What kinds of potential agency are in architectural production?


Sustainable Design Paper (Individual)

Spring 2017, Course: Society, Nature, and Technology

Professor Dr. Steven Moore, The University of Texas at Austin



During my four experiences at the Chang-jo architects in Seoul, I specifically got a phronesis which is related to what we can do and how we can do with other consultants and clients as an architect. As an architectural designer, I have always considered about the architect’s role between acting in service of the client and guiding society towards a better end.

When I was the undergraduate student in the architectural design school, I (and almost every student like me) always had desired to be a Starchitect [1] who gets a Pritzker architecture prize or idols of the architecture world. Furthermore, I had been familiar with tracing the plan and longitudinal section drawings that famous architects did and imitating the diagrams and the architectures’ specific forms which were published at numerous online magazines. As following the architects’ logic and idea, I was aware of the Authorship in an architectural design field as a goal.


[1]  “Starchitect,” last modified February 21, 2017, accessed March 8, 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starchitect


Architectural Authorship are changed

In contemporary architectural theory, traditional ideas of architectural authorship were related to the consideration of the architect as a solitary author. Although numerous kinds of architects and consultants were needed for one architectural project, only one architect naturally used to become representative and acknowledged after completion. Today, however, those ideas are being questioned and are converted by collaborative and hybrid paradigms in architecture.

When I started working as an architectural designer, I usually had some questions about an architectural authorship; What is the architect’s role in built environment? Should we work as an author like an artist or a manager for social responsibility? In modern architecture, many architects, especially starchitects produced unique sketches which were evaluated value as arts or masterpieces. It was common that one architect’s drawings enabled employees to make construction documents.

As a building technology has been growing rapidly, I think that architects’ role starts to be added not only producing one strong design idea but also managing to cooperate with various consultants. Especially, as Building Information Modeling (BIM) has gradually become important for architectural practitioners to conduct effective ways for construction, many architects are able to get specific ability to communicate with other consultants easily but also have responsibility to do. Globally, due to the technology, there are numerous kinds of buildings that are designed with unique forms and materials.


Parnas Tower project in Seoul, South Korea

I was involved in a design team and conducted one special project for four years. Some colleagues used to talk to me that many projects would be better to me and recommended to transfer to another design team. However, I decided to remain previous team and I could significantly have experiences from a concept design phase to a construction documents phase. It was so unique experience for me that I was able to meet with American interior design firms and also communicate with LEED consultants, façade consultants, metal providers, hoteliers, and so on.

Parnas Tower, my previous project, began on expansion project in 2012 and was completed by August 2016. The client was Grand Intercontinental Seoul hotel, they wanted to make existing hotel renovated and build new tower for uses of hotel facilities and premium offices. Furthermore, the new Parnas Tower aims to become LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified and seeks to receive recognition for having the highest rate in eco-friendliness.

It consists of 38 floors aboveground and 8 floors underground and it is a luxurious business tower with state-of-the-art equipment. Connecting with the existing hotel, Metro station, and shopping mall, the Parnas Tower became a new landmark in Gangnam and be part of the life infrastructure with the COEX Mall and convention center, department stores, multiplexes, casinos and duty free shops.


A lot of Agency in my project

I started to design the Parnas Tower project with approximately thirty architectural designers and communicated with about twenty consultant firms (Figure 1). Because it was processed by the BIM technology simultaneously, we needed a BIM consultant and also project designer who could deal with a BIM tool. Characteristic of this project were considerably complicated; it had a renovation part, problems about joints between the existing building and the new tower, and also consideration of LEED certification.


Figure         SEQ Figure \* ARABIC      1         . Project Organization Chart, Courtesy of the author.

Figure 1. Project Organization Chart, Courtesy of the author.

Due to the development of technology in built environments, we can easily design parametric buildings and also have various consultants whom we should communicate with. Furthermore, we should consider a client, construction firms, investors, occupants, and the public.

All of the consideration in this project became agency to determine direction of design process, especially, the client was the significant agency. The hoteliers, as the client, always put priority on economic value than others. After a feasibility study in business, the client changed the first design proposal that we did and demanded an immediate alteration. These requests sometimes made a heavy workload to design team and also consultants, but consequently it enabled us to realize the design strategy gaining economic value and manage other consultants effectively.

Investors and predicted-occupants might be crucial agency. When we started to construct renovation parts first, one fatal problem appeared immediately. The people who had the hotel gym membership submitted a class-action lawsuit because they would not be able to use the membership at all after renovation. After we heard about this situation, we had to gather all architectural designers, consultants, construction firms, and also client in our office. Sharing the information of the lawsuit, a project manager encouraged them to seek for solution to overcome the loss of time and money, and immediately rescheduled for alternative process. With the appropriate countermeasure, we could drive them to conduct efficiently and consequently redesigned the plan to remain the gym and swimming pool for the membership.

To be specific, the Parnas Tower planned to be completed one year before August in 2016. However, the construction process was delayed for about one year because of another agency, value engineering (VE). In construction firms, it is usually conducted to improve the value of built environments and reduce the expected cost. After the VE, the construction team proposed extreme method to reduce 20% of construction cost. That idea was converting the luxury hotel rooms into premium offices, we had to accept it and made an appropriate alteration because the client also wanted to change the purpose of use for economic value (Figure 2).

Figure          SEQ Figure \* ARABIC       2         . Alteration of the purpose of use. Courtesy of the author.

Figure 2. Alteration of the purpose of use. Courtesy of the author.



Architectural projects become significantly complicated with the development of technology. Consequently, many architects are possible to design new trends of architecture and consultants are able to develop their technology or analysis ability. Today, various kinds of people who are involved in one specific architectural project might say the architecture was made by them from architects to metal providers. There are lots of architectural agency in design process, which try to make the architecture built effectively; socially, economically, and physically. Although we might often encounter a large number of difficulties in built environments, practitioners can have agency to solve the problems through sharing the information each other. Especially, architects can gain strong idea by communicating with other professions and managing the information.



Adjaye, David, Nikolaus Hirsch, and Jorge Otero-Pailos, “On Architecture and Authorship: A Conversation,” Places Journal, October 2011. Accessed 11 Mar 2017. doi:10.22269/111024.

Allen, Matthew. 2014. Architecture’s struggle with authorship. Reviews in Cultural Theory 5 (1): 36-39.

Anstey, Tim, Katja Grillner, and Rolf Hughes. 2007. Architecture and authorship. London: Black Dog Publishing.

Doucet, Isabelle, and Kenny Cupers. 2014. Agency in Architecture: Reframing Criticality in Theory and Practice. Footprint 3 (1): 1-6.

Jeong, Yeon-suk. 2014. Parnas Tower extension project uses BIM and laser scanning techniques for collaborative construction. Autodesk Customer Success Story: 1-4.



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