New York-based SHoP Architects made what might seem like a counterintuitive move early this month. The 12-year-old firm—best known for the meditative Hangil Book Hall (2004) in Seoul, South Korea, several high-profile New York residential projects, and still-shaking-out plans for Manhattan’s East River Waterfront and South Street Seaport—has decided to put itself at the forefront of the profession-wide push for greater design-build project integration, not by consolidating more construction functions into the firm, but by spinning off a separate company.
The new entity, SHoP Construction, will work with SHoP Architects to furnish more construction administration services than the architecture firm had previously been able to provide. The new company plans to place an emphasis on partnerships and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) [RECORD, July 2007; RECORD, June 2008], but it will primarily focus on increasing efficiency and reducing cost overruns with digital modeling technology, handling all building information modeling (BIM) files during the design and construction process and delivering facilities management models upon completion.
The five principals at SHoP Architects will lead the company, but steering the ship will be a sixth principal and company managing director, Jonathan L. Mallie. An architect with SHoP since 1999, Mallie began his tenure there managing a 2000 project commissioned for P.S.1. Contemporary Art Center’s Young Architects Program. He went on to manage the Rector Street Bridge project (a temporary structure built in 2002 to link areas of Lower Manhattan in the aftermath of September 11th), and more recently he has served as project architect on several larger developments. On many previous projects, Mallie says, he has worked closely with contractors to focus on reducing costs and making the case for the viability of digital fabrication processes in large-scale projects.
I recently spoke with him about SHoP’s motivation for forming the new company. We also discussed what SHoP Construction’s role in the design and construction process will be, as well as his ambitions for the future of the venture.
William Hanley: SHoP Architects has traditionally been involved to varying degrees in the construction phases of its projects. Why form an entirely new company specifically to handle construction administration?
Jonathan Mallie: We’re very interested in the construction process—always have been—and this is a more formal way of engaging it, since we’ve been sort of doing it over the past ten years. We’re basically focusing on digital integration services, but we could go as far as construction management advisory services.
When you begin to set up a new entity, you kind of look at that entity taking on more risk—construction risk—than the architecture firm.
WH: How will this move change that way that the SHoP Architects integrates digital fabrication into its practice?
JM: SHoP Architects really got involved with digital fabrication early on, bridging the gap between the architect and the contractor in projects like the Porter House [condominium] project back in 2003. With SHoP construction, there is a more official platform, where it’s clear that a new entity would be responsible for, say, the digital fabrication files.
WH: Will you have a standard way of setting up relationships among SHoP Construction, the architecture firm, the client, and the other players in the construction process?
JM: It’s project by project. For instance, we have a fairly good size renovation for a development on the West Side of Manhattan right now, where we are hired through SHoP Architects. But there are a couple of projects on the boards that we’re trying to pull in where we’re going to be contracted directly though the client.
I don’t think there’ll be a standard per se. It really is about relationships. It’s about the specific clients and the specific projects and seeing where SHoP Construction should best fit in on each project. For instance, with some projects, we’re will potentially partner with the contractor in a bonding capacity, in which SHoP construction might focus on the virtual design and construction process on behalf of the contractor.
WH: How large is the new company at this point?
JM: We’re about up to seven or eight people now. We have some admin people that we share with the architecture side, but we’re definitely bringing in new people as well.
WH: How did you emerge as the person at SHoP Architects to lead the new company?
JM: I think it was the work that I’ve done in past years, and basically the principals of SHoP and myself coming to terms with the fact that this is something that we should be doing. We’ve been talking about doing it for ten years or so, and we have a good history of trust and an understanding of what needs to be done to help change the industry.