6 Tips for Choosing an Architect
By the time you begin thinking about hiring an architect you’ve likely already spent many days and nights dreaming about your new home, workspace, or community project. Finding the right architect to help you transform that dream into a design that fully expresses and celebrates your vision and identity can be a challenging process, so we’ve come up with a few tips to help you along the way.
1. Clarify your design values early (and ask architects about theirs)
Your architect will spend time early in the design process listening to the hopes and dreams you have for your space, and is ultimately responsible for translating those dreams into a built design. The success of this process rests on the co-creation of a strong, shared vision, which is remarkably easier to form when your underlying design values correspond.
When clarifying your design values, try writing down all of the things you hope to feel in your space, as well as the adjectives that you hope will describeit. For example, perhaps you wish to feel inspired, calm, and connected to nature, and would like the building itself to be eco-friendly, and spacious. Writing these descriptors down will not only help you to select an architect whose values are aligned with your own, it will also help you to communicate your dream more clearly.
2. Know what services you need – napkin sketches or master planning?
Architecture firms offer a wide range of services. Some may only provide schematic design, while others offer a full spectrum of services including the production of construction documents and even general contracting. Make sure you understand what services each firm provides and how these fit with your needs.
3. Pay attention to personal rapport
Just as in any hiring situation, choosing someone who you enjoy interacting with and who is a good communicator can make a world of difference. Obstacles inevitably come up during the design process. When they do, having an open, friendly relationship with your architect will make working through them together a pleasure instead of an aggravation.
4. Meet the team
We often speak about architects as if they are lone masterminds. In reality, architectural design involves an extended team. Even if there is a lead architect, he or she almost always works in close collaboration with many others, including other in-house architects, designers, staff, interns, consultants, and contractors. When you hire an architect, remember that you are in fact hiring a team, many of whom you will be interacting with throughout your project. During the selection process, take the time to meet and interact with members of the extended team to understand the role they will play.
5. Look for experience and creativity
Paying attention to an architect’s total years of experience is a good idea, but it’s also important to consider an architect’s willingness to innovate and explore new ideas within realistic boundaries. Balance between the two can often be found in a well-established team. Also keep in mind that any specific gaps in knowledge can often be filled by builders and other consultants.
6. Explore past designs and clients
The best way to get a feel for a firm’s work is to explore their past projects – usually available on their website. A wide variety of styles and designs may indicate strong creativity and attention to personalization, while consistency may demonstrate depth of knowledge in one particular design area. As you browse, notice any patterns or qualities that reoccur from project to project; these elements are likely to become integral to your design as well. Finally, look for ways to gain insight into the experience of past clients. Many architects include testimonials on their website, and www.houzz.com also collects reviews.
Finding a team that meets your needs is well worth the time and energy. Let us know if you have any questions about the selection process!
Gettliffe Architecture is a Boulder, Colorado architecture firm offering green design services from straw-bale homes to eco lodges around the globe. We believe that beautiful architectural design begins with careful consideration of earth, culture and community. Working with your ideas and vision, our team of green architects brings inspiring spaces to life that are kind to the planet and a pleasure to be in.