Work­shop for Con­struc­tion Inc. (WFORC) is a con­struc­tion com­pany that is devoted to build­ing archi­tec­turally unique and tech­ni­cally com­plex designs at the scale of ren­o­va­tions and new con­struc­tion. WFORC grew out of the suc­cess and expe­ri­ence of Work­shop for Archi­tec­ture LLP (WFORA), an award-win­ning archi­tec­tural firm based in New York City. See­ing first hand the prob­lem­atic gap between archi­tec­ture and con­struc­tion in our build­ing cul­ture, we are try­ing to make the process of design­ing and build­ing bet­ter. Together and indi­vid­u­ally, the peo­ple within our com­pa­nies believe in an approach that val­ues great design, and its con­struc­tion with intel­li­gence and rigor.
      In each con­struc­tion project, we aim to build the client’s design with care and respect through tightly man­ag­ing and sup­port­ing our team of trades­men. We believe con­struc­tion is not just bricks, mor­tar and money but more impor­tantly peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. We stress the impor­tance of the right peo­ple know­ing the right infor­ma­tion at the right time. This is the essen­tial ingre­di­ent that helps us man­age all the demands of cre­at­ing beau­ti­fully designed spaces.

Pre-demo­li­tion at a town­house gut ren­o­va­tion project

As a means to ensure this qual­ity, we have estab­lished the fol­low­ing guide­lines for our business:


As an orga­ni­za­tion com­prised of archi­tects, con­struc­tion man­agers and skilled trades­men, WFORC brings together a unique team that infor­ma­tively unites design and build­ing. Every project is staffed with the archi­tec­tural designer who devel­oped the project as well as a con­struc­tion project man­ager. From the early design phases, both team mem­bers dis­cuss the demands and para­me­ters of the project, from aes­thetic details to over­all exe­cu­tion. By doing this, mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion that often occurs between archi­tects and con­trac­tors in a tra­di­tional bid-build approach is avoided from the begin­ning. This early ini­tia­tive towards use­ful infor­ma­tion flow reduces the amount of time wasted and mis­takes made dur­ing construction.

Prior to full instal­la­tion, a mock-up is per­formed for a ter­race paving design


Bud­gets are in the fore­ground and back­ground of every dis­cus­sion of a con­struc­tion project. To ensure every­one on our team under­stands the rela­tion­ship of design to dol­lars, the archi­tec­tural team works with the con­struc­tion man­agers to under­stand not only the cost impli­ca­tions of spe­cific design inten­tions but also how those val­ues are deter­mined. As our design­ers bet­ter under­stand the dri­vers of cost, they can manip­u­late designs strate­gi­cally to pre­serve design while address­ing bud­get issues. For us, “value engi­neer­ing” is not the end to a well designed project but rather a moment to apply this holis­tic knowledge.

Design inten­tions are linked to early bud­get pro­jec­tions in order to man­age a real­is­tic design process


Many approaches exist in the con­struc­tion indus­try for estab­lish­ing prof­its and fees for the gen­eral con­trac­tor includ­ing the tra­di­tional ‘stip­u­lated sum’. We pre­fer to sim­plify this con­di­tion by using an ‘open book’ account­ing sys­tem in which all sub­con­tracts and prod­uct bids are revealed to the client under a ‘cost plus fee’ con­tract. In this approach, we present more than one sub­con­trac­tor bid for a spe­cific trade, and make rec­om­men­da­tions to the owner based on cost, ref­er­ences, avail­abil­ity, and qual­ity of work­man­ship. After the owner approves a bid­der, our prof­its and oper­at­ing costs are then added to the bid as a sim­ple fixed per­cent­age. In this approach, the owner under­stands the ratio­nale behind the selec­tion and the expec­ta­tions of a spe­cific sub­con­trac­tor or supplier. 

Open account­ing allow clients to under­stand the true costs of the projects


One of the key ele­ments in deter­min­ing the suc­cess of a project is the effi­cient sched­ul­ing of con­struc­tion work. We imple­ment three key sched­ul­ing bench­marks with all sub­con­trac­tors: Pre-Award Time­line, Pre-Start Time­line and Daily Work Time­line. We become part of the man­age­ment team to mon­i­tor and main­tain project effi­ciency. We require all sub­con­trac­tors to fully describe the inner-work­ings of their com­pany, as well as their sources for sup­plies and deliv­ery. Through these types of dis­cus­sions we are bet­ter able to adhere to sched­ules and uncover unre­al­is­tic time­lines pro­vided by sub­con­trac­tors and suppliers.

Under­stand­ing the hid­den mean­ing behind sched­ules is the key to mak­ing sure the design is com­pleted on time


While our senior staff mem­bers run all daily activ­i­ties, we encour­age our younger employ­ees to spend time on-site, whether they are involved in that spe­cific project or not. WFORC and WFORA believe the con­nec­tion between stu­dio expe­ri­ence and on-site expe­ri­ence is a crit­i­cal part of mak­ing mean­ing­ful archi­tec­ture. Too often this rela­tion­ship is dis­con­nected as one side tends to over­sim­plify the impor­tance of the other. Even though tech­nol­ogy and the inter­net allow our peo­ple to bet­ter find and use infor­ma­tion, this is all sim­u­la­tion. For our pur­poses, there is noth­ing more infor­ma­tive than walk­ing through a con­struc­tion site and absorb­ing the incred­i­bly com­plex dynam­ics of con­struct­ing a design from scratch. Fac­tors like weather, momen­tum, dry­ing time, trade coor­di­na­tion, etc. can­not be under­stood in absen­tia. By expos­ing our younger staff to these ele­ments, we are nur­tur­ing a more thor­ough team of professionals.

We cul­ti­vate an expe­ri­en­tial work cul­ture, one where interns and new employ­ees are exposed to every aspect of the design-build process


Work­shop for Construction
526 W 26th St #410
New York, NY 10001
Tel 212 674 3400
Fax 212 674 0400


John Lee (AIA, LEED AP) is the founder of both Work­shop for Archi­tec­ture LLP and Work­shop for Con­struc­tion Inc. Based in New York and hav­ing worked as an archi­tect for over twenty years, he brings an impres­sive level of expe­ri­ence from both the archi­tec­tural and con­struc­tion indus­tries. More

A grad­u­ate of the Har­vard Uni­ver­sity GSD, John has worked for sev­eral respected firms includ­ing Pei, Cobb, Freed & Part­ners (aka, Pei Part­ner­ship) and KPF & Asso­ciates. Even­tu­ally he became a Part­ner at HLW Int where he super­vised the design direc­tion of the Finan­cial & Devel­op­ers Stu­dio. There, he led the design of projects includ­ing the Scher­ing-Plough Cor­po­rate Head­quar­ters, Bloomberg Office Head­quar­ters and Novar­tis Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals Cam­pus all in New Jer­sey. He also worked closely with Mack-Cali Realty, SJP Prop­er­ties and other devel­op­ers design­ing var­i­ous com­mer­cial com­plexes. John also worked inter­na­tion­ally design­ing office tow­ers in Shang­hai, China for the Ciros Cor­po­ra­tion and in Seoul, South Korea for the LG Group Corporation.

In 2003, hav­ing left his cor­po­rate posi­tion, John estab­lished his own prac­tice, Work­shop for Archi­tec­ture, with the MIG Offices project. In 2008, the project was awarded a Design Merit by the AIA New York Chap­ter. Since then, his office has been steadily com­plet­ing projects of vary­ing sizes and types both in NYC and abroad.

In 2008, to extend his prac­tice and pur­sue his grow­ing inter­est in the build­ing process as an inte­gral part of archi­tec­ture, John estab­lished Work­shop for Con­struc­tion. Cur­rently, the two enti­ties work together to cre­ate a wholis­tic approach to design­ing and building.

John was served as a Vis­it­ing Instruc­tor at Pratt Institute’s School of Design in the Inte­rior Design depart­ment and has lec­tured at the SUNY School of Archi­tec­ture. He has served on design juries at sev­eral archi­tec­tural school includ­ing Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity and Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity. He was a fel­low at the Mac­Dow­ell Colony in 2010.