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How to work with architects: Five tips for clients

Words:
Angharad Palmer

Following her guide to architects on creating a successful client relationship, Pocket Living’s Angharad Palmer shares her advice on the client’s responsibility to the design team

1. Perpetuate the sharing of knowledge

At Pocket, we encourage a sharing economy between our residents in our developments. In the same spirit, we encourage the architects and consultants who collaborate with us to share their collective knowledge gained from working on Pocket projects. As clients we should empower our architects to meet with one another to share experiences rather than work in silos and as a result, the projects will improve in perpetuity. At Pocket we hold ‘peer reviews’ at various stages of a project where two architects who currently work on live Pocket projects come together to critique one another’s work, hosted by a third guest architect to provide impartial advice. Organised by the head of design, Pocket’s development managers for each project also attend to further encourage cross fertilisation of knowledge. Why have a wealth of talent working for you as clients and not have them talk to one another? The force is much greater when a collective of individual voices speak as one whole.

2. Don’t alienate your allies

As an architect I’ve encountered clients in the past who have not always been transparent, often retaining cost plans and programmes from their design teams. There may be a few gains from retaining information in such a way, but the gains from sharing the information are tenfold in comparison. By sharing information, you hold the design team accountable for reducing the costs of the build if required or improve efficiencies in the programme. Clients can enable the design team to influence procurement and empower the team to have a full grasp of the project. By withholding information, the team is likely to withhold enthusiasm for the project, and essentially the client will have lost its best ally if anything does need to be resolved during the course of the project.

3. Banish the guessing game

The success of a good project often lies in the success of a good brief. A good brief prompts architects and consultants to ask difficult questions and we welcome these. The brief should communicate your mission as a client and how the architect or consultant plays a part in this. Through explaining as best as feasibly possible your intentions for a project, you banish the guessing game. The guessing game can be infuriating for consultants, costly for the project and often delays programme. If you know what the outcome of the project should be and what you’re aiming for, find a way to communicate this with your consultants.

4. Don’t kill the enthusiasm

Bureaucratic hurdles and confusing lines of communication are the enemy of a successful project. Giving mixed messages, contradicting client feedback and stalling decision making can kill the creativity and enthusiasm of a design team. Clients should ensure clear instruction is given to the design teams, and that any deliberating occurs behind closed doors. This is to protect the design team from being dragged into distracting red-tape discussions. Clients also need to learn the importance of the continuity of teams on a project. At Pocket we encourage novation of architects to ensure design quality, but it is also important that client teams are continuous and stay constant throughout the lifetime of a project. A unified team means no one can point the finger at anyone else in the company for any mistakes that may occur, and most importantly the teams feel a deeper sense of achievement from seeing a project from start to finish.  

5. Share joys

Clients should want to share the successes of their architects and consultants. At Pocket, we’ve invested in our architects and consultants as people. We want to visit projects our architects have built, things our architects are proud of. We as clients should provide our architects with a platform  to tell us something new, tell us what they’re passionate about, enlighten us about the city we love. Choose consultants you want to spend time with, have a chat with over a pint or a cup of tea. Only this way, outside the four walls of a meeting room can we truly get a sense of who the people we work with are, where their interests lie and how we can make the most of this talent to continuously improve working relationships and future projects.

Pocket Living upcoming scheme.
Pocket Living upcoming scheme.

Read Angharad Palmer's Part 1: Golden rules for architects working with clients here.

Angharad Palmer is a RIBAJ Rising Star 2017 and Head of Design at Pocket Living. RIBAJ Rising Stars is a scheme to recognise and reward up and coming construction professionals. It is open for entries now. Rising Stars is produced in partnership with Origin Doors and Windows.


 

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