Getting the Most from Your Architect

June 22, 2016
Sample of client "homework"

So you’re getting ready to work with an architect. Now what? Here are some tips for making the most of the experience.

Start early.

It’s not necessary to have all the answers at your first meeting—an architect is a helpful guide when it comes to evaluating what scale and type of project makes sense for you. A pre-project consultation or a feasibility study can help you get a handle on the overall design and construction process, evaluate potential properties, develop a scope of work and budget, and come up with a strategy for how to proceed.

There’s no such thing as a blank slate. 

Share where you’re coming from as well as where you want to go. We start many projects with a personal “spatial” history that helps us understand our clients from the inside out. Collect images that resonate for you. Share evocative spaces, colors, artwork, or objects. Describe a place that remains vivid in your memory many years later.

Soft focus. 

Be true to what matters but flexible about how to accomplish it. Be open to ideas from all directions. Start with a list of goals or for core values like: “create a welcoming place to share with family and friends” or “design a house with art at the heart of it.” With these principles in mind, the details will fall into place more easily.

Don’t be shy. 

Many problems can be solved—or avoided in the first place—through better communication. Don’t hesitate to voice your hopes and fears, even if you’re not sure how to resolve them. We love clients who are comfortable speaking up, offering their ideas, and questioning ours.

One size does not fit all. 

Some clients are comfortable reading plans, some need perspective sketches or models to understand a design. Be sure to tell your architect when you don’t understand a term or a drawing. Part of our job is to teach you our language; the other is to speak yours.

Join the fun. 

Don’t let being a beginner hold you back. Look for ways to draw on your expertise in other areas to contribute to the design process. We love learning from other fields and encourage clients to try their hand at putting things on paper. We’ve had clients send us ideas rendered on napkins, excel spreadsheets, and even modeled using playdough and macaroni!


Communicating ideas through sketches and models

Communicating ideas through sketches and models

Client homework and building programming

Client homework and building programming

Fun with a full-scale mockup

Fun with a full-scale mockup