This year’s AIASF Small Firms, Great Projects features our founder William Duff’s insight into the architectural profession. Read on to view our own extended William Duff interview covering his thoughts on architecture, technology, and even the lessons he learned as an Eagle Scout.

What lessons did you learn as an Eagle Scout which have served you well in architecture?

The most important Scout lessons that I still bring to work every day are:

  • No project is too large, complicated or intimidating.
  • And, with a vision, a plan, and good help, you can tackle anything.

If you could change one thing about the profession today, what would that be?

I would want architects to become better at recognizing their own value.  Our profession involves a wide range of artistic, technical, and organizational knowledge. But all too often, we allow our contributions (including design, creativity, strategic insight, jurisdictional approvals, technical expertise, among others) to be broken into component parts and commoditized, and therefore undervalued.  A project that’s well designed and managed will run more smoothly and result in a better final product. So, I’d like architects to receive recognition for all of the roles we play in a successful project.

What is the common misconception about architecture?

That it’s just design.  There is so much more to it than just design…researching and interpreting regulations, technical detailing, understanding how the thousands (millions?) of components of a building go together, coordinating the many different parties involved in a project, and so on.  Design is the essence of architecture but, as Mies van der Rohe once said, “God is in the details.”

What role does technology play in architecture?

Technology, especially recent advances, has been transforming both the practice and final products of architecture.  The ability to quickly visualize a design and then immerse oneself within it is changing the way projects are developed and understood.  We design all of our projects with 3D software and then use speedy renderings, 3D prints, and virtual reality to visualize and iterate on the designs.  These same tools help our clients and other members of our design and construction teams better understand and comment at every step along the way, resulting in a much better project in the end.

Why hire an architect?

An architect draws on years of educational and on-the job training to understand everything that goes into a project, from the interpretation of planning and building codes to the details of how waterproof flashing interfaces with a window jamb and all of the details in between.  Within this understanding we harnesses our creativity to design spaces that are customized to our client’s unique requirements and desires.  The end result, if done well, will be a building that’s greater than the client could ever have imagined and that, as a result, will improve the way they live.

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