While browsing through the totally awesome people that I follow on twitter, I came across a post for a blog that I now enjoy following – Experiencing Architecture.
In the post The Role of the Architect by Simon Droog, the question is posed “How would you guys describe the thin line that defines how much we ought to listen to and follow clients/end users?” (for the purposes of this post we’ll assume the client and end user are the same person)
I’ve talked a lot about the changing role of architects today as well as where I think we’ve been and where I think we’re going. This question puts a new spin on the role of the architect. Architects bitch a lot (especially me) about client interactions and typically when they aren’t paying bills or if they get in bed with the contractor and completely screw up the project from the permitted documents. But how do we navigate conversations with clients and/or end users? These conversations typically center around one change or another and more often than not can be a change that will hurt, rather than help, the project.
Here’s where the tap dancing starts, in my opinion. Architects can be egotistical and arrogant at times (hard to believe I know) and it’s very easy for us to get caught up in “our project”. Right there, right off the bat we have to realize that this is not “our project” it is the client’s project. Ownership of the building will be with the client at the end of the day. Now, we still need to take pride in our work and give our clients the very best we as designers and architects have to offer, BUT we need to keep in check that great white whale (our ego) in the room. In other words, our ultimate role in this process, aside from grand architectural creator of all things funktastic, is to be an educator. This is talked about in the above mentioned blog post – we should be able to communicated effectively and clearly the reasons that one decision should be made in favor of another. Clients and end users do not typically have the benefit of our education and expertise in design and architecture (note: if you find yourself in the position of an architect with an architect for a client…..RUN) and can not identify the more subtle design opportunities and pitfalls that we can. As an architect providing a service to a client, I think this is the most important service we can provide to our clients.
By letting our ego get in the way or getting impatient or angry with a client for whatever bad decision we think they are forcing on us, and on “our” design, we are not properly serving our client and we are not providing the very best we have to offer. At the end of the day we’re in the business of providing the very best architecture we can for and with our clients.
How would you answer the question: “How would you guys describe the thin line that defines how much we ought to listen to and follow clients/end users?”