Originally Posted by Pilot
As far as the actual construction of most of these places, is it mostly "specialty"-type contractors? Surely they don't let any old joe schmo with a hammer and nails go at something like that.
For a large innovative project, most of the specialization is going to happen up front on the side of the material supplier and engineer (usually a third party), who will both be introduced early in the schematic design phase by the architect. The biggest engineering company for that type of work is Arup in London, who does a substantial portion of all the innovative work around the world, which this project broadly falls into. When the construction type is chosen by the architect, the manufacturer will go a long way to determine the actual design of building and the architect will be taking specs the manufacturer provides after a cost analysis. The actual construction will usually be handled by one of a handful of large corporate contractors with enough overhead to assemble nearly anything the material manufacture can provide. A firm like Turner would be a favorite if this were built in the States. For specific materials, there are few global suppliers of custom products that corner the market in each area. Lots of masonry products and glass come out of Germany and Nothern Europe. Japan is the leader in high performance structural steel. The Swiss specialize in high performance concretes and pre-fabricated composite constructions like insulated wood structural panels. The big metalworking firms that make custom cladding are in the U.S. Most of the specialists in each material employ engineers/designers that guide the design development and construction document phase with the local architect, who may or may not be the same firm that did the schematic design. That depends on the licensing of the architect in the area of construction, so you often have big name designers working with other local architects to do the construction documents and construction oversight.There are so many arrangements it's hard to generalize, but you'd often look at a project like this and expect it to be a collaboration between five or more firms, with the contractor being the least specialized. The exception to the rule in contractor specificity are civil engineering firms, petroleum engineering, mega high-rise construction, healthcare interior contractors, projects with extreme site foundation conditions, and other really technically rigorous sectors.