Great architects read minds, perform miracles by giving you everything you ever wanted for much less that you wanted to spend, complete the job in half the time you expected, drop everything else they’re doing every time you call, and always create stunning and award-winning structures.
Well, not really!
But the best architects are:
- Great listeners
- Extremely diligent about determining what are “musts” and what are “maybes” when in comes to designing your perfect home or addition
- Aware of budget constraints
- Determined to keep a job on schedule; even if it means rethinking some aspects of the work, substituting materials or cajoling suppliers and subcontractors into compliance
- Not only willing, but eager, to schedule time as necessary to answer your questions, deal with your anxieties and quell your fears
In return, they will want you to remember that “architects are people, too.”
Seriously, Teamwork Counts for a Lot
The relationship between client and architect is personal. That doesn’t mean that you have to become best friends; in fact, that may be the wrong direction to go. But, there should be mutual respect and understanding. Consider three qualities as equally important: Design quality and expertise, personality, communication skills.
When you set out to find a great architect, take into account not only your own wishes, but the prospective architect’s experience and body of work. Interview candidates, view their completed projects, ask for references and call previous clients; do your “homework” before you say “Yes,” and sign a contract. No matter how many accolades an architect may have accumulated over the years, if you don’t hit it off on first meeting, chances are your relationship will not flourish over the long term.
Secondly, always put it in writing. Even the best relationship can go sour if you rely on handshakes, the spoken word and memory to serve you.
Just as it would be folly to hire a log cabin builder to construct a modern steel and glass office building, you will want an architect who is known for producing the kind of finished product that you envision, whether it’s an interior finish-out for a century-old warehouse, a rehab of a historic apartment, a second-floor addition, or a brand new home. But, don’t look for cookie-cutter sameness in design; you’ll want a creative mind.
Each project has specific requirements. The more information you give the architect up front, the easier it will be to reach the finish line as winners. Every project requires some mid-game recalculations and adjustments. The primary requirements are to “communicate” and share a common commitment.
Build on the Basics
Remember that you are working with an architect because you want and need the professional advice and knowledge that comes with the title. Never hesitate to ask questions. The best architects will anticipate your needs, understand your uncertainties, and keep you “in the loop” every step along the way. They will not shy away from explaining pros and cons of various options, methods and materials.
Decide at the beginning the limits and structure of your architect’s involvement. Will his responsibility end with delivery of plans? Do you want input about contracting the work, oversight during the actual construction, supervision in terms of bidding and cost control, or approval of construction invoices and draw requests? Will the architect be responsible for approving work quality? Will a construction manager be employed to act as liaison between you, your architect, the contractor and/or a financial institution?
There is more than one model of “A+ Architect.” The best of the best, though, approach their work with enthusiasm and have an uncanny ability to transform dreams into reality. It’s actually very close to mind reading!