Your Architect is your Advocate


This post is part of a coalition of architects posting on a single topic, each interpreting it in their own way, known as Architalks. This month the topic is your “Advice to Clients”

There is a vast array of project types and the architects that design them, but in almost every instance, the role of the architect is much, much more than just another consultant.  We are their advocate, and it is our responsibility to protect their interests on the project.

While I would assume this be more evident to a client on smaller or less complicated jobs, I’ve found it is strikingly lacking on large commercial developments.  I think this often arises when there is a plethora of consultant voices, and it’s hard for the client to discern who to listen to.  While the client may have access to an array of specialists in construction, zoning, parking, or house-project/construction management (often and architect by degree if nor registered), contractors, etc. it should always be the role, and responsibility of the architect, to aid the client in their decision making.

I firmly believe the architect is to stand beside the client and help them navigate every aspect of a project’s design,documentation and construction.  On every project the design is critical as this is what makes it work. It fulfills their dreams, solves their problems, or supports their proforma.  The architect is there not to simply contrive the design, but to protect the design.  In protecting the design the architect is protecting their client, but I should be clear this doesn’t mean that the design is absolute. Protecting the design it’s not about protecting the architect’s ego, or protecting their desire to win awards or any other personal goal. Protecting the design is about finding a way to deliver a building that delivers on the client’s needs and goals.

Good architecture never just happens on paper. Good architecture must result in a finished Construction that serves the client appropriately.

Design and construction is a complicated process and involves a lot of twists and turns through the course of it. All too often I see clients rely exclusively on specialists for any given task.  The architect should always be included to help the client understand how decisions affect the design and what compromises they made me making by their decisions which may be deleterious to the design.  Most of the clients I work with are actually developers and developers are inherently ‘numbers’ guys.  They have to be, because they have to be able navigate complicated funding structures to make any of these deals happen.   Sometimes their instinct can be to let numbers drive design, and make decisions to that end.  However, I’ll let all clients in on a little secret: design isn’t inherently expensive.  Design isn’t specially tinted zinc cladding imported from Switzerland.  Design is a thought process that can deliver different possible, effective solutions to any given problem.  That doesn’t meant there aren’t sometimes compromises, but design isn’t a line item.  Design finds ways to transcend the balance sheet and still deliver the end result.

I encourage clients, whenever they are presented with a problem, to always first consult the architect. The onus is on our profession foremost, to help them understand the ramifications and appropriately resist, redefine, or redesign based on an agreed course of action.
Clients, you should never be alone.


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Image modified via CC license from MedPhotoBlog on Flickr


05 2017
  • markdstephens

    Great advice – yes I like the idea advocate – it’s to have the clientss’ best interests at heart – even if they aren’t liking what they hear – Mark

  • Jonathan Brown

    My apologies, I’m not sure how I missed this comment. Thanks!

    I definitely agree. We’re an asset, not a liability.

  • markdstephens

    Hi Jonathan No problem – easy to happen – Mark