The qualities to look for in an architect vary from project to project. Creative, problem solver, solutions based, practical, organised, commercially minded and a good communicator.
I rely on my architect to be the visionary alongside me the sponsor.
I also recognise that they are far more experienced and qualified to understand the possibilities and constraints of each individual site. They should be looking around the site for its surroundings that occur both naturally and in the built form. Rarely do houses stand alone.
Their creativity should be able to take all things (I don’t find naturally easy) into consideration when designing your new dwelling(s) or extension.
I also find myself having to consciously let go of the reigns and let their creativity flow. And if you are working with your architect for the first time, it’s always good to write a brief of what you are wanting to achieve.
They need to be practical too, understanding your budget from the outset, constraints of the site, understanding of local planning controls and able to communicate to you the possibilities along with the potential issues you could face by taking one direction or another.
They should also point out to you how the end product could look, help you visualise this in some way, whether that’s through some kind of render or perhaps an onsite walk-through pointing out how it can look from a range of perspectives.
They should be organised, keeping your project on track and be able to manage your project alongside their other commitments. One needs to be mindful that if they are good, they will have a number of other projects on, so I have to remind myself that they’re not waiting at the other end of the phone for my call. I try to budget as long a lead time as possible to iron out all the issues and obtain the design that works best for the site. You will learn pretty quickly if they’re organised (or not). A lack of organisation in meetings, messy offices, some of the smaller things could include file-naming conventions illogical. For me these are warning signs that could spell problems for me down the line, as it demonstrates a lack of professionalism and order which I think is required in an architect or any professional for that matter.
Being commercially minded, means my architect will have an eye on my budget too. So this is an important function and value that the architect can contribute. There’s no point designing something my budget can’t accommodate, no matter how cool and beautiful the design is. They will take into consideration my priorities and incorporate these, where oftentimes compromise is required. I haven’t been involved in any project where budget wasn’t a consideration. So in such circumstances, the design must factor this in too.
Like anything, communication is the key to any good relationship. Face to face meetings and recording of minutes is crucial, particularly so when you are getting to know each other and the relationship is new. Even so, the value of taking minutes and following up, cannot be emphasised enough. I need to feel comfortable enough to be able to pick up the phone and call my architect and discuss the project. Thoughts and ideas come into my mind at all times of the day and I like to share these when they are freshest. But I am also mindful of not overstaying my welcome, so to speak. Bothering my architect too much would negatively impact the outcome, so resist the temptation to call too often.
With the advent of the internet, it’s a fantastic tool to take images of things that inspire you and it doesn’t just have to be dwellings you like. It could be pieces of art or things that you take inspiration from and that your architect could reference in the overall scheme.