Selecting your architect

Architecture firms come in a variety of types and sizes, with each firm possessing its own unique combination of skills, experience, interests and values. This sometimes makes it difficult to choose the ideal architect, whether you are a first-time client or an experienced client in a new situation.

That’s why it’s usually wise to interview more than one firm, unless of course you already have a good relationship with an architect.  Begin your search by contacting the owners of similar facilities or projects and ask who they interviewed and ultimately selected.  Find out who designed buildings that you have admired or that seem especially appropriate.  You can also obtain a list of fully qualified and registered architects from the MPIA (013 752 2583).

Arrange interviews with firms that you feel can do your project because of their expertise, experience and ability to bring a fresh look to your situation.

Why is interviewing firms so crucial?
Because interviewing architects addresses the one intangible issue that can't be communicated in portfolios - the chemistry between you and the architecture firm. Interview a few firms to get a good idea of the possibilities, but not so many as to make an already tough decision more complicated.  When interviewing a firm, ask for examples of projects similar to yours in type and size.  Ask how they will approach your project and request names of previous clients that you may contact.

Now you should have a clear picture of how the architect will gather information, establish priorities and make decisions, and very importantly, how fees will be calculated.  Make sure that the firm's style, personality, priorities, and approach are compatible with yours. All good architects will listen to you and translate your ideas into a viable construction project.  Look for a good listener and you will find a good architect.  When talking to past clients assess both the performance of the firm and the performance of the resulting architecture.  You may want to visit existing buildings to see them in use.

Base your final decision on an appropriate balance between design ability, technical competence, professional service and cost.  It is important to note that selection is a mutual process.  The most thoughtful architects are as careful in selecting their clients as owners are in selecting their architects.  Also they are as interested in a successful project as you are, and they know that good architecture results from the fruitful collaboration between architects and clients.

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