By using a semantically significant and parsimonious representation of collaborative work in architecture an approach is demonstrated that allows the construction of a computer environment that can support collaborative design among geographically dispersed participants. A principal characteristic of this approach is a shift away from a focus on multi-user access to shared databases towards a shared protocol of interaction that is independent of implementation and storage schemes. To arrive at the components of this protocol an analysis of the nature of collaborative design was conducted in order to derive its syntactic and semantic structures. This paper will detail the argument put forth and demonstrate a possible solution through a discussion of the elements of a protocol of interaction and a brief description of a prototype Synchronous Collaborative Design Environment (SYCODE) that was implemented on two heterogeneous computer systems at distant sites.