Making it work
Joshua Prince-Ramus discusses the challenges and opportunities of working abroad.
Joshua Prince-Ramus: Due to the incredibly compressed schedule, we collaborated with a general contractor, moving directly from design development to shop drawings. The contractor would send drawings at the end of their day in Turkey; we would develop them and send them back for the start of their next day — it was almost a 24-hour cycle. On nearly all our other projects, we have collaborated with local firms. We seek true partnerships in which both firms are intimately involved from start to finish.
How do you control the design and construction process from far away?
We work to lead the design and construction process, not control it, through effective communication with the client and the general contractor. In the case of the Vakko Fashion Center, it helped to have two members of our staff — David Menicovich and Ishtiaq Rafiuddin — both young, capable architects, on-site to resolve design issues as they came up.
What are the risks in general of working overseas?
The biggest risk is cultural: misinterpreting verbal or written communication. Having a team member who gets local customs and idioms is crucial. In addition to David and Ishtiaq, we relied on a former REX employee, Sevla Gurdogan, who is Turkish and has returned to Istanbul to practice.
We currently have projects in the U.S., Belgium, and South Korea. And we are finalists in competitions in Scotland and England. We look for interesting challenges and intelligent clients; if both are present, it doesn’t matter where the project is.
Is the payment process similar to that of domestic work? If not, what are the differences? Any yellow flags to look for before signing on the dotted line?
To guarantee you’ll get paid, you need not just a well-written contract but a client interested in maintaining a good reputation. If the latter isn’t clearly present, signing the contract is a gamble.