Designer Developer

Design and finance can both be understood as universal languages. Although architects, landscape architects, and planners are trained to produce and interpret design, it is becoming more and more necessary for them also to be conversant and sometimes fluent in finance to implement innovative design proposals. As building complexity and the sophistication of building needs, construction methods, and finance have increased, architects have progressively taken on less risk and abandoned more agency. This seminar will explore the designer-as-developer model: the potential to carve out more agency for designers in construction and development, and how design generates added value in real estate development.

The seminar will begin with lectures on the designer-as-developer model and discuss how the value of design can be quantified in the real estate development industry. The course will cover project and construction management, construction pricing, permitting and approval procedures, and basic financial structures for designer-developer projects. Lectures and tutorials will be given on basic financial modeling as required to complete the final project for the course. The seminar will review these topics through discussions based on real-world case studies. The seminar will incorporate case studies that examine how designer-developer projects were able to further design innovation while maintaining a handle on feasibility. Practitioners who have leveraged their background in design while working in the fields of Real Estate Development, Real Estate Investment, and Community Development will be invited to speak as guest lecturers to share their real-world experience as a designer-developer. Guest lecturers will include Alloy, Catalyst Urban Development, JP Morgan Chase, LA Más, Duval Companies, and Placetailor.

Designers often value design innovation and public impact, while most clients heavily weigh feasibility, schedule, and financial returns. By acting as both the designer and client, students will learn how to understand the values and risks of building in the 21st century. We will focus on a designer’s ability to imagine and bring progressive building ideas to market and discuss effective project and construction management. To reinforce the material discussed in class, students will be tasked with completing two assignments throughout the course. In the Case Study Assignment, students will be asked to identify and research a designer-developer project and present the deal points to the class. For the Group Project Proposal, using knowledge gained throughout the course, students will be expected to put forward a proposal for the designer-development initiated project. The final project may be of any scale or location, but must represent financial viability, have a design agenda, and identify potential risks and proposed mitigations in the process of bringing the project to market.

This seminar is aimed at equipping students with the knowledge and confidence to develop their own mission-aligned projects, whether they are market-rate projects or community benefit developments. Students will be exposed to the myriad considerations and processes that enable a building to be designed, approved, and built. They will learn to align their entrepreneurial aspirations with the pursuit of creating work that benefits a greater public. Design and finance are seldom discussed together due to the perception that they belong to two different phases of development. However, for developers, design is a powerful tool when underwriting a potential project. For designers, acknowledging the financial constraints and understanding precedents for economic opportunity can provide a sustainable foundation for design innovation.

This course will be taught online through Friday, February 4th.