Like anything else in life, the first step to finding an answer is to know what it is you need and want and, more broadly stated, who you really are.

Given the opportunity, any Architect can deliver a design and service. And it is true that some can deliver “better” than others. But what does “better” even mean? So where does the difference lie?
I consider a successful project one that delivers and serves the client’s needs and desires. (Forget about “on time” and “on budget”: sometimes even the most basic needs may not be met.) Does the architect really listen and understand your communication mode, personality, needs, values, quirks and passions?

It is also important that the process is enjoyable, so being compatible is an important element to a successful project.

Following are three steps you can take to prepare yourself for the process and perhaps simplify the all-so-complex architectural arena for yourself.

Identify your Values, Personality and Communication Style.

You may already know yourself quite well but how often do you share information about yourself upfront with the people you relate with? Probably not often enough.
We simply leave it up to other people to guess and make an opinion or assumption about who we may be– opinions that are often based on a sequence of very short meetings. But their interpretation of who we are is solely based on their experience, not our own. “Where are you going with this?” you may ask.

Well, I have found that misunderstanding is born out of unfamiliarity or, simply put, ignorance: ignorance of where somebody may be coming from, why they would say or do something.

 

It is essential to reach a high level of understanding and clear communication quickly. In fact, unlike in a marriage, the architect-client relationship does not have years to develop an in-depth connection, which is what is needed to collaborate successfully.

I would recommend that you compile the answers that first come to you when you ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What do I value? What is important to me? (List the answers in order of importance)
  2. What am I usually like? What is my personality? (Reserved, serious, introverted, extroverted/social? Anything that comes to mind)
  3. How do I communicate best? Do I use humor a lot? What puts me at ease when talking to somebody else? Can I read visual information? Do I like to talk to people or do I prefer written communication? Am I usually long-winded or to the point?

This step can definitely be useful for yourself if you have never thought about it, and once you have a written list I would highly recommend sharing it with your architect. As we see later you can also encourage your architect to share answers to the same questions.

Knowing that you share similar values, that your personalities and your ways to relate to each other are compatible is really important to ensure that your project will run smoothly from the onset.

Compile a list of Needs, Desires and Priorities: “The Program”

“The Program”, as it is referred to in the architectural field, is no more than a list of your needs, desires and priorities for a project. Architects can perform these services for their clients, and the larger and more specialized the use of the building, the more critical this service is.

When thinking of a residence it may seem obvious what needs to go in a house. But there is more to it than the standard spaces to think about. It is important to identify who and how many occupants there are, how much room is needed, how much the residents cook (this may affect the size, equipment or details in the kitchen), how much they entertain, what activities are undertaken and/or if there is a need for any specialized room. It also contains information regarding the budget for design, which unfortunately often overrides other desired items.

This step is even more crucial for commercial spaces that serve specific uses and specialized activities such as a bakery, a dry cleaner, a gym or offices, as well as large projects like hospitals, laboratories, factories or other specialized structures.

Basically it is a list that provides the architect with a starting point.

It is especially useful to know specific information about the final user (number of people, background if necessary), the use, special activities that will take place in the structure, special equipment that will need to be accommodated, and anything that may not otherwise be anticipated or included by the architect.
This is true even in the case of a residence. People in fact often lead their lives in very different ways and some people may not be interested in having a formal dining room in addition to a large family room, for example.

Compile a visual sample of what makes your heart Sing!

Compiling a collection of images that convey style, feelings and tastes that inspire you is a very effective way to express the essence of what you would like to achieve.

One very effective tool that has appeared in the architectural arena recently is a website, www.HOUZZ.com.
In their own words “Houzz is the leading online platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish …. Houzz is the easiest way for people to get the design inspiration, project advice, product information and professional reviews they need to help turn ideas into reality.”

One of the very effective tools that they make available is the ability to create “ideabooks” for different topics or spaces. In these folders you can organize images that are available from the thousands of other subscribers. You could create an ideabook for the overall architectural styles you like or even one for each room.

Whether you utilize this website or not, it is very important to start collecting images, articles, or other references that will assist you in identifying what the desired outcome of your project might look like.

Once you have all these aspects spelled out clearly, you can use these lists and other compilations as tools to keep as reference throughout the process. They can assist you in:

  1. Finding a professional that will fit your mold.
  2. Having a clear “road map” towards meeting your needs and desires.
  3. Sharing your thoughts clearly and easily.