which laid the foundations for analytical geometry. Architects now use tools to plan projects with increasing levels of detail at an early stage. This has changed the planning process, necessitating a new tool: BIM (Building Information Modelling). BIM is a method of collating all of a building’s data created in renderings, drawings, etc. A wall is sketched in, the elements it consists of can be saved directly, and information on materials, quantities or prices relevant to the building can be identified. BIM is a system for generating information during the design process. An architect can use it to make decisions on price, thermal efficiency or lighting conditions, or to check the stability of a support structure. Advertising would have us believe that these programs simplify the design process and make it easier for users to make changes, but critics say that in reality we are leaving it to our computers to determine our solutions for us. As we draw, we can obtain data on profitability, energy efficiency and structural stability. If, for example, we are planning a north-facing window in order to provide a view of the mountains or a river, or because we simply regard it as good for the project, alarm bells will ring and remind us to upgrade the heating system accordingly and plan to use thicker glass. It is becoming increasingly difficult for architects to evade the norm, the standard. A focus on greater efficiency is having the effect of making architects’ work more and more homogenized. Initially, this may seem like bad news for our profession, but it is bringing changes in its wake, because complete parameterization turns buildings into databases. The first advantage of this is that a project can be envisioned in more detail, although this does not yet represent significant progress compared to what lies


ahead. BIM is a method for creating virtual models that can be used to answer questions not only about the structure itself, but about its functionality, logistics and efficiency. It shows a building’s performance and profitability with reference to its inhabitants. As with Gensler, clients can log on to the databases to participate in decision-making. Thanks to this system, we always know the current cost of property. This may initially seem trivial, but a dearth of this information – the fact that there were no figures available for the current worth of real estate – was one of the causes of the global financial crisis of 2008. Decisions are no longer based on Excel spreadsheets and formulas, but on an analysis of virtual models. If, for example, the design of a hospital is commissioned, its efficiency can be determined continuously by adding or omitting various parameters. Visualizations can show how deliveries are brought into the building, which routes are required and how processes can be optimized. A developer can reproduce reality in his virtual scenario, taking people – both the sick and the healthy – and their respective roles into account. The model also provides information on users’ behaviour. We can create a virtual model to increase efficiency, so that through incremental optimization, we can make reality resemble this virtual utopia as


BIM model of Blackfriars station, London (2012), renovation: Jacobs Architecture / Tony Gee & Partners. Various programs were used in the design process.


Fu n c ti on Fo l l ow s S tra t e g y

closely as possible. The virtual model also allows us to concentrate on very precise questions, such as whether containers are required at the end of every corridor or only on each floor. Through a simulation of various possibilities, an optimum model begins to take shape. Even if BIM limits the range of possibilities in the design phase, it can be used to move decision-making to an earlier point. It provides updated data on our physical environment in real time, so planners know what counts, know the return on investment and the maintenance costs. Buildings are, as Gensler put it, like cars on a racetrack that we have to optimize so they always achieve maximum performance. This approach is, in fact, sustainable. Sustainability is not about putting wind turbines on top of empty buildings or about saving energy with the right kind of construction type. After all, if nobody wants to buy the buildings, they will not be sustainable. Sustainability is about using resources efficiently, economizing, and only building what’s really needed. We are entering a world in which visualizing problems results in a better understanding of them. At the outset of the financial crisis, it became clear that the regulatory authorities were not able to assess the risks they were exposed to. If they had been able to precisely visualize their loan and debt levels, somebody would certainly have put the brakes on earlier. Visualization means simplifying decision-making and more consciously identifying the scope of problems. Dan Roam is worth a mention here. Many of his books deal with problem-solving and the selling of ideas by means of images. Say the US government provides $785 billion in one of several bailout deals designed to rescue banks. This sum is so huge that it’s hard to relate it to anything. If you wanted to visualize this magnitude, you could do it this way: The precise distribution of funds of this financial aid package is outlined in a 700-page document. Dividing the number of pages by the amount of money provided, you get about a billion dollars per page. Can a properly designed budget involve the expenditure of a billion dollars on just one page? That seems hard to imagine. If this is how we approach reform, it is barely conceivable that anyone can have a concrete idea where all the money is going. Architects determine the scale, the budgets and the perspectives. We are able to plan virtual environments and create scenarios. We are the very people who could be at the forefront of change.


Fu n c ti on Fo l l ow s S tra t e g y

CHAPTER 6 p. 137: Christian Schittich, Munich p. 143: apple, inc. p. 146 (top): Gap Inc. p. 146 (bottom): AP Images p. 152: Rem Koolhaas, Rotterdam p. 155: OMA / AMO , Rotterdam p. 157 (top): Erm Simox / p. 157 (centre): Northfoto / Shutterstock. com p. 157 (bottom): p. 158 (bottom): OMA / AMO , Rotterdam p. 159 (top): Juliane Eirich, Munich / New York p. 161 (top): Nathan Willock / view /  arturimages p. 161 (bottom): Ben McMillan, Beijing OUTLOOK p. 165: Autodesk / Tech Data INTERVIEW p. 175: David Paul Morris, 2011 p. 178: Nicklas Rudfell, Malmö

E duard S ancho P ou Eduard Sancho Pou, PhD, studied architecture and building engineering and completed his doctoral dissertation in 2010 at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), receiving a grant from the Graham Foundation, ­Chicago. In 2002 he opened an architecture and strategic consultancy in Barcelona. In addition to his projects, he conducts academic research at the Cercle d’Arquitectura Research Group at UPC. Currently he is working for the Secretariat of Habitat & Inclusion of the City of Buenos Aires and is Professor for Strategies at the Faculty of Architecture, Universidad de Palermo, Buenos Aires.

ac k no w ledge m ents This work was undertaken with the support of many people, who ­contributed to giving me the opportunity and the time to write it. My thanks go to Dr Eduard Bru for believing in the book and letting me write such an atypical doctoral dissertation; Dr Ricardo Devesa for helping me formulate the topic of my enquiry and for giving it weight; and Maricruz Arroyas for bringing flow and style into the work. I would like to thank Qingyun Ma, Bjarke Ingels and Art Gensler for sharing their architectural knowledge and strategies with me; the Graham Foundation and its director, Sarah Herda, for their grant in support of the first English version of the original work; the jury of the “Fad de Teoria y Critica” Awards and their head, Dr Manuel Gausa, for their recognition; Dr Xavier Costa and Martha Thorne for the invitation to the ACSA International Conference and the presentation of my ideas; Lidia Sarda and Irene Garcia for turning my dissertation into a book and for their help in promoting it; DETAIL publishers, Munich – above all Cornelia Hellstern and Dr Katinka Johanning – for their professionalism and care; Noemi Quesada and Irene Medina for enabling me so many times to escape the office to be able to reconcile my working and academic lives. I wish to thank my parents for the many books they bought for me, the many exhibitions they took me to, and above all for giving me the feeling that anything is possible. My thanks go as well to Isabel for showing me that there a life beyond architecture and books. Thanks for keeping me company on this path with its many sleepless nights. Thank you, Lola, thank you, Clara – this book belongs to you. Eduard Sancho Pou May 2013

The doctoral dissertation was supported by the Graham Foundation, Chicago, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya and the Cercle d’Arquitectura Research Group (UPC).

Function Follows Strategy / Author: Eduard Sancho Pou  

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