Using the word “professional” to describe someone can imply many things: training, education, experience, ethics and integrity. Your client looks to you for all of the above, including leadership and listening, which also are essential attributes for achieving the highest level of success on our projects.
When choosing an architect, clients want a sense of connectedness with our work. They look for a certain quality of design and approach to solutions. Architects are charged with not only creating a coherent design, but also moving the client beyond wish lists to practical solutions. In doing so, we play various roles, from interviewer to mediator, and from designer to analyst.
The first step is to listen. Listening intently helps you connect the dots between what the client wants, how they live and what they have to invest. This connection lays the foundation for the relationship. With experience, you’ll have to listen only once to capture the essence of the design program.
From then on, you can begin to lead based on your experience with scale, square footage, cost, strong site evaluation, views and orientation. Don’t wait for the client to fill in the blanks. Render architectural detail for sophisticated interiors.
Your primary role as architect is that of a design expert, and your client depends on your leadership in all areas of decision making. Clients often bring a long wish list, which on one hand is informative but otherwise can become distracting. Some clarity will be required, and as the expert, you can establish realistic expectations early. When clients request five bedrooms and a game/media room in their 2,500-sq.-ft. design, you can confidently advise that this most likely will require additional square footage.
We’ve all experienced projects that get off track. Who was leading those jobs? Was it you — the expert — or were you just taking orders? If the client is directing the show, it can result in time lost that usually equates to lost dollars for you and your client.
It often is easy to spot a project that was client-driven. Spacial relationships may not work, or maybe it has poor flow. Clients need the architect’s experience and leadership to guide the design to a successful conclusion.
Honing your persuasive skills as well as graphic presentation is imperative when you must dissuade clients from their own creative ideas. Clients who can’t read a 2-D drawing may nevertheless become insistent on their point of view. You can stand resolute with reason, diplomacy and empathy.
Cost is a useful deterrent when clients become insistent. Bringing cost into the conversation can help mitigate a design controversy. Most of our clients are in tune to budget, so if square footage becomes an issue, cost information can quickly resolve the matter before it becomes problematic.
The challenge of the residential architect is to keep the project, and the client, tied to reality. Creative development can evolve within most budgets. We bring the expertise to create a project that excels in function and aesthetics, criteria that are far above the minimal codes and applicable standards for which we stamp our seal.
We can respond to every project similarly by leading the design, controlling the client’s expectations and attaining the best design for the project. Our clients place their good faith in our professional hands. We have a fiduciary responsibility to serve their needs to the best of our ability.