They might walk into your office completely unannounced looking for help. Maybe they saw your web page and were so enamored with what they saw they had to call you right away. Perhaps it is someone you have known for years, and they have finally decided to “pull the trigger” and get things finally moving. There are probably a million different ways that an architect and client can start the process of designing a project.
This is the 35th installment of the #ArchiTalks blog series. A coordinated effort of a bunch of architects to shed some light on the profession. All blogging about a single subject at the exact same time to see how different, and sometimes how eerily similar, our experiences are. This month the subject is “Starting a Design”.
Typical or Not
For just about every project I have been involved in the project started off pretty much two, I would guess, pretty common ways. Either the client has come in, called us, e-mailed – whatever – that they wanted building type x and needed us to make it happen; or, which unfortunately happens much too often, a project gets dropped off at my desk, where one of the designers in our office has worked on for a while, and now I have to figure out how to make it work in real life. The first one is typically more fun, or at least you feel a deeper connection to it. How could you not? You find out what the client wants and you get to work through every stage of the building process to make it happen. I think I have only truly worked on this type of project twice in my career. At least from what I remember. Sitting down with the client trying to figure out what they want from what they tell you and from what they don’t. Studying through the building codes, local restrictions, and amendments to see what we have to do and what we can explore. Working through all of the document phases and figuring out every detail. Watching the project during the CA phase go from ink on paper to real world objects and spaces. Probably the process that most would see as ideal, unfortunately with the scale of projects I work on, and the specialties that everyone has, definitely not the norm.
Like I said, more often than not, the project lands on my desk after it has been floating around the office for a while. and honestly I usually have no idea how long it has been worked on and how many different people have even touched it. I try to look at it as though I have been given a basic roadmap of the layout and the look of what they want, but that’s really it. Dimensions, materials, codes, and all of that stuff needed to make a project real, I’m going to review all of it. It’s just been an idea up to this point, now comes the part where you have to coordinate all of the things the client, the consultants, and the city/county/town/whatever are going to require. And just to add on to all of that, we typically have a few spreadsheet and documents we fill out to make sure we haven’t missed some of the basic requirements of the building types we work on. Even though we should typically know most of the info in these documents, they are easy to forget to verify them when you are staring at the same project for sometimes months on end.
Then every not so often a project comes along that doesn’t act like anything you have ever worked on before. About a year and a half ago now, we had some work acquaintances of ours ask if they could use or office conference room for a weekly meeting. Kind of an odd request since they weren’t asking for any of us to be in on the meetings, but something we decided was in our interest since it is a group of people we had done previous projects with. It didn’t take long for just about everyone in our office to become curious about what the meetings were about, and every so often they would ask one of the principals to come in. Come to find out the group had just decided before asking for the use of our conference room, that they wanted to take advantage of the hotel market and needed to start the very first discussions about what needed to be done to get that process started. This was not the point that an architecture firm usually gets involved, this was way earlier. There was no site, there was no size, there was not even a design idea of what this hotel was going to be. It was at it’s most basic level you can think of.
How would this project come to life, how would it get funded, where would it go? All of these questions have taken months of discussions both in house and with players that we have never even seen. It has taken some pretty big steps in the time since those meetings first started and the meetings in our office have slowed down, it has definitely begun to enter a different phase in it’s development; pretty soon I think we are going to see it become more typical of where we normally see our ‘beginning’. There is a saying when a project ends that there is “praise and celebration for the non-participants”, after seeing this project from such an early phase, I think that list of “non-participants” is going to get a lot smaller.
To see what everyone else thinks about the beginning of design, check out all of the ArchiTalks links below.
Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Slow Down. Hold Still.
Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
where do we start?
Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
How to Start a Design
Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Starting a Design: #Architalks
Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
On Your Mark, Get Set — Start a Design!
Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #35: Starting a Design
Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Where do you start when designing a new home?
Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
First Thing’s First
Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
5 Tips for Starting an Architecture Project
Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
How it all begins…
2 Replies to “Where do we begin?”
Brian, that’s a fascinating story! I’ve had the good fortune of working on projects like that a few times. Once, I even got to model a prototypical town with characteristics the client should look for, and then showed how their project should append to the town. Here’s that story, and thanks for reminding me of it!