In embarking on the journey of designing your own home, engaging an architect who aligns with both your aesthetic and approach is crucial. In conversation with Patrick Kennedy, co-founder of Melbourne-based architecture practice Kennedy Nolan, we explore the importance of engaging in an honest dialogue with your architect.
“The client-architect relationship can be long and emotionally intense – especially when it involves someone’s home,” Patrick says. “It’s vital to know whether you can work together and this means knowing clients as people.”
As a relationship that could span anywhere from a few months to several years (depending on the scale and scope of the project), the process of selecting an architect should be intentional – with both parties equally involved. While the architect assesses whether you would be good fit for their practice, you as the client can ask them questions aimed at providing you with reassurance and direction.
“Even unwelcome questions are good if they help people work out their compatibility,” Patrick adds. “Really, any question is valid – if there is an interest there, it should be ventilated, explored and discussed.”
With Patrick’s help, we’ve devised a list of 10 key questions to ask your architect – to ensure both parties have a positive experience.
1. What work inspires you?
Whether through a recommendation or your own research within architectural media, there will undoubtably be a style that resonates with you. The same goes for your architect – find out what that is.
2. How do you resolve conflict?
The architect-client relationship can be personal and will involve a number of other parties. The way they go about resolving conflict should be discussed upfront, so you can feel comfortable and avoid being caught off-guard should a tense situation arise.
3. How can I make the process run more smoothly?
“The more honest and open a client can be about themselves, the better an architect can design something specific to them,” Patrick says. “A good architect is always interested in their client’s dreams and ideas – the more information they can give us, the better.”
4. What do you need from me, the client?
As an active party in the relationship, the client needs to come prepared – with research and ideas, as well as an understanding of the project being a continual and open conversation. “There are a lot of great publications with interviews, articles and commentary that can help form an idea as to which ways of working might be just right for you,” Patrick says.
5. Can you identify any significant challenges for our project and brief?
Every project will have its challenges; identifying any major roadblocks or unrealistic expectations from the beginning will save disappointment in the future.
6. How realistic is our vision and budget?
“Hard discussions about money and contracts are best done professionally, respectfully and fairly,” Patrick says. Being clear and communicative and articulating realistic goals from the outset allows the architect to draw from past experience and outline what to expect.
“The more honest and open a client can be about themselves, the better an architect can design something specific to them.”
– Patrick Kennedy
7. How do you resolve budget issues?
As a topic that can often unravel a perfectly healthy and working relationship, establishing a clear process for resolving budget issues will be beneficial in the long run. “Boundaries are also important,” Patrick says. “It’s ultimately a business relationship and maintaining professionalism is vital.”
8. How much time do I need to allocate?
While the architect is employed to work for the client, in order for the architect to progress between certain stages, the client needs to give their approval or otherwise offer feedback. Being realistic about the fact that the process will require your time as well as the architect’s will help keep things running smoothly.
9. What are the expectations for feedback and review after presenting different stages?
“We [architects] are naturally gregarious people, so we find conversation a great starting point,” Patrick says. “We are interested not just in the brief, but also in the people behind the project.” Over the course of a project, both parties will come to understand one another, but this will require the client to provide clear and efficient feedback – so the architect can either progress forward or make changes.
10. What is your role on site, and with contractors?
Deciding the extent to which yourself and your architect will be involved in the delivery of the design should be agreed upon from the onset. In most cases, it is preferred that your architect is engaged during the construction stage, as that way they can actively oversee the design as it is being built. Often when the architect is not present during the construction stage, avoidable issues and misalignments emerge.
To build a lasting home, strong foundations are crucial – the same is true of the relationship between the architect and client. The best results are achieved when you create an open dialogue from the beginning, ask for clarity where needed and utilise the means of communication that are available to you.
“We [architects] are interested not just in the brief, but also in the people behind the project.”
– Patrick Kennedy