Monthly Archives: June 2010

Professional Stereotypes

One of the discussions on Twitter during last Friday’s Ask The Architect was about people’s experience of stereotypes and how they can affect a profession, so I thought I would follow it up with this post.

So what are some of the Architect stereotypes?  Off the top of my head I have listed some below which can affect how the public sees us.  You are more than welcome to add to the list with your comments.

 1 Architects are expensive or a luxury

Imagine trying to order food in a restaurant when only the wine menu has prices on it.  How would you know if the wine was good value or not when you don’t know how expensive the food is?

Architects are used on all sorts of projects that vary in size and cost and we can help the client get better value for money from their budget.  The cost of an Architect on a project is normally relative to the overall value of the job.  However, as we are often first to be approached and first to give a fee proposal the client has no other costs to compare our fee projection with.  This is where a lot of sucking of teeth can occur!

2 Architects specialise in modern buildings or new houses or offices or public buildings, etc (delete as required)

As a creative person an Architect should be able to turn their hand to design anything.  The reason some companies or individuals specialise is the same reason why some musicians play blues or some novelists write thrillers, they like it and are good at it.

Obviously there are commercial reasons involved with specialising in certain project types but a specialist practice often undertakes other projects too.

So why do people think we are like surgeons and do the same thing for our entire career?

3 Architects ignore their clients and design what they want

So how would this work?  I don’t even need to use the restaurant example to show you that this doesn’t make sense.

Part of our job is to advise our client in their best interest and this can lead to having to say what people don’t want to hear.  For example, a client might like to have an ornate wall mirror in a minimalist kitchen, or one of their design ideas contravenes legal protections.  As a result, we end up being the bearer of bad news by saying things like ‘Sorry you can’t do that’ or ‘Do you think that is appropriate to your brief?’

Everyone has a stereotype and I could go on but my black turtle neck is back from the dry cleaners!


Ask The Architect – Can you help us resolve two design and construction issues?

A question sent in to Ask The Architect last week shows the importance of good design at every stage of the project.

The owner of a large Victorian terrace in a conservation area, is converting the building back to a house after it has been used as a block of flats.  They have used an architectural technician to produce a set of drawings for building regulations and asked me to help them with the removal of an existing wall to create an open plan kitchen/dining room and a the installation of a new external staircase to the basement. 

The engineer has designed brick piers to support the new opening but they are wider than the existing wall and the owner is concerned about the appearance of the opening in a period house and the potential loss of original features.

My suggestion was to discuss this in more detail with the engineer and see if there was any way of making the supports narrower.  As a last resort the whole wall could be made wider and the features could be replaced to retain the character of the room.

I also noted that the opening was too high for its width making it look awkward in the room, as it is important to look at the scale and proportions of a new opening in its context.  The plan showed a central island under the opening and I felt that the kitchen layout might be improved if this island unit was replaced with a run of kitchen units linked to the rest of the work top with an opening above.  This would increase the useable kitchen space and still provide the open plan feel for the room.

The property owner was concerned that appearance of the new basement staircase was not appropriate to the house and that the hand rail and balustrades stuck out like a sore thumb!

My response was to look at combining the existing front door staircase with the new basement access or just turn the new staircase through 90 degrees as both of these options could reduce the amount of protection required and make the new stairs feel more like part of the existing house.  The use of glass instead of metal for the balustrades would also help the staircase become less of an issue.

These problems show how important it is not to let the technical and legal processes of planning and building regulations applications override the design intent and poorly affect the end result.