Sharon I. Diaz asks, ‘Do architects ever collaborate?’

By: Jeffrey D. Brauer

It is unusual, and often doesn't work well, but it's not unheard of. Egos can get in the way to ruin things. The story of a "design-by-committee" effort to design a horse which became a camel, perhaps was first told about golf design collaborations. Collaborations are highly dependent on the personalities involved, to say the least.

I have some experience collaborating, and it has been good, a sure sign of my level head! Collaborations come in many forms: architect/pro, architect/architect, architect/past architect, architect/owner. I had one case of architect/total stranger collaboration when an interested, and persistent, golfer walked in off the street insisting we use his design ideas.*

In my collaborations with pros, their contributions varied from appearing only for marketing purposes to a sincere and appreciative (if not experienced) interest and active involvement in the design conceptualizing. Some even had knowledge and contributions towards the maintenance and management side, because they owned golf courses.

I have one course I list as a collaboration mostly because it had an architect when the original, partially built course went bankrupt. Years later, when we got the contract to finish the derelict course for another owner — even with the routing and features all changed on the final course — I was glad to share credit with the first designer.

I truly collaborated on Whitestone in Benbrook, Texas, with Jay Morish. That came as a result of a sale agreement for the project early in the planning from a group that routinely used my services to a group that routinely used his. Since both owners wanted "their architect" and because Jay and I and the course were all in the Dallas area, it was an easy decision to make all parties happy.

I actually did more grunt work, with responsibility to provide construction drawings and construction evaluation and administration, while Jay was completely involved in the design concepts. Because of our personalities and mutual respect, this worked out great. My staff hung on every word he said. He is wonderful about telling interesting stories about his days designing with Jack Nicklaus, and passed on lots of valuable information in the process.

Another course I co-designed never reached construction, but it was also a good experience. That architect had been a top amateur player, and looked at things differently than I do in many areas. We stood on one green site discussing potential bunker placements. He rejected a bunker that stood in the direct walking line to the next tee. I suggested it not block the path from cart path to green, figuring 99 percent of the golfers would ride. In the end we compromised, finding bunker locations that served one more useful purpose. Since then, I have paid greater attention to walking paths, and he, I'm sure, to circulation to and from the cart paths.

Given that we each apprenticed for different architects, it was interesting to see where we were similar or different in our thoughts as to the "right" way to do things. Those types of learning situation are great for architects when they arise — provided our egos don't make us overly defend a design position rather than discuss and examine various alternatives.

After all, great design is really a lot of hard work in examining options and deciding the best one. With that attitude, two heads can be better than one.

*That is, until I asked him to sign a document accepting legal liability for his unsafe recommendations. We never saw him again!