Group It On

Ever work on a project and think: “If only I had people to help me do this”?   The more the merrier right?  This entire semester has been “group work”, and while it is not uncommon in our education to work on group projects, this semester has been a little out of the ordinary.

Starting with the CropStop from research to construction, we started in pairs; combined into groups of three and four; moved up to two groups of six; until finally the entire studio of 12 was working on one porch design.  This seems like a logical progress of the project, but some days it seemed like the more people we had involved, the less efficient we became.  Naturally with so many “cooks in the kitchen”, everyone has an opinion.  Communicating well, and making everyone feel like they have been heard is not easy in a room full of designers.  It’s difficult keeping people motivated when they aren’t excited about what’s going on, or things aren’t going their way.  Aggressive personalities rise up and take control, passive aggressive personalities undermine productivity, and others get caught in the cross-fire or opt-out entirely.  People shut down and fall into the shadows while a few end up with the burden of the workload and wonder what the heck just happened.  Moving through the CropStop, we’ve reached these lows on multiple occasions only to find out we need to swallow our pride and communicate better.  As we have overcome, people seem to have found where they like to work in the group dynamic.  When it came to crunch time and finally the construction weekend, things got done and the group culture really shined.

Reflecting on the past few months, I think half our time has been spent on learning how to work with one another; figuring out people’s strengths, communication, work ethics, values, goals, commitment, and ultimately trying to manage a balanced sense of ownership for each member to stay involved.

Now that we are shifting gears, and moving on to the Solar Decathlon interiors full time, the trick is going to be taking 12 individuals who just figured out how to work on a 1,300 square foot design/build project, and integrate them into a much smaller footprint.  Fortunately we are able to use what we have learned about our group dynamics, and apply that to this new project at a much faster pace.

On Friday we broke into groups with tasks ranging from programming, documentation, mockup design, doors, hardware, and joinery innovation.

Currently the project is somewhere between Schematic and Design Development.  Now we have three weeks to bring it from here to Construction Documents and full-scale mockups!






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