“We do not really decide what we want the next building to be until it is done.” – John Ruskin
In choosing an architect for your next project, keep the following in mind. First, give yourself some time: you’ll need to find one with a variety of talents and skillsets. Second, remember that architects work with budget and time constraints so make sure they understand what you’re looking for while also giving them room to create. Ultimately though, communication is key: you want someone who can listen to your needs and help bring them to fruition beautifully.
Here are some experts’ favourite tips for choosing an architect:
- Look at their work.
You can look at an architect’s body of work to get a sense of how they approach their projects and the level of quality they achieve. Plus, it can give you insight into what they’re passionate about and what kind of building materials they like to use. Just remember that you’re not judging the architect based on one specific piece of work—each project is different, so take into account the variety in terms of scale, design challenges, crew size etc. that they’ve tackled throughout their career.
- Ask friends for recommendations
Use social media to search for an architect and gather testimonials from friends and professionals on their experience working with them. Likewise, ask your peers what kind of designs they like to see on a building or view portfolios online to get a sense of who is using what materials, and whether the projects are more conservative, modern, or eclectic in theme.
- Talk to them face-to-face
Most architects will be open to having a conversation with you over the phone or even in person if you happen to meet up while touring a project they’ve completed. However, you can really learn a lot by sitting down with them to ask questions directly. Look at the kind of personality they have and how much time they have to talk about their work. You don’t want someone who talks too much or too little—just enough so that you can get an idea of their overall vision for your project.
- Understand their experience level
Talk to the architect about your project timeframe, budget, and design goals—and then ask about their own experience level in each area. Remember, the more traditional or complicated your project, the more money it will cost. Sometimes, you get what you pay for—but then again you get what you don’t pay for as well. It’s up to you how much risk you want to take on. A project has various aspects to consider where some architects excel more than others for example even the foundations have to be considered!
- Look at their process
Don’t be afraid to ask an architect about their design process and how they work with clients—you should look for someone who is willing to listen and spend time consulting with the entire team involved in the project (the architect should not be doing all of the talking!). You want a team that can work together to produce a project that both you and your architect can feel proud of.
- Watch out for personality conflicts
It’s important to understand personality conflicts on a project before they occur because they can really put a strain on your relationship with an architect. You want someone who is down-to-earth and reliable—so be wary if someone comes across as arrogant, rude, or condescending.
- Befriend them over email
When you do get in touch with an architect or firm, send an email ahead of time to introduce yourself and say that you’d love to meet up for coffee or tea sometime soon—and then follow up quickly afterwards to schedule something.
- Look for a combination of skills
A great architect will know the fundamentals like how to draw and sketch, but also add to that with someone who has experience in carpentry, electrical, or structural building components. Be sure to check if your architect is registered with a professional body, such as The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) or the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA). If they are a member, it means they have passed their exam and have proven they have a certain level of competency.
- Keep them on a budget
You want an architect who can work well within your budget—pride in your design is important but it’s just as important that the project come in under budget if possible. Also, make sure the architect is able to work with your construction crew while maintaining their own professionalism.
- Be open-minded
Sometimes, you’ll find architects who are more traditional or have different ideas about how to design a building that is not necessarily in line with yours—but doesn’t get frustrated or give up on them! Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you’re working well together and developing mutual respect where they can see what you’re looking for and you can provide feedback about how to create it.
Knowing how to hire an architect needs to be a collaborative process. This means taking the time to talk and listen and look and listen and look—and then take action. I’m sure we can all agree that we wouldn’t want to take our design work elsewhere because we didn’t ask the right questions, or acknowledge what it was that our architect was saying or offering up as their expertise. It’s important as a client that you protect your interests as well as those of your architect by asking all of those questions ahead of time so that everyone is working towards the same goals throughout the entire process.