10 Questions you must ask your Architect

You’ve chosen your architect for your home renovation, and you’re ready to get down to business. Any design project will be the result of many conversations between the two of you—and you want to make sure those conversations are as productive as possible. We spoke with different architects and checked in with the American Institutes of Architects to see what questions firms love to get asked by clients, but often don’t. Keep reading to work with your next firm like a pro.

1. Do you have references?

This one is recommended by AIA, as well as many of the architects we spoke with. Ask your architect about past clients and contractors they’ve worked with, and then follow up on the references they give. Knowing that you’re working with a dependable firm from the get-go will spare you potential headaches caused by an unreliable firm.

“You want to get experience from all sides… architects, owners, and contractors,” explains Michael Ingui, of the New York firm Baxt Ingui Architects. “You learn a lot about how your project will go as a whole as well as ensuring you found the right architect,” he says.

Mike Geyer, who runs his firm Michael A. Geyer Architect, says that most of his work comes from referrals, meaning a good firm will have plenty of references to offer. Talking with past clients also means hearing about work that the firm hasn’t necessarily publicized due to the client’s wishes, Geyer notes. “Residential work—often the best residential work—seldom sees the light of day,” he says.

2. How much time do I need to commit, and when?

Architects deal with clients are hands-off and clients who want to be involved in the nitty-gritty decisions. Be clear about the type of client you are, and ask your architect the kind of time commitment they expect from you.

“When we’re all on the same page from the beginning, it makes the project move smoothly,” says Thomas Hickey, co-founder of the architecture and design firm GRADE. “Having a client as dedicated to the project as we make it happen faster and more efficiently, especially if they take the time to sit down with us and talk through every detail.”

Eric Safyan, of his firm Eric Safyan Architect, recommends clients get as specific as possible about when they’ll be able to meet with their architect—what time is best, whether you’d like to meet in person or talk by phone. “What comes up often is clients are not available to meet during business hours so [they should] make sure that their architect is available to meet either on weekends, evenings, early mornings, etc.”

Be clear about the type of client you are, and ask your architect the kind of time commitment they expect from you.”

3. How can I be helpful in the process?

Not sure what type of client you are going to be, or how involved you will want to be with your architecture firm? Then ask! Hickey recommends that you first understand the organizational process already in place, and then ask how you can be most helpful within it.

“Understanding timelines and workflow helps set our clients at ease knowing they can anticipate certain updates or documents to be sent for their review at a certain timeline,” he says. “Having a thorough conversation at the beginning of the process with a vision in place and personal preferences on hand helps the architect hone in on the right solution.”

4. What’s your fee structure and what can I expect in costs?

Architects use different fee structures to charge for their services, and any reputable firm will be able to lay this out right away. On your end, “Be open about your budget,” suggests Geyer. “Cost limitations are extremely critical since quality work can be very expensive.”

You also want to make sure your architect is open with you about the additional costs that may not be spelled out in your contract. “These are often additional construction administration hours or amendments to the drawings due to changes during construction,” says Safyan. “If the client anticipates these costs, then it doesn’t come as a surprise later, so it helps to ask the question and get a detailed response from the architect of these potential scenarios.”

At GRADE, says Hickey, “What we found helpful is to present a straightforward solution that meets their budget with the option to upgrade certain features a la carte as often times they’ll want those customized touches to set their home/space apart.”

Another important fee-related question, says AIA, regards the architect’s experience and track record with cost estimating and completing projects within budget. The best way to get an honest answer? Ask the clients and contractors your firm has provided as references.

5. What are the important issues, considerations, and challenges of my project?

The AIA recommends you get the big picture view from your architect, picking their brain about what particular elements stand out. They’ll have insight about construction, city approvals, and design challenges you may not have been aware of.

It’s also worth asking if the firm has previously tackled a similar project to yours. “Every project type has its ups and downs and experience with these is essential,” says Ingui. “[It’s] knowing how to solve the problems and knowing what worked last time as well as what didn’t.”

6. What will you show along the way to explain the project?

The AIA suggests that you ask your architect how he or she will be showing your project to you before the construction process starts. Will there be models, drawings, computer animations? This is a good time to bounce around ideas, express critiques, and make adjustments.

As Geyer says, “Ask for sketches of alternative designs, request samples or showroom visits to get a realistic feel for various possibilities.”

7. Are you insured?

You will want to know, very simply, if your architecture firm is insured. If so, what level of insurance do they have? Ingui also points out that it’s a good idea to ask if the architect has “any open claims against you or your firm.”

8. What’s your role with the contractor?

Once construction starts, much of the project will be in the hands of your contractor. Many architecture firms will recommend contractors they have a good track record with, but you’ll want to ask how the firm plans to work with them during your project. What role does the architect plan to take on with the contractor, or will you be expected to deal with the contractor directly?

9. Who’s on my team?

Often, there are many different people at an architecture firm that will contribute to your project and you’ll be working with. Ask for introductions.

“Learning more about the team that will be working with you is also incredibly important,” says Ingui. “Very often you will meet a principal that you love, but are working with a project manager 75 percent of the time that is too junior or that you don’t gel with.”

The AIA lays this out with a few specific questions: “Who from the architecture firm will you be dealing with directly? Is that the same person who will be designing the project? Who will be designing your project?”

10. How can we reduce the environmental impact?

Most architecture firms are happy to work with you to design more environmentally sustainable buildings, and there’s a chance the firm will integrate low or no cost sustainable design strategies into your project. If it’s something you’re interested in, ask your architect about the type of green design they have experience with, and what the pros and cons may be moving ahead with it.

“Reducing the impact on the environment is important to us, and we’re open to discussing the benefits of LEED,” says Hickey. GRADE advises clients that “it expands the time and many times budget… but there are certain tax benefits that come along with certification.”

Bronwyn Barry, a Passive House designer with One Sky Homes, advises clients to ask “what is the energy efficiency/performance of the last building you designed?” She notes, “If an architect can’t answer that, they are not reviewing their designs or keeping track of their success or failures. It means each of their designs is an experiment that these clients are paying for, with no guarantee that their architects know if it works or not—risky!”

Source: https://hoa.org.uk/

Top 10 Ways Architecture and Nature Can Harmonize

While built form is designed to protect occupants from the forces of nature, it is also designed to harmonize and connect occupants with nature anew. For this reason, it is important to more deeply explore the connection between architecture and nature – to better understand what other opportunities reside between these two extremes.

When considering whether it is possible to design for protection from and connection with nature simultaneously, one needs to see nature, in all its patterns, as an educational tool from which architecture can learn. The following list will teach you how to shift your mindset for design decision-making to extract, complement, and harmonize with the benefits nature provides.


  • Site Contextual Analysis: Use your building’s site to inform your concept’s grand gesture. This surrounding context will give you amazing guidance, inspiration, and resources from which to pull to create an extraordinary design.
  • Weather Pattern Response: An architecture that is responsive can be designed to sense and behave according to weather patterns. Just imagine if a building could transiently change its own behavioral language according to solar intensity, precipitation, or wind intensity.
  • Biomimicry in Design: Nature offers many design lessons to help one innovate strategically within a design. For example, one can configure new ways to use materials or frame a problem by observing and analyzing how nature solves for a particular problems with its own materials.
  • Integrate Occupant-Nature Relationships: When designing environments, it is advantageous to learn more deeply about your occupants’ relationship with nature. By understanding how your occupant likes to experience nature, you will know much better how to design for their working or living experience. For example, one occupant my love the rain, while another occupant prefers sunny days.
  • Push Materiality Further: By understanding the nature of your building materials, you can push what they do within your design even further. Ask yourself: What can this material do to express and provide an environment that exudes the functionality and aesthetics within which my clients would thrive?
  • Consider Boundary: The inherent boundaries that you design into environments can divide or unite occupants from nature. Within your own designs, it is helpful to be aware of boundaries that allow for visual nature (glass partition) or acoustic nature (open window). Consider what sensory modality boundaries are blocking or connecting occupants with nature.
  • Injecting Natural Elements: Nature can be injected into living or working environments as micro-elements. For instance, a stone sculpture that can be touched by occupants or a semi-indoor garden that emits beautiful scents can bring nature within when possible. Interior and exterior environments can play-off of one another to create build spaces that use nature as an element that fuses them together.
  • Nature Immersion: Your building design can also be made to become one with nature, as it takes your occupants on a journey to experience nature to its fullest. For such a project, one may ask: Where does the building end, and nature begin?
  • Nature for Approach and Departure: For your architecture, consider the role and design of nature as it contributes to supporting the way your occupants enter and exit your building. How do nature and its presentation help occupants to prepare for the built environment they will experience? And how does nature help occupants to process and remember what they have experienced once your building has been exited? Nature can serve as experiential “bookends” to your project.
  • Interaction with Transient Natural Elements: Your building can interact with nature transiently: when the sun moves across the sky, or the wind changes intensity, or the temperature drops. As you design, ask: How can this architecture “dance” with nature to create entirely new experiences for occupants?

Source: https://marialorenalehman.com

The Future of Architecture

“Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.”

Those are the words of one undeniably great architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, whose visions of harmonious design and innovating urban planning amounted to his own brand of organic architecture. We’d argue that Wright wasn’t just an interpreter of his time — he was able to foresee the needs and desires of ages ahead of him. The architect is — necessarily — a visionary capable of seeing into the future.

In the spirit of architecture’s fortune telling abilities, we’ve put together a list of our favorite contemporary designs that shed light on the future of our visual world. Behold, 14 designs that show the architecture of tomorrow.

1. Hypnotic Bridges

Why craft boring suspension bridges or arched overpasses when humanity is capable of building massive architectural feats like this to cross a river? The impressive, undulating design, destined to function as a pedestrian footbridge over the Dragon King Harbour River in China, is the product of NEXT Architects. The bridge design involves three individual, swirling lanes hovering over the picturesque landscape of Changsha.

The rendering won an international competition associated with a new public park in the area last year, and the project is currently under construction. “The construction with the intersecting connections is based on the principal of the Möbius ring,” states Michel Schreinemachers on the NEXT website. “On the other hand it refers to a Chinese knot that comes from an ancient decorative Chinese folk art,” John van de Water adds.

2. Rotating Skyscrapers

This image of an 80-story skyscraper, imagined by Dynamic Architecture’s David Fisher back in 2008, is a far-fetched rendering fit for Dubai’s future rich and famous. Why? Because it rotates.

The enormous, towering building would have floors that move ever so slightly, completing a 360-degree rotation every 90 minutes. Forget about fighting for an east-facing apartment, the suites in Dynamic Architecture’s creation would have all four cardinal directions covered. And it gets better. The building would be equipped with several giant wind turbines that generate electricity for tenants, and penthouse residents would be able to park their car at their apartments thanks to nifty lifts.

While we’re not sure this design will ever actually come to fruition (it was scheduled to be up and running in 2010), it’s certainly a visual feast worth ogling.

3. Indoor Parks

In November of 2013, the Strelka Institute announced the winner of a two-stage international competition to design Zaryadye Park, Moscow’s first new public park in over 50 years. The winner was Diller Scofidio + Renfro (in collaboration with Hargreaves Associates and Citymakers), who proposed this particularly stunning design based on a theory of “Wild Urbanism,” or the concept of a “hybrid landscape where the natural and the built cohabit to create a new public space.”

The park will feature four landscape typologies — tundra, steppe, forest and wetland, integrating augmented micro-climates that will enable the park to function as a public space throughout Russia’s extreme winters. Essentially, the quasi-indoor environments will involve regulated temperatures, controlled wind and simulated daylight that encourage 24/7, year-round park pleasure. As Diller Scofidio +Renfro aptly put it, “Zaryadye Park will embody the past and the future simultaneously.”

4. Invisible Architecture

Invisible architecture is the calling card of science fiction design, and we’re happy to report that architects of today are on the case. Of course, there’s South Korea’s in-the-works, LED-clad Infinity Tower. CNN reported in 2013 that “the invisibility illusion will be achieved with a high-tech LED facade system that uses a series of cameras that will send real-time images onto the building’s reflective surface.”

But there’s also the shorter, less flashy structure (pictured above) designed by New York-based architecture firm stpmj. The parallelogram-shaped barn would be made of wood and sheeted with mirror film, at a cost of $5,000. The idea is to “blur the perceptual boundary” between object and setting, according to a statement sent by the architects to The Huffington Post earlier this year. We have to say we’re impressed with architects’ ability to push the boundaries of what invisible really means.

5. Natural Disaster-Proof Forts

For his series “Dauphin Island,” artist Dionisio González designed dreamlike, futuristic forts made from iron and concrete, fusing the role of artist with that of architect, engineer and urban planner. The peculiar edifices — the hybrid of a beach house, a bunker and a space ship — were designed with the residents of Dauphin Island in mind. Located off the coast of Alabama in the Gulf of Mexico, the tiny landmass is known for experiencing perpetual and catastrophic hurricanes. When a storm hits the small island of around 1,200 people, it often washes away much of the coastline, leaving residents to rebuild their homes again and again.

González created hypothetical blueprints for his forts, illustrating how his bulbous, concrete structures would better suit the fraught island’s populous. You can learn more about the project on his website. Keep in mind, these structures are not yet slated for reality, but they certainly paint an interesting picture of what futuristic island homes could look like.

6. Sweaters for Skyscrapers

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is widely known as the world’s tallest building, measuring in at a whopping 2,716.5 feet and 160 stories. The structure itself is mesmerizing, but what’s even more intriguing is a think tank’s bizarre proposal to cover the towering skyscraper in a giant fabric casing made of reflective material.

We learned about the project, dubbed EXO-BURJ, in 2014. The strange, sock-like covering would wrap around the entire building, from spire to ground level, in a “super-lightweight, reflective and semi-transparent fabric material,” according to a description by the Dubai-based think tank, OPEN. The temporary “sweater” would reflect the expansive urban scenes around it, turning the Burj Khalifa into a massive mirror in the vein of Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

7. Green Power Plants

What is there to do with an outdated, eyesore of a power plant in the future? Why not give the sprawling facilities a green makeover, one that would serve two functions: to beautify the structure and provide a new way of dealing with CO2 emissions.

Here’s how it would work: The architecture firm AZPA (Alejandro Zaera-Polo Arquitectura) plans to turn the existing Wedel Vattenfall power plant in Germany into a new industrial complex, one that would be built up from the previous facilities and wrapped with a corrugated skin of creeper plants. This strategically-placed skin would not only soften the exterior aesthetic of the plant, but it would create a sheath of creepers to absorb CO2 emissions. AZPA describes the endeavor, imagined in 2013, as “an attempt to resolve the conflict between the natural ecology and the manmade environment.”

8. Compostable Towers

Earlier this year, the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 selected The Living’s “circular tower of organic and reflective bricks” — called “Hy-Fi” — as the winner of the Young Architects Program’s (YAP) 15th edition. The temporary structure will be built using a new method of bio-design incorporating entirely organic material.

As Arch Daily reported back in February, the tower will involve “the unique stacking of two new materials: Ecovative-manufactured organic bricks, made from corn stalks and specially-developed living root structures; and reflective bricks, designed by 3M, that were used as growing trays for the organic bricks before being implemented into the structure.”

Bonus: According to MoMA’s site, Hy-Fi will is the first sizable structure to claim near-zero carbon emissions in its construction process and represents a 100% compostable design. “Recurring to the latest developments in biotech, it reinvents the most basic component of architecture — the brick — as both a material of the future and a classic trigger for open-ended design possibilities.”

9. 3D-Printed Interiors

Forget interior decorators, the future of indoor design will be run by 3D printers. We have architects Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger to thank for introducing us to this concept. The two pulled off a three-dimensional printing feat to rival them all just last year. As part of the project “Digital Grotesque,” the duo 3D printed an entire room, creating a 16-square-meter cube adorned with unbelievable ornamentation that looks like it belongs in a futuristic cathedral.

“We aim to create an architecture that defies classification and reductionism,” states the group’s website. “Digital Grotesque is between chaos and order, both natural and the artificial, neither foreign nor familiar. Any references to nature or existing styles are not integrated into the design process, but are evoked only as associations in the eye of the beholder.”

10. Floating Pools

It’s hard not to love this New York design project from Family and PlayLab, which plans to bring a giant filtration system to the murky waters between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The project would take the shape of a 164-foot long floating pool set to take shape in 2016 — if all funding efforts go as planned. If there are swimming pools in our future, let them look like this.

In a statement released at the end of 2013, pool masterminds Archie Lee Coates IV, Dong-Ping Wong and Jeff Franklin announced they are beginning construction on Float Lab, an experimental version of the planned 164-foot +POOL. They raised the funds for the smaller pool (35 feet by 35 feet, to be exact) through their last Kickstarter endeavor. With a launch date planned for this summer, the mini pool will put the team’s filtration membranes to the test in real-river conditions.

“We dont think about using the river recreationally at all,” Coates explained in a previous interview with Huff Post. “So as an architect you think, ‘What if we could change that or propose an idea that could change that?’ We decided to pitch [+Pool] to the world. We just had no idea the response we would get.”

11. Inflatable Concert Halls

From the outside it resembles a giant, plushy purple jelly bean, and on the inside it looks more like a glowing, colored seashell. But this balloon-like form is actually the world’s first inflatable concert hall, entitled “Ark Nova.” Iconic British sculptor Anish Kapoor and Japanese architect Arata Isozaki teamed up to create the structure, meant to tour through areas of Japan affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It’s a novel idea that could make for an innovative design strategy in many other fields.

“I am honored to have been asked to design Ark Nova for the Tohoku area,” Kapoor states on the Ark Nova site. “The structure defines a space for community and for music in which color and form enclose. I hope that the devastation can be overcome by creativity. Music can give solace and bring community together and in so doing can help us to see we are not alone.”

12. Wooden Skyscrapers

While wooden skyscrapers might not be as sensational as the previously mentioned rotating tower, the idea of building 34 wooden stories on on top of the other is pretty astonishing.

And it might become a reality if Scandinavian practice C.F. Møller and DinnellJohansson — 2013’s winners of the HSB Stockholm architectural competition — follow through with their rendering for the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper. The design (pictured above) is one of three ”ultra-modern residential high-rises” planned for Stockholm’s city center in 2023, but the catch is, only one of these proposals will actually be built.

13. Sponge Parks

It’s no secret that New York’s Gowanus Canal is a breeding ground for toxic waste, polluted runoff, and raw sewage that’s — rather unfortunately — been dumped directly into the area’s bodies of water. But a little project known as “Sponge Park” is hoping to transform the Brooklyn locale into a cleaner, properly filtered sanctuary — and provide a model for future urban design.

The Gowanus Canal Conservancy and the landscape architecture firm dlandstudio announced in the summer of 2013 that they plan to employ a system of landscape buffers and remediation wetlands to slow, absorb, and filter Gowanus’ polluted sewer runoff before it reaches the canal. So, not only will the Sponge Park turn 11.4 acres of contaminated fields into a pleasant waterfront arena, it will provide a means of absorbing harmful pollutants that continue to ooze into the industrial battlefield.

“In a process called phytoremediation, specially selected plants metabolize pollutants and heavy metals present in the contaminated water,” the American Society of Landscape Architects explains on its website. “Dirty water from the combined sewer system is captured in underground storage tanks and slowly released into the landscape.”

14. Sci-Fi Skylines

In 2014, Chinese architecture firm MAD unveiled renderings of Chaoyang Park Plaza, a center of skyscrapers, office blocks and public spaces meant to mimic the appearance of mountains, hills and lakes depicted in Chinese landscape paintings. The complex is now under construction in Beijing, and will result in an expansive sky line seemingly ripped from the pages of a futuristic novel.

“By transforming features of Chinese classical landscape painting, such as lakes, springs, forests, creeks, valleys, and stones, into modern ‘city landscapes,’ the urban space creates a balance between high urban density and natural landscape,” MAD writes on its website. “The forms of the buildings echo what is found in natural landscapes, and re-introduces nature to the urban realm.”

Source: huffingtonpost

Why Should You Hire an Architect?

When you improve your home, one of the first decisions you need to make is whether or not you need an architect. It can have a big impact on the cost and quality of the building works

How do I know if I need an architect?

  • There is no law saying you have to employ an architect – it is up to you
  • Some people successfully undertake quite major works – including whole house refurbishments and extensions – without architects
  • Others employ architects for comparatively minor jobs, such as redoing a bathroom
  • If you have a very clear idea of what you want, or a builder whose judgement and vision you trust, then an architect is less necessary
  • If you don’t know what you want, then an architect can help give you ideas
  • If you don’t trust builders, or are busy or inexperienced, an architect can help you keep an informed eye on the builders and make sure the project stays on track
  • Speak to an architectural designer or technician as well that also have experience designing small and medium sized home renovation projects but will not cost as much to engage with
  • If a fully qualified architect is what you want make sure you get one: they must be registered with the Architects Registration Board which has a publicly accessible database
  • An architect can also be very helpful in managing the whole process.

What are the advantages of having an architect?

  • If you engage an architect, you will pretty much always end up with a better end product
  • Architects are highly trained and are especially  good as seeing the “big picture” – in making the best of the space you have, in getting interesting designs, in ensuring the light is right, the feel is good, and that the house works.
  • Architects are usually good at ensuring the work is professionally done – that it meets the requirements of building control, that you have a structural engineer if you need one.
  • Architects are generally (but not always) good at the detail that most of us rarely think about and which, if done wrongly, can end up being costly mistakes – which way should the door open? Should we have recessed lights? Where should the outlet pipes go? Should you be able to see the toilet when the bathroom door is open?
  • An architect can also help you find the best builder, project manage the whole works, and keep within budget. The architect is the expert eyes and ears, whose job it is to represent your interests with builders and local authorities.
  • Architects are also subject to a statutory code of practice and have Professional Indemnity Insurance to protect their clients.

    If you’d like to discuss your project with us, please click here.

What are the disadvantages of having an architect?

  • The architect’s fees generally add about 15% to the cost of a project, and as much as 20%. If you are on a really tight budget, you will be tempted to try to do without. However, a good architect can also save you money on big projects – it doesn’t make sense to cut corners on design

Source: https://hoa.org.uk/