Austin Poe

by Austin Poe

Business Development Leader

Mind the Gap: The Necessity to Bridge the Professional and Academic Divide

  • AUGUST 19, 2016
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A world with complex problems must have proactive solutions. Rather than avoiding the disparity between (architectural) academia and the (architecture) profession we should instead collaborate—which is fundamental to innovation. Academia and the profession are stronger when they work together. It comes down to one word: synergy. Our professional and academic differences are our strengths, but alone cannot achieve our full potential. Opposites (should) attract and here is why.


Too often, academia operates in “digital architecture”. They explore new technologies looking at the past, present and future for the benefit of their intellectual growth. The academic time-frame is elastic with self-imposed deadlines that have little consequence. In architectural education, the goal is to become a problem solver, to think outside of the box – but what is the result? The bulk of knowledge and hard work is thrown in the trash at the end of the academic calendar. We should take this studious inquiry and exploration to the next level and apply it to real world, turning various design challenges into solutions.


The architecture profession largely operates in the everyday calendar and the “built world”. They function in the present based with a focus on the billable time, client budgets and deadlines. While time is limited, the impact from our decisions are not. What gets drawn, (most of the time) gets built. What gets built in turn impacts the way in which the world lives, works and plays. 


In order to best serve our clients and society, we need to utilize the best available evidence when making decisions. Without time for studious inquiry and applied research, the architecture profession is unable to fulfill its full potential while leading clients. Conversely, it is essential for business to find an outlet from the urgency of day-to-day demands to look ahead, sense impending change and make innovative adjustments. We must revolutionize the professional and academic paradigm by developing a process to tap into thinkers and do-ers that are readily available. It is said, “Good planning costs less than good reacting.” This is very true in a world full of competition and complex problems.


  1. The profession and academia must come together in a conference to identify issues that interest us and impact us on a global, local or “glocal” scale. Without pursuing problems that we are passionate about, the fire will fade.
  2. Academia must apply their studious inquiry to investigate the past, present and future of the topic at hand.
  3. Findings must be communicated effectively in order for the profession to apply insight.
  4. All team members must collaborate amongst each other in a think-tank to develop solutions.
  5. These solutions must be brought to clients in order to apply the best available evidence to real world applications.
  6. By utilizing this process for innovation, we ALL lead. Professional practice has a leg up on competition; clients improve their investment; academia contributes to real-time and real world challenges; and last, but not least, current and future generations benefit from smart design that adds to their success and not demise.

“For architecture to flourish as a profession, we must have a reliable and researchable base of knowledge shared among ourselves and proven in ensuring people’s health, safety and welfare.” – Thomas Fisher

This is not about the profession; this is not about academia. It is about a shared road and a need to synergize human capital (people/mentorship), knowledge capital (time/research) and financial capital (money/innovation). Each piece of the puzzle goes hand-in-hand and is needed in order to innovate. Innovation is the catalyst that will push positive progress in the architectural profession and academia, rather than maintaining the status-quo.

We must ask ourselves these questions, “What do you have that I need?” and “What do I have that I can give?”


Austin Poe

by Austin Poe

Business Development Leader

Austin has a doctorate of architecture degree from the University of Hawaii and offers a widespread experience across different markets. When he's not at the M+A office, you can find him golfing, boating or watching the buckeyes.