Knowledge Hub: Saraiva + Associados’ S+Academy

Saraiva + Associados’ continuing education program S+Academy takes 25 years of industry experience public, opening doors to both employees and creative professionals

Introduction and Interview Patrick Kasingsing
Images Saraiva + Associados

Saraiva + Associados’ 50-seat auditorium

Let us talk about S+Academy. From how I understand it, it is a continuing education program self-initiated by S+A that is open not just to your employees but to peers and design professionals outside the company. What prompted the institution of such an Academy?  

Miguel Saraiva, founder and CEO, Saraiva + Associados: S+Academy is a continuing education program and a wider platform for training and talent development, intended to respond to the permanent demand for knowledge and skills update. I had this project in mind for some time—gathering knowledge and experience, that would translate into skill improvement and personal growth for the studio’s staff.

Once the investment in this structure was made, we realized its great potential, that we could take the benefits of a corporate academy much further and share them with our partners and society.

As mentioned, what is admirable about the effort is that you have opened the academy to your peers and competitors. How will this unbridled knowledge-sharing serve to help the company? What is it that you want to get in return?

We are committed to gathering and delivering knowledge that develops talent, from which not only our staff can benefit, but also other professionals from different sectors. S+Academy can be a meeting point for thinking and debate on topics that merge architecture, urban planning, and design with technology, science, economy, or social sciences. By sharing experiences and perspectives, we believe we may contribute to the enrichment of more creative, technically proficient, and better-prepared professionals to overcome industry challenges.

Also noteworthy is that the range of topics available spans architectural basics like acoustic design to cross-disciplinary discussions like storytelling and creative writing in Architecture. Who dictates the programming and the lessons available in the S+Academy and who are some of the industry professionals and thought leaders involved in the teaching?

That multidisciplinary quality is very important to motivate and attract our audience, both internal and external and cover the wide spectrum of interests that we all have today, not neglecting the technical areas closely related to architecture and urban design. In this regard, S+Academy brings together subjects that combine architecture, urban planning, and design with sustainability, technology, markets, and topics oriented to soft skills.

The programs, and the contents to be addressed, result from thoughts and insights from our staff. From senior managers to younger staff, many contribute with valuable inputs. And it requires us to be aware of present trends and innovation.

We have exceptional specialists at S+A, a valuable source of knowledge and experience, and we encourage them to participate as trainers and speakers. The response has been enthusiastic, and the result of this sharing is extraordinary. In addition, we invite experts from different fields: prominent professionals and also scholars and researchers, establishing an essential bridge with universities.

In the Philippines, architects are required to attend seminars, talks, and the like to acquire a set number of points to renew their professional licenses, part of the country’s Continuing Professional Development initiative. Does Portugal have something similar, and if so, is S+Academy a partner in providing knowledge-sharing opportunities or thought leadership?

In Portugal, architects must be accredited by the Professional Order – Portuguese Architectural Association, which requires a 12-month internship program before practicing. For that reason, S+A carries a program that meets those requirements. It is an actual investment in the career of young architects, providing crucial practice in real projects, supervised by mentors, and integrated within project teams. The practice in the studio is complemented by a customized program by S+Academy throughout those 12 months. This program provides the new architects complementary knowledge and skill in areas such as sustainability, ethics, regulation, or references in art and culture.

S+Academy session with noted architect Daniel Libeskind

Which classes or workshops have proved popular to your participants? What topics or subject matters are more participants clamoring for?

The feedback we get from participants is always very enthusiastic regarding the diversity of themes and programs; they value the plurality. Lectures with industry luminaries are much appreciated but, a recent satisfaction survey we conducted with our audience revealed significant interest in areas oriented toward soft skills and personal development.

Are these workshops free for participants?

Yes, our programs—training sessions, talks, and workshops—have free access. However, participants must register for a session and receive an availability confirmation message. Some conferences and seminars are open to selected audiences by invitation.

What are some of the industry feedback you have received for such an initiative?

We are receiving kind and encouraging comments regarding the purpose of S+Academy and the initiatives developed so far. Much of this feedback comes to us informally, expressed by company partners and clients.

In social media, where we publish news and announce programs, the reactions are very positive, and the engagement is promising.

Are there plans to take S+Academy beyond Portugal and into your international S+A offices?

S+Academy is taking the first steps to expand its international reach, thanks to S+A’s operations abroad. The objective is to develop programs based on the transfer of knowledge in specific areas that respond to training needs in those geographies. •

More of our conversation with Saraiva + Associados’s CEO and founder Miguel Saraiva here

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