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Tips For Collaborating with Designers with PKA Architecture

Photos courtesy of PKA Architecture

PKA Architecture Hero

Courtesy of PKA Architecture

Ryan Fish discusses the importance of good collaboration on projects. 

We all learn at an early age that collaboration is a key part of success. The art of collaboration not only aids in the development of relationships, but it also opens the door to fresh creative opportunities and perspectives. Despite the obvious benefits of collaboration, the task often presents itself with challenges, not seeing eye to eye or a lack of effective communication can turn collaboration into a nightmare. 

PKA Architecture, a leading architecture firm in Minnesota, understands the critical importance that collaboration has on the overall success of a project. PKA Architecture has completed hundreds of high-end residential projects and has collaborated with the top interior designers, builders, landscape architects and homeowners successfully to produce stunning projects that directly reflect the clients needs and desires.

PKA Architecture design collaboration project 1

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ryan Fish, Associate Principal Architect at PKA Architecture, and when asked what advice he has to establish a work environment that fosters a healthy relationship between collaborators, he gave great advice: 

NS: How does PKA achieve a truly collaborative design process?

RF: “ We invite interior designers, landscape architects and designers into our meetings with the client. We also invite them to be a part of our in-house design processes, we sit down and work through ideas as a group. We are all working towards the same goal, so before we sit down with the client we make sure that we are all on the same page so the finished project has the same voice. We also don’t have firm boundaries when collaborating, it’s not like our designers or architects are limited to only their sandbox, we help each other and contribute ideas. Once we have established that common voice, that’s when we together begin collaboration with our client.”


NS: What do you look for in collaborators?

RF: “The desire to collaborate is the main thing we look for. Now if the client asks us for recommendations for an interior designer or landscape architect, we make those recommendations based on the likes and dislikes of the client. So we make multiple suggestions based on what we believe will work best with the client’s personality and design aesthetic. In general though, we like to work with people who share our core values.” 

NS: Has there ever been a situation where collaboration has been difficult? What advice would you give to navigate that situation?

RF: “ In any project, there are going to be high stress points when something comes up that may potentially flex the original design. When you have to flex with an independent design partner, those high stress points may cause friction, so it’s best to either get on the phone with the designer or meet in person about it. We work really hard to take the stress of new home design and build off of the client, so when there is a stress point, we communicate with the design partner to come up with solutions before the problem is presented to the client. I find when those stress points come up, communicating over email or text is not the best option. On larger projects, we will often create a mission statement before we start, that way when those pressure points come about, we refer back to the mission statement and solve our problems in accordance to that. That helps with picking a path towards a solution” 


NS: How much impact does collaboration have on a project as a whole?

RF: “A lot. If you’re not collaborating with an interior designer or landscape architect, you’re collaborating with a builder. We as architects have designed something and created details with how we think they need to go together, but on the other hand, builders have been building for a long time so who is it to us to say builders have to build a certain way, instead we need to collaborate with them to make sure the essentials are being fulfilled, as long as the main concerns are being met, it doesn’t make a difference what process is being implemented to get it done.”

PKA Architecture collaboration project #4

NS: What advice would you give new collaborators to succeed?

RF: “ When you have a new collaboration, start small. Don’t start a large project with a new design partner because larger projects give more chance for conflict. It’s good to test out a new partnership with smaller projects. Meeting with the new design partner often and being direct in communicating what your intentions are is what I find to work best when starting a new partnership.” 


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