Have you ever wondered how large architecture firms share and consolidate design ideas? Or how they specify materials for large-scale projects and then document their performance?  Knowledge Manager of international architecture practice HDR|Rice Daubney, Arijana Hodzic, answers these questions and more below.

In her interview with Architecture and Design, Hodzic describes the changing role of the architecture librarian and how the digital age, characterised by transnational communities and global information sources, is actively shaping those changes.

Read on for those insights:

Tell us about yourself and how you arrived in your current position.

Currently, I am working as a Knowledge Manager at HDR|Rice Daubney and I have been in this role for eight years. Previously, I held positions in various academic and public libraries and research centres in Australia and overseas, including more than 13 years in the field of architecture.

My education path is probably not a usual one, I have a Master’s degree in Information Management (UNSW) and a BA in Anthropology and Arabic, which might sound unrelated but anthropology is a very research oriented discipline and I think it provides a great base for becoming a professional researcher.


Can you run us through what a typical day might include for you?

Typical, or shall I say an ideal day, would include a bit of everything - scanning the news, general and architectural, attending to various research requests, managing staff training and development, organising knowledge sharing events, collection development, intranet and website management – that is if there are no pressing deadlines and that rarely happens! My role is quite varied and in order to manage all aspects of it, prioritising is crucial.


What are the biggest challenges you face?

Recently, we became part of HDR, a large US based company with global presence, and integrating our knowledge systems and processes has been a challenge in terms of both information management and technology. However, considering the scale of the project, we are doing extremely well, thanks largely to the combined skills of all the people involved and the successful strategy we have in place to manage change.  We are discussing at all levels what the best ways are to capture, share and build knowledge across our growing organisation. It’s an ongoing process to deliver best solutions and practices.


There’re so many information sources out there for architects and designers, but what are your favourites? And what tips might you have for others wading through it all?

Information overload is a serious issue and people get carried away thinking that everything is on the net. Google might be sufficient for looking up quick facts, but proper research requires specific skills that knowledge and information specialists have, especially with a field like architecture which is a lot more about concepts and ideas, rather than just facts. I also need to be well informed about our current business needs, only then can I target and sort out information accordingly. Of course experience helps, and I have been working in this field long enough to know where to look. I do have my favourite sources and they are not all online - I like being surrounded by books, journals and other printed material, they still play an important role and I hope it will stay that way.


Do you have any favourite materials/products at the moment?

I like vernacular architecture and more traditional materials like timber and mud. I also like corten, perforated metal and brushed concrete – actually any material can look fantastic really, it’s all about what you do with it.


What kinds of technologies are having an impact on what you do, and how? (What library and storage systems do you use? Are they becoming integrated with software systems like CAD and BIM?)

As I mentioned earlier, we are in the process of integrating with a global business. Of course, this is a long term process, but there are great opportunities ahead and our work has already had a positive impact on what we all do and the knowledge we can now have access to, both tacit and explicit. With today’s technology, we are able to ensure that knowledge and expertise throughout our organisation can be accessed and shared regardless of time and place, in a secure and safe collaborative environment, amongst over 9,000 employees across a number of countries, which is already proving to be invaluable for our expanding business.  An example of such initiatives that I am working on at the moment involves replacing our static Intranet with a responsive collaborative site and focusing more on social media as a part of our knowledge sharing platform.

HDR|Rice Daubney are world leaders in BIM and that has been a crucial part of our business for years and that position will only strengthen now that we are part of a truly global company.


What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Research, research and more research! I am very fortunate to work in a highly knowledge driven organisation where research and knowledge underlies everything we do, especially when it comes to delivering intelligent designs.


Describe the kind/s of achievement or accomplishments that provide you the greatest satisfaction?

I am proud of my academic achievements, gaining a scholarship as well as receiving a major university award at the time, especially since I was new to this country and English is not my first language. That certainly gave me confidence that I can succeed professionally. I am now doing what I’ve always wanted to do and luckily in this day and age opportunities in the knowledge industry are immense. I am happy going to work every day - sounds simple, but I can hardly think of anything more satisfying.


What’s something that might surprise people about yourself and/or your role?

Being the only knowledge professional in the company, people are often surprised about how varied my role is and the skills that are required. Today, almost every architectural/construction firm has one or two knowledge, information or library specialists, our roles could be quite different as it usually depends on a company’s particular business strategy and needs. It might not be as clear cut in terms of duties, in the traditional sense, but that makes my work as a knowledge professional in the field of architecture all the more interesting.