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Lessons From Architecture

One of the best sessions at the NSCA Expo in Orlando, Fla., had nothing to do with any of the technologies we love to talk about. Yet it was as important to the successful business of any AV consultant or systems integrator.

One of the best sessions at the NSCA Expo in Orlando, Fla., had nothing to do with any of the technologies we love to talk about. Yet it was as important to the successful business of any AV consultant or systems integrator. A full house of eager attendees jammed into room W102B to hear Tony Whaley of international design firm RTKL Associates, talk about how to get architects to call them. Architects will call the AV guy? The case was so simple that my guess is that few AV professionals have ever really considered it. The secret is to become the technical AV resource for architects, even before they know they need you. This, Whaley says, will win you that elusive seat at the design table. I believe him.

The relationship between pro AV and architecture is difficult to describe because, for centuries, there hasn't been one. Architects design and build buildings, and AV professionals equip them with communication and presentation technology. To many, these roles seemed unrelated. But as more AV end users demand unobtrusive, integrated, and sometime invisible systems, the need to consider AV systems during the design phase of a project becomes critical. If we're ever to shake that reputation as “new construction remodelers” (as NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson puts it), we need to let the architects and designers know exactly what we bring to that table that will ultimately help them satisfy their customer.

It's interesting to note that, historically, AV and architecture were one and the same. Granted, the technologies were far different than the tools we use today. More than 2,000 years ago, Roman architect Vitruvius wrote about mathematically tuned bronze sounding vessels that were used in early Greek theatres in attempt to amplify human voices. He also articulated many of the fundamental relationships among building design, acoustics, and the effect on speech intelligibility. In those ancient times, architects even considered location and siting of the theatre in relation to the sun and blowing winds and their effects on the experience of patrons.

It's not clear at what point AV and architecture diverged, nor can anyone rationalize why it happened. What is clear today is that our mutual customers require built environments where aesthetic and functional design is fully converged —and today, that includes integrated AV technology. According to Whaley, AV professionals can make it happen by becoming involved with their local architectural communities and communicating the benefits and resources they have to offer as part of the design team. Attend the events, offer to speak at local AIA gatherings — use all of the same networking techniques you use to grow your business.

Mark Mayfield
Editor



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