My architecture is built on earnest research rather than assumed or arrogant presumptions. Before I design, I sincerely listen to, inquire of, and learn about both my client and their site, because for me, this is where I discover the fundamental understandings that fuel our creative inspiration. Just as importantly, it is here that the boundaries for project schedules and costs are defined.
From ambiguity and confusion, we distill clarity. This phase is concerned with the creation of a valid design concept that honors the design program established in the previous phase. Conceptual design usually involves the exploration of alternative design options, gaining focus on a strong fundamental solution defined with a broad brush, upon which the specific details can be developed.
Technically coherent, concise, complete, and contract-capable contract documents are an invaluable project management tool, and always represent an excellent investment, more than paying for themselves. They support, and control, the work of the diverse group of entities that become involved in the project before, during, and after construction. They have a profound impact on both the cost and the quality of the completed project.
How to build it? Who to build it? When will it be finished – how much will it cost? These questions have been underlying every step of work completed to this point, but it is now time to resolve them contractually. Whether interacting with one contractor or many, whether bid negotiated, I normally remain active through this phase of the project in support of clients. It has been my experience that remaining closely involved with projects all the way through every step of their production is the best way to foster desired outcomes.
The vision becomes reality. It is time to harvest the benefits of thorough preparation as the team grows and the site becomes a steadily unfolding story. While the best architects never stop thinking about design, and always demand appropriate quality of material and craftsmanship, I believe the ideal role of the architect is to support a committed team of technicians, craftsmen and artisans in a collaboration of service to the project. During construction, a stream of questions, problems, and opportunities are inevitably addressed. The architect, with a global understanding of the project, should be actively involved in the resolution of questions and conflicts.
The first passing of the seasons in a new structure is a time to test, observe, take notes, and confirm that all is functioning as it should. I recommend building a one-year warranty into the construction contract extending to cover the work of all subcontractors and suppliers.