Because of the shrinking position of architects, part of the profession already was looking for new ways to make itself more relevant again, by broadening and deepening its scope and by moving into the territories of other disciplines, being demographics, fashion, graphic design, research, economics, or politics. A decade into the new century, the global financial downturn initiated a phase urging architects to reconsider their role on a fundamental level. Not only in relation to their subjects, but increasingly towards their clients and society, and eventually in relation to each other.
As collaboration between architects and engineers, or professionals from various domains, has always been part of the profession, the rapidly changing global conditions cause a rising number of oscillating connections between architects as opposed to the historically slow compositions dominating the field before. While the main part of the architecture world is still driven by economic or exhibition value, a growing current sees the role of an architect changing in this more complex constellation of rotating local and global team compositions.
A collaborative approach redefines multiple of the essential aspects of architecture, including process, place, content, economics, and identity.
Collaboration starts with the definition of a process or method inside any architecture practice. Depending on its organisation, the chemistry inside an architecture practice is an indicator of the potential outcome of that process. From that perspective, external collaboration, is an expansion of this process. Some architecture practices strive to include as many disciplines as possible inside its organisation, including engineers, experts, and managers, contributing to stability, efficiency, and the production of a consistent quality or standard, requiring a hierarchical organisation with clear responsibilities. On the opposite side, other architecture practices compose a smaller, rapidly changing and more agile team, enabling the practice to concentrate its energy on certain aspects of the field, often key aspects, such as the cultural or economic value. To deal with the growing scale, risk, complexity, distance, or number of projects, expertise or manpower needs to be found elsewhere in this case. Together with the increased potential of contemporary communication and data connections, this explains why an increasing number of practices are aiming towards collaboration, resulting in a more fragmented landscape. The architect is no longer the sole decision maker, but the facilitator of the project information and decision-making process.