Architects and engineers have more in common than you might think

By: Bob Buchanan

Some rivalries just won’t go away: Pacers versus Knicks, Coke versus Pepsi, Apple versus Android. And then there’s one rivalry that I think really needs to end: engineers versus architects.

 

I realize this one goes back a long way. Way, way back. More than 50 years ago, Frank Lloyd Wright said in an interview that “engineers are underdeveloped architects.” Ouch. And ever since then, engineers have been quick to point out that many of Wright’s buildings suffer from leaky roofs, weak foundations, and other structural deficiencies. Now, in the age of the internet, we even have memes where one side makes fun of the other.

 

Enough is enough.

 

After spending many years working with both engineers and architects, I have observed that the issue is not art versus science. Every architect and engineer I know thinks about both, to different degrees. And they all have the same goal, which is to make a vision come to life. The only issue is that they view the same thing from different angles. One is thinking about what they want done. The other is thinking about how it gets done.

 

Well, isn’t that the definition of a good partnership? I think it is. And when the two “sides” get together, the results can be pretty amazing.

 

Take, for example, a job we did for a high-end home’s lake house. The architect envisioned a wood cabinet covered in a metal “skin” that was completely smooth, with no visible seams or welds. Rather than tell the client that their vision isn’t feasible, the bo-mar engineering team came back with a solution that could minimize welds and hide seams.

 

Our engineers aren’t just thinking in the short term. They also try to anticipate problems that could happen months and years down the road. For instance, we worked on the Beacon Bloom sculpture that’s situated in a Carmel, Indiana roundabout. The artist, Arlon Bayliss, sketched out a fantastic combination of metal, glass, and lighting. Even on paper in two dimensions, that thing is beautiful. Our team figured out how to make that vision happen in three dimensions, at 30 feet tall, with materials that could withstand wind and elements year after year. I’m honored to say we worked on that project, and incredibly proud of the team that engineered, built, and installed that sculpture.

 

So, when you think about it, there’s a good reason why rivalries like Pacers versus Knicks will never, ever end. They’re never going to play on the same team. But architects and engineers really are good partners. You just need to create an environment where you let teamwork happen.

 

Of course, the engineers I hire are a bit different from most — so maybe my opinion on this is based on a pretty special group of people. But I still think that approaching a job from different angles, and showing respect for everyone’s perspective, is the key to a great outcome.

 

Til next time,
Bob