Annexes : Interviews de Jonathan Asher, Maher El Khaldi, Tristan Israel

Cette page est l’annexe de l’article principal : Architectes spécialisés BIM & Design computationnel : quel positionnement dans l’industrie de la construction ?

Jonathan Asher est architecte de formation travaillant actuellement comme directeur du portfolio de solutions Catia pour le domaine de la construction. Il a exercé en tant que designer computationnel chez CoopHimelblau à Vienne avant de travailler chez Zahner comme designer façade 

Maher El Khaldi est architecte de formation mais travaille comme ingénieur informatique. Il a commencé sa carrière chez GehryTechnologies avant de diriger le pôle automatisation chez CADmakers. Il travaille actuellement pour TESLA Motors. 

Tristan Israel est architecte/chef de projet, spécialisé dans le design computationnel chez Atelier Jean Nouvel. Il fait partie du comité de pilotage du master spécialisé Master by Data à l’École des Ponts ParisTech. 

1-Do you still feel as an architect while working in another industry? 

Jonathan Asher: I absolutely feel like an architect because my current role is very connected to architectural design and engineering professionals. When I left architecture school and joined an architecture firm, I quickly realized that in order to spend 100% of my time doing something that I enjoyed, I needed to specialize in a high-value niche and be good at it. This lead me to parametric modeling and scripting before it was widely adopted, and finding out the troupe of practice where it brought value to the company. I found that I began building design tools for others and defining best practices for standardizing these emerging methodologies. Eventually, it became clear that there was more opportunity to develop these processes in manufacturing so I shifted from architecture to engineering, where I spent 3 years as a design engineer designing and building complex facades in metal. I went from designing tools for a department to designing and building tools for design and engineering for a company. A few years ago I joined Dassault Systemes R&D organizing to focus 100% on software development. At this point in my career, I have scaled up from designing design solutions from a department, to a company, to an entire industry. Since my focus is entirely in design, engineering and construction, I feel like even if I’m not solving small design problems everyday and building buildings, I’m helping lots of others solve big design problems every day, which is more rewarding from a personal and professional perspective.

Maher ElKhaldi :  I never felt I was completely « there » in AEC. Perhaps, I always favored pragmatic and rational reasoning over aesthetics to the extent that I was not willing to take part in a conversation about style because I believe it is personal. That made me, as a friend labeled me, « too binary for architecture ». So being in another industry brings a challenges and opportunities. On the other hand, you’re competing with « real engineers ». Ones who have formal training in thermal mechanics and electronics. On the other way, you’re ahead of them when it comes to thinking out side the box trying to synthesize ideas from different domains. I always felt I was, or could be, good at many things, but never become a deep expert at one thing. 

2-As a specialized architect, do you feel your practice is limited working in an architecture office? Why so? 

Tristan Israel : Les architectes ont la chance d’exercer un métier pluri-disciplinaire qui relève aussi bien d’une approche artistique, théorique que technique et industrielle. Il me semble que si on est suffisamment curieux on peut aisément puiser dans une infinité de domaine pour les mettre au service d’un projet d’architecture. Je ne me sens donc pas limité dans ma pratique. Au contraire, mes spécialisations en « computational design » et « BIM », me permettent d’intégrer plus facilement des domaines hier hermétiques les uns aux autres, mais demain complémentaires pour créer nos futurs villes et bâtiments.

3-Do you think specialization is a fatality to architects ? 

JA: In this day and age, I think specialization is the only way for an architect to bring value to a design firm. Everyone has a specialization and that is how they contribute. Even the old experienced architect has inadvertently specialized by way of years of accumulated knowledge, she has become the reference in whatever she is passionate about. I would argue that without specialization architects are nothing more than artists or designers. The act of focusing on years of study of how a building is designed, manufactured, assembled and occupied is a form of professional specialization.

ME: Specialization is essential, but I believe it is good to specialize in two or three areas–best if they are related. This will enable an architect to tackle multiple aspects of a given domain and opens the door for more temporary deeper specialization depending on changes as they happen in a project.

TI: La spécialisation des métiers s’inscrit effectivement dans une tendance générale à la fois issue de la complexification de nos sociétés et de ses outils, mais aussi du « taylorisme » de notre production industrielle et intellectuelle. Ce découpage « optimale » des taches n’est pas la seule manière d’appréhender la complexité du monde d’aujourd’hui et je pense que l’architecte en est la démonstration. L’architecte est le narrateur, il détermine l’identité et l’ambition du projet dans un contexte spécifique. Il est le garant des concepts fondamentaux et de leurs objectifs (urbains, écologiques, sociaux, plastiques, etc…) jusqu’à la livraison, voir la destruction du bâtiment. Du fait de cette position, il joue un rôle de « traducteur / coordonnateur » entre les différentes disciplines, les administrations, le client et les entreprises. Même si la connaissance de logiciels de CAO est aujourd’hui quasiment obligatoire pour exercer le métier d’architecte, il me semble que la spécialisation technique s’arrête naturellement lorsque ces outils viennent à occuper une place trop importante dans le temps de travail et détériore la réflexion nécessaire à la conception et au suivi du projet. À ce moment-là, des techniciens spécialisés prennent le relais dans la production (projeteur, BIM manager, ingénieur de bases de données, etc..) et deviennent de nouveaux acteurs à coordonner.

4- According to you, what difference can bring architects working in other industries (Automotive, aerospace, software business…)? 

JA: From my experience, coming from the industry and academia, architects don’t always have a firm understanding of how a building is really built, they use their imagination and creativity to try and innovate new building technologies, but in the end, it the contractor and sub contractor who decides. In other industries, manufacturing constraints are ever present and design innovation is much more grounded in a scientific method. Architecture in the end is about building and other industries have a much more tangible grasp on manufacturing.

ME: I’ll borrow the three ideas outline by Emily Wapnick from this Ted talk as I believe they are spot on:  

1 -Synthesis of different ideas

2 -Fast Learning and Deep diving into new topics

3 –Adaptability

TI: L’architecte assure un rôle de chef d’orchestre ; il est ainsi formé pour concevoir et développer un projet qui réponde au besoin d’un client tout en prenant en compte son impact dans un cadre plus large qu’uniquement industrielle. En s’appuyant sur les expertises du monde de l’industrie, sa vision transdisciplinaire peut ainsi aider à apporter une réponse systémique et moins sectorielle aux problématiques de développement durable, de qualité de réalisation et de rentabilité économique auxquelles fait face le monde de la construction.

5-Assuming that specialized architects tend to shift to other AEC actors (BIM/VDC firms, startups, Sub-contractor, real estate developer, software editor), should architecture offices adapt to keep them in house? How could they?  

JA: I think the opposite will happen, architects will be absorbed by other, larger companies who need big creative thinkers but who are surrounded by people who know how to execute. Not all architecture offices will die, but the profession will undergo a massive transformation as large construction companies consolidate and create new business models that disrupt the existing industry silos. Architects have always been specialists and they will always have their place but w days of architects sitting at the head of the table are relatively short, soon they will be considered no more than design consultants serving individual projects.

ME: Offices will probably never adapt in time to keep a person or a team in house. Change is slow I think change will have to happen at a policy level or a supplier/contractor level. I don’t architects have enough leverage or weight to make the needed change to drive innovation in AEC. They certainly have aspirations, and possibly a wealth of ideas. But architects are never hands on when it comes to construction and fabrication, and so I think they will never be able to change that which they don’t know. And for me, fabrication certainly does not include rapid prototyping( 3d printing &laser cutting ), nor does it include abusing robotic-arms to mill things like vases.

TI: Si l’expertise technique d’un architecte le pousse à changer de secteur cela peut être pour plusieurs raisons : une volonté d’approfondir une technologie, de meilleures conditions travail, plus d’offres d’emploi ou encore un salaire plus élevé. Mais ce mouvement impliquera obligatoirement une mutation de son métier, ses objectifs seront différents des missions confiées à un architecte. Une agence qui souhaite préserver ces profils doit avant tout comprendre et intégrer les changements technologiques qui impactent le secteur du bâtiment aujourd’hui. Cela passe par une évolution des méthodes de conception et de production. Dans ce cadre, les architectes spécialisées pourront accompagner leurs agences dans ce nouveau contexte numérique afin qu’elles tirent profit de cette évolution (intégration de données environnementales, simulation numérique, gestion de la complexité, anticipation des problèmes de synthèse, etc..). Enfin ces nouvelles technologies sont aussi de formidables outils d’expérimentation, l’architecture en tant qu’art majeur se nourrir de son contexte pour proposer des réponses ambitieuses et poétiques aux problématiques contemporaines. Il me semble que les agences ne doivent pas voir que des outils asservissant supplémentaires dans les notions de « conception algorithmique » ou de « BIM », mais plutôt un nouveau champ de création. Les architectes spécialisés pourraient ainsi aussi être orientés vers une conception plus abstraite et conceptuelle.

Alan Sampson a fondé et dirige High Line, une structure spécialisée dans le recrutement dans le domaine du BTP à Paris. 

1-What kind of challenges do your clients (architecture offices and other) face when they need to recruit specialized architects? Do they have clear needs

Alan Sampson:  The challenge for all our architecture clients is to try to attract the best talent for their teams as the digital transformation in the construction sector gathers further momentum. This continues to be more and more focused on architect’s technical abilities. In our most recent salary guide we found that le BIM continue d’être adopté par de plus en plus d’agences. Les compétences et les rôles liés à celui-ci sont donc également recherchés et cela se ressent par le salaire. Un projeteur BIM gagne plus qu’un dessinateur projeteur ou collaborateur d’architecte. Entre 0 et 3 années d’expérience, un architecte gagne en moyenne 30 823 € alors qu’un BIM coordinateur gagne 38 850 €. Entre 5 et 8 années d’expérience, un architecte chef de projet gagne en moyenne 41 907 € alors qu’un BIM coordinateur gagne en moyenne 50 840 €. The simplest way to keep up with the demands from the key players in the sector leading this change is to recruit architects that can bring an expertise and as such demand a higher salary.

2-Would you say architects are pressured to get specialized? How is it visible?

AS: The team at Highline Paris work with a huge variety of clients within the construction sector and it is clear that there is a pressure for architects to specialise towards more technical roles. This tends to be for the BIM environment and is visible by the profiles our clients require from us. Architects with strong revit skills specifically on larger scale BIM projects are in high demand. Many clients now conduct Revit tests during interviews to be confident that they are adding the most value to the team. In addition to BIM we are seeing the need to encourage architects to specialise in complex facade and structure design where typically there is a skill shortage of engineers within the same sector. Sustainable construction is starting to advance more rapidly and hence requires architects with specialism on BREEAM projects and architects who can master dynamic thermal simulation software, such as Rhinoceros and Grasshopper. We also work with technology start-ups within the PropTech, ConTech sector who have been looking to hire architects who have a complete understanding of the construction design process and the challenges faced in early design stages but who are interested in making the transition to a software company. It is evident that the role is evolving into a hybrid between traditional architect and coder.

3-How different is it working as a recruiter with an architecture office than with other companies (bureau d’etudes, start up etc? )

AS: From a recruiters point of view I wouldn’t say that the recruitment process is any different within an architecture office in comparison to a bureau d’etudes or technology start-up. We take time to fully understand the recruitment need and more importantly the key reason for this hire. Architecture offices tend to recruit for the immediate project requirements due to their size in comparison to larger bureau d’etudes and construction clients that take a longer term view of talent acquisition in line with the evolution of the construction sector.

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