I have spent most of my 20 year career working in both small and large multi-disciplinary architectural practices. As a Chartered Architect I’ve met a wide variety of people and gained invaluable experience from most of them. During this time, there have been significant changes, through social, political, financial, technological and dare I say, tragic events. The industry is usually the first affected by a recession and last to recover. When construction slows, or even stops for whatever reason, it can have a far-reaching impact upon employment and communities, especially when businesses cease trading; look at Carillion.
On the positive side though, the changes give us an opportunity to adapt and embrace the lessons learnt from experiences. These are expressed in our ever-changing built environment; where our cities, towns and villages respond to our diversifying needs and requirements. Cities are no longer just for working in, but also for living in. This built environment is an ever more conscious aspect of our life, as we become more aware of various social and mental issues, either in the workplace or home.
This can be easily demonstrated by the proliferation of architectural programmes on television, documenting;
new buildings, refurbishments, extensions, or revealing the already completed buildings most of us aspire to. There are a wide range of shows displaying what we could have. While some attempt to convince us we can achieve it for next to nothing, some attempt to promote the benefit of great design and the advantages of involving an architect.
Unfortunately, this promotion of using others’ knowledge and experience is overlooked by a large proportion of the public and property or land owners. I am continuously faced with potential clients – including commercial not just domestic – who ‘just want some plans drawn up’.
Understanding what a client needs (not just what they want) is an intrinsic part of what we do and I often find myself having to explain that their proposals won’t work and that they require a lot more than just a few plans to successfully progress the project.
Then I’m usually informed that the other architects they’ve seen said they would draw it up; and therein lies the problem: not everyone who draws plans is an architect.
There are a lot of clients who still don’t seem to understand what an architect does and in turn don’t appreciate the full extent of services offered or the benefits we bring. Despite numerous sources advising the appointment of architects, this information isn’t readily explained in any great detail.
“We all look for value for money but this isn’t necessarily the cheapest option”
Equally important is the client’s attitude to the project. We all look for value for money, in whatever we do, but this isn’t necessarily the cheapest option. My experience shows that even when advice is sought, decisions are, more often than not, made on cost. Consequently, a lot of people end up appointing technicians or draftsmen who will happily draw up only what they’ve been asked to. Inevitably, a carefully thought-out process is not undertaken, which results in poor quality design (often missing the best option) and preparation of inadequate information on which to progress the project. The outcome is various difficulties throughout the project and a client who pays possibly more
in the long run, while never fully realising the potential of the project or the building.
The challenge we all face is explaining to potential clients, the real value that we can bring to their project.