In Favor of Strategic Partnerships


You may have already guessed this based upon the title of this column, but let me start right off by saying I’m a huge fan of creating strategic partnerships, also known as professional alliances. If two parties or more can come together to help one another and, even more importantly, their mutual client(s), the benefits can be exponential. Over the years, we’ve had the opportunity to forge a number these type of relationships. Whether we’re the ones leading a team of consultants or we’re on the other side, serving as part of a project group with the same end goal in mind, the collaboration is valuable to all parties involved.

One example of this arrangement was our work on Lower Manhattan’s red hot Brookfield Place. For this project, we were charged with the executive architect role, supporting the efforts of the design architect for the complex, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. Meshing our two areas of expertise — they conceptualized the building design, detailing and materiality/finishes, while we managed the construction detailing, documentation, coordination and code compliance — felt natural and complementary. We were truly on the same team and it showed. It was the best possible way to address this specific project, with new relationships cemented and with an openness to exploring the possibility of teaming up again.

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We’ve also had the chance to switch roles in the strategic alliance scenario. On a recent project with LinkedIn for its expansion and new headquarters space at the Empire State Building, our firm served as the local/regional expert, working alongside the company’s national design architect to carry out the brand vision in a very New York way. Again, working in tandem, we formed a bond that lasted beyond close-out. It’s far from a novelty. In fact, we frequently align with firms doing business in the New York metropolitan area and are engaged as the “on the ground” representative in charge of interpreting a design in a way that meets local codes and culture.

Then there are the projects we’ve worked on with major automotive companies along 11th Avenue: for Mercedes Benz, we served as prime architect and coordinated with a team of others with specific expertise; for Volkswagen and Audi, we worked alongside the brand architects. An intimate alliance was formed and we’re still in touch to this day. They refer business to us and we reciprocate, bringing each other fresh work in both primary and secondary markets.

Regardless of which course the partnership runs, the advantages make it worthwhile to consider. Not only is teaming a valuable opportunity to build revenue and keep your company’s workforce energized, it’s also an important way to sincerely offer clients, whether they are landlords, tenants or owners, access to a wider variety of skills and expertise.

If you haven’t tried being part of an alliance, or bringing others on board through referrals, I highly recommend checking your ego at the door and embracing the idea. It’s a tactic we’ve employed successfully and it’s made our professional work that much more rich, creative and — always a bonus when you are deeply invested in your business — interesting.