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RMJM Harvard Initiative, New York, United States 
Monday 17 Mar 2008
 
RMJM tackles architect shortage crisis 
 
RMJM's Peter Morrison and Robert Hillier 
 
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Innovative program to encourage more graduates to enter the architectural profession 

Cambridge, MA (Monday, 17 March)
RMJM, an international architecture firm with U.S. headquarters in New York City, and Harvard University Graduate School of Design will announce today the launch of a $2 million program aimed at tackling a global shortage of architects. The announcement will occur at 6:30 p.m. in Piper Auditorium, Gund Hall, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 48 Quincy Street, Boston, MA.

RMJM’s $1.5 million donation, matched by another $500,000 from the Harvard GSD, establishes the “RMJM Program for Research and Education in Integrated Design Practice,” which aims to stem a “brain drain” in the design and construction industry. It is the largest cash donation received by the GSD since a donation from The Aga Khan in 1999.

Despite the current building boom, many recent graduates from architecture and engineering schools are choosing to pursue more lucrative careers in high-tech and management consulting, according to The Society for Marketing Professional Services, a nonprofit trade association serving the architecture, engineering and construction industry.*

This dearth of talent could have major consequences for the design construction industry, experts say.

“Our contact with former students reveals that very many qualified graduates do not actually go into the profession,” says Spiro N. Pollalis, Professor of Design, Technology and Management at Harvard. “This seems to be indicative of a wider trend elsewhere. We have particularly noted an increase in the number of graduates who instead pursue careers in investment banking and management consultancy.”

Dubai and China are most often cited as countries in the midst of a building frenzy, but forecasters predict a rapid building boom throughout the world over the next 25 years, from the United States to Kazakhstan. Large scale retail, commercial, and infrastructural projects are expected to be particularly buoyant.

“Huge growth is predicted in the number of buildings to be constructed over the next 25 years,” says RMJM Chief Executive Peter Morrison, “at a time when a high number of designers who graduate from leading design schools are opting to leave the profession. The loss of architects to other professions is a global problem. Who will design all those buildings?”

The RMJM Program aims to encourage more architects to enter the profession by training them to integrate business management principles and knowledge of advanced technologies with design skills to improve project delivery, client satisfaction, and bottom line results.

This well-rounded skill set will enable architects to excel in business by incorporating an understanding of all aspects of the construction process, from commercial and economic drivers to environmental and financial considerations.

“The future of the industry hinges on architects’ ability to regain control of the design and construction process,” said Mr. Morrison. “The RMJM program at Harvard will present the integration of design, technology and business management principles to improve project delivery. We passionately believe that tomorrow’s super-designer will be as equally adept and sophisticated commercially and economically as he or she is architecturally.”

GSD Dean Mohsen Mostafavi welcomed the gift: “One of our priorities is to facilitate transdisciplinary collaborations—both across departments within the GSD and throughout the University. The RMJM gift will help us promote such an effort through research and innovations in the area of integrated design.”

The program is being kicked off today with a three-day Design Firm Leadership Conference at the GSD. The event, which focuses on the theme of integrated design practice, is being attended by CEOs of major design firms from all over the world as well as faculty from Harvard’s GSD and the Harvard Business School.

RMJM’s gift will support advanced student and faculty research; the development of case studies and curricula for use at the master’s, doctoral, and executive levels; and the dissemination of research findings through lectures, conferences, and publications.

*"The Looming A/E/C Workforce Shortage," by Kay C. Godwin and Karen W. Winters

About RMJM
RMJM is one of the world’s largest architectural firms with projects worth £8 billion in the pipeline. The firm employees 1200 architects and design professionals in offices in 16 offices: Beijing, Cambridge, Dubai, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hong Kong, London, Moscow, New York, Philadelphia, Princeton, Shanghai, St. Petersburg, Singapore, Warsaw and Washington D.C. RMJM’s expertise and design-led approach is successfully demonstrated in on-going projects in more than 15 countries. Key projects include the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh; Okhta Centre project, St. Petersburg; Beijing Olympic Green Convention Centre; and the Alexandria Center for Science and Technology at East River Science Park in New York City.

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