is a designer and writer from Hong Kong,
currently based in New York City.


is a designer and writer from Hong Kong, currently based in New York City.

How to: not become a “developer”

Canadian Centre for Architecture  
Online publication here / Spotify playlist here.

Architect-developers work with investors, or for themselves, and seem to have more power to shape both buildings and the processes that produce them. And in many ways, they do. But this increased agency comes with risks. The higher you climb up the pyramid, the more you’ve got to lose. The more you invest in the system that keeps you and other architects down, the more likely it is that you become the problem. Can you hold on to your values if they don’t align with the mainstream? Must the pursuit of a more capital-intensive form of architect-developer practice double down on the inequities of access and opportunities already baked into the system? How do you manage your complicity?

A successful, lecture-circuit architect almost never talks about their relationship with money; it is implied that their ideas are so good that their finances just take care of themselves. The architect-developer, however, must defend their architectural virtue because their other values are much clearer. (Alternatively, they can keep their hyphenation a secret, and many do.) You could say that the architect-developer loses prestige because they embody a contradiction the unhyphenated architect pretends not to face. Or, optimistically and in reverse, since the unhyphenated architect claims to produce values beyond profit, a greater presence of architects in development could bring a shift in values. 

Perhaps this isn’t a model of practice at all, but a space of invention.

In collaboration with Lev Bratishenko, Mingjia Chen, Ewa Effiom, Melanija Grozdanoska, Rebekka Hirschberg, Harriet Powell, Thea Renyong, Duncan Steele, CoCo Tin, and Joseph Zeal-Henry.

Canadian Centre for Architecture, in partnership with Sound Advice.

©COCO TIN 2024. All works, unless noted.