Historians suppose that when we humans have started to build lasting shelter, we also started to create civilization. Architects are professionals who fashion that connection and bond between people and places via creation of structures. Modern architects, being artistic creators in their own right, draw upon the architectural customs of ancient Egypt, early Greece, sixth-century Byzantium, the Roman Empire, the seventh-century Arabic world, Europe, and, of late, the Far East, and prehistoric North and South American civilizations. But today’s architects have a few concerns and opportunities—building codes, zoning laws, and a speedily thriving palette of materials—in which ancient architects could not have envisioned.
Where to Begin
Architects are in the line of giving form to a mind’s-eye picture, theirs and yours. This bit of magic is created much easier if you and the architect think reasonably alike.
To attain this meeting of the minds, start by looking at buildings—lots of buildings—in your own town. You should also browse through numerous design publications. You’ll quickly begin to make out a general style that is satisfying to you. Make a file of clips or take some photographs of buildings you like. Then find out the names of the architects who have made them. An organized group of architects or a contractors’ society can also point you to architects in your locality who do the type of work you wish to be done.
Next, list down the features of your present house that delight or displease you. Have a “space and place” wish list grounded on your household’s activities. Almost all construction, whether fresh or a redesign, starts out with a need or wish. Architects are problem solvers. A good architect must be able to find several solutions for each problem.
Have you decided on a lot or site for your house? Do you want the architect to develop a house to meld into a red rock mesa or to help you locate a piece of property on which to build? Will the architect need to fit the 5,000 square feet you wish on a long, narrow, inner-city lot?
What time restraints do you have? What financial resources are you forecasting to finish the building? Do you like toying with details? Do you want to choose every doorknob or do you want the architect to create a “look” and not pain you with what it takes to get there?
Deliberate thinking before you approach an architect, and then equally careful planning with an architect can save a good deal of money in actual construction prices and in annoyance. In the first place, it’s much less costly to change designs on paper than it is to make these equal changes mid-construction.
Good design can save a fortune in utility bills over a number of years’ time. An architect can advise about materials that meet your budget now and demand less upkeep later. Good designs also save time and money when you’re dealing with a general building contractor. Skillful drawings make it easier for a contractor to bid on your project, and expert plans save time and problem in the actual construction.
When you have a clear concept of what you’ll be bringing around the project, it’s time to make appointments to consult with architects.