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Choose the right architect for your project

Whether you are building a commercial building or a dream home, collaboration is the key to success when selecting an architect. To ensure a successful project, invest some time in finding the right match.

In many ways working with an architect is like having a private tutor or a special friend who will see you and your needs in a different way. Even the most observant of us will not learn about all of the interesting elements in a space. Often it takes time to learn how to use or enjoy a room or a space. With architectural design the ordinary can become the extraordinary when simple elements are used to delight, such as making use of the way a reading room looks different in the light that changes from morning to the afternoon, or the way the kids finally can have a project in a special room without disturbing the whole house.

However, do not think for a minute that the architect possesses super powers. The architect will begin by showing you what you already might know but will bring his unique perspective. In other words, the job of the architect is to show you how familiar ideas can be assembled in new and different ways.

What other points should you consider when selecting an architect?

Proof is in the projects

We all have different skills and tastes. The same holds true for architects – some are known for modern or contemporary design, others incorporate traditional concepts. However, in this age of specialization, an architect’s training generally prepares him for a wide range of projects. Professional training coupled with an ability to observe and listen enables most architects to design a variety of projects.

Request to see architectural drawings and live examples of completed projects. Consider how the architect’s style fits in with yours. Is there variety in the work or does the architect have a particular design interest? Discussing style also allows the two of you to develop a common vocabulary about the space and design.

When working with your architect, be prepared to be pleasantly surprised, too. Some the best projects have begun with one idea or design feature and evolved into a style that the client had not considered.

Ask yourself if the architect seems ready and interested to work on the scale of the project you have in mind. Is your project intended to add a master suite to an existing house, to finally take in that wonderful view you have? Or, is your project a complete rebuild that attempts to transform a traditional space into a contemporary one?

Seek out an architect who can sketch and show ideas that will challenge you and inspire you.

Spend time on the architect’s website to get a feel for recently completed projects. A step that many find invaluable is to meet with the architect face-to-face to discuss thoughts, ideas, processes, and vocabulary used during the process.

Experience breeds success

To get a sense of the architect’s breadth of experience, inquire about his most interesting project, his most challenging design problem and more importantly about his most interesting client.

Ask the architect to tell you about his experience with community groups, contractors and permitting requirements. The level of knowledge obtained in these areas will prepare him for your project.

Does the architect have a good understanding of the community in which your project is located? In California, the permitting environment can be so complex that even a simple project can depend on the ability to communicate the true nature of the design to the various city plan checkers. It takes a combination of patience and persistence – and of knowing what the path is and how the rules apply to your project – to meet deadlines and complete a project.

Additionally, ask yourself if the architect has experience designing the same scale and size of your project. Does the architect have sufficient staff to provide for everything from design through permitting through to managing construction?

Final thoughts

Bear in mind that the work of the architect will change as the project develops. You will need someone to keep track of the vision for your project, and that someone is the architect.

At the completion of the project, prepare to be surprised once more. There is so much to be learned from each other. The architect who can listen and sketch ideas can make you think about how all of these elements can join together to make a great design. Architects frequently find that one design element can lead to something new and different in the design, which creates excitement for everyone involved.

Alcorn & Benton Architects in La Jolla have been designing projects in San Diego and throughout Southern California for more than 30 years. To learn more visit www.alcornbenton.com or call (858) 459-0805.

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