This is an extremely important decision. Your choice will have a huge influence on the outcome of your project, including:
- how well (or otherwise) the design fits / belongs, and takes full advantage of your property,
- how well the layout fits you and your lifestyle,
- whether or not your design will accommodate your changing needs in the future,
- whether or not your drawings are sufficient to get truly competitive quotes, &
- how smoothly the process may potentially be with your builder
A good architect will enable you to make confident decisions, which will minimize worrisome second-guessing.
A good architect will also:
- inform & educate, allowing you to make informed decisions
- ensure you don't overlook anything of importance,
- inform you of pro's & con's of options,
- maximize your substantial investment - both financial and personal.
Like many things in life, some architects are much better at what they do - and more passionate / committed - than others are.
1. What is their process to fully understand your requirements ?
Ask how they will determine your needs, wants, hopes & dreams. Do they (a) ask questions, (b) want you to provide a list, or (c) or have a form or questionnaire for you to complete? (If it's (a) or (b), there is a risk something will be overlooked.)
- how do you share your ideas?
- do they want to see images of things that appeal to you?
- is this all glossed over, or does it seem really important?
2. Do they want to know the 'why' ?
An architect must know much more than what your want. They must also understand the 'why' of your specific needs and wants - to be able determine the most appropriate design solution that will satisfy your goals & desires.
- does the architect seem interested in what is driving any of your desires?
- are they inquisitive, wanting to know more?
3. How well do they listen ?
For your project to work as well as it possibly can & fit your desires, the architect needs to 'get inside your head'
- are they listening to you; or instead telling you most of the time?
- does the architect desire your input?
- does it appear they want to get to know you?
- do you feel understood by the architect?
4. Do they share your vision ?
Does it appear that they will work with you and your ideas? Or do they want to do everything completely differently? (If so, they may be difficult to work with.)
- does the architect desire your input; or not really ask you much?
- some architects would like you to be very involved; others not so much
5. Communication skill
Communication is key.
- does communication seem easy; is it a fit for your communication style?
- are their design drawings clear & easy to read?
- do their design floor plans include furniture - which greatly enables understanding?
- are their Construction Drawings clear?
1. Look at their design work
Visit their website to get a feel for their work.
- do the designs fit in to the surroundings? or make a bold statement? Which do you desire?
- do they have a 'signature' design style that's easy to discern?
- do you like their designs; the overall look, the three-dimensional form, the materials, ...?
2. Design skill
Being an architect doesn't necessarily mean they have a lot of design skill
- do the overall designs look harmonious, or are parts 'disjointed'
- do their additions blend in seamlessly, or are they obvious add-on's?
- ask an architect to explain their thinking behind a few of their design projects - Does the rationale make sense? Does it seem project specific, or are they all similar?
3. Design Process
What is their process? How involved will / can you be? Do they want feedback from you at various points? Is their design process iterative, over a few steps? Or will they present to you the design when it is finished?
4. Chemistry / personality
Being able to communicate freely and openly with your architect is vital to the success of your project.
- you should feel completely comfortable to discuss and share anything with the architect
- there should be no feelings of intimidation, or superiority
- is their personality a fit?
5. With whom will you work directly ?
The person you initially meet, or will later be dealing with, may not be the design architect - which is likely the case in medium to large firms. Make a point of meeting the actual design architect; get to know them, and look at examples of their design work.
6. Does your project fit their specialty ?
Very few architects design homes, and even fewer design cottages or waterfront homes.
- ask how many similar projects they've designed
- see if their project designs fit with the surroundings (a lakefront design by an architect whom designs urban homes may look out-of-place)
7. Will they tailor the level of Construction Drawings ?
Not everyone requires the same level of documentation on their Construction Drawings
- will they customize this, to suit your particular needs / desires?
8. How thorough are their Construction Drawings ?
If you would like to get truly competitive quotes (based on the same thing, & be able to compare 'apples-to-apples') you will need comprehensive Construction Drawings
- is this something they can do / normally do?
- how much detail can they provide?
- the less that is shown means the more that a builder needs to guess at (or not initially include)
There is too much at stake to settle for just anyone.
Take the time to find the right architect.