Dynamics of architect-client relationship – once built, it’ll look amazing

1. a) Architects always argue that clients do not understand the hard work it takes to produce a design solution and claim that clients often take out elements from their design ….
Interpretation of the resultsResponse Breakdown
Overall response: In principle, 10% strongly agreed, and 46% agreed that architects always argue that clients do not understand … to reduce the project cost. One respondent said, ‘Design holds precedence over communication because the design itself is communication of the architect’s vision to the client’ (SP63—CL).Pie 1.a. 1 Overall response:
Architects’ response: Of those who agreed, were almost two thirds (61%) of the total architects, whereas only 16% of them said that was not the case. One architect said, ‘there is no doubt that clients take out elements from a design for no other reason than cutting the budget, no matter how rich any client pretends to be they will always try to lower their costs/budget.’ (SP169—AR).Pie 1.a. 2 Architects’ response:

 

 

1. b) Clarity of communication, not the design, is the key factor in winning the trust of clients.
Interpretation of the resultsResponse Breakdown
Overall response: Nearly three quarters 73% (combined) of participants agree that clarity of communication and not the design is the key factor in winning the trust of clients. This implies that around one quarter do not agree. One client remarked that ‘good communication, not the clarity of communication, is essential, i.e. basic stuff like answering the phone, returning calls and emails promptly, delivering information when agreed, etc.’ (SP162—CL). One architect suggested that ‘…the trust of your client rests on more than clarity of communication… “visually impressive” concepts aren’t thought through to the extent they appear to be’ (SP81—AR).Pie 1.b. 1 Overall response:

 

Architects’ response: The same pattern was found among architects; 75% (combined) agreed, of which 33% strongly agreed. The ‘ACR is primarily built on trust etc. and not on digital technologies – they are merely a tool’ (SP79—AR). And ‘…technology should be adapted to suit the needs of each client rather than what the architect thinks they will be most comfortable with’ (SP113—AR).Pie 1.b. 2 Architects’ response:

 

 

1. c) Visual and digital content are much easier to understand, communicate and share, than paper drawings.
Interpretation of the resultsResponse Breakdown
Overall response: While 15% disagreed and 18% were neutral, 67% (combined) of respondents believed that ‘visual and digital content is much easier to understand, communicate and share than paper drawings’. One client commented, ‘While digital technologies are greatly beneficial in rapidly creating and sharing information, they are only one piece of the puzzle. Key to a successful client relationship is constant communication in all forms, especially verbal; this helps to ensure clients understand the design, its benefits and the ramifications of decisions’ (SP156—CL).Pie 1.c. 1 Overall response:
Architects’ response: More than half (60%) of architects agreed. About a quarter of them felt undecided, and 16% disagreed. According to one respondent, the client needs the simplicity of communication. ‘Offering a simple sketch geared to the level of the client’s cognitive awareness is best… Digital design allows the ‘architect to explore and test designs more thoroughly and quickly’ (SP74—AR). One architect said, ‘I support the engagement of digital… technology raises the inherent risk of the original design concept getting highly influenced…by the means/tools of communication and its limitations’ (SP47—AR). Another argued that ‘clients are often more impressed with the technology factor…and hiring technicians for these is not cheap’ (SP52—AR).Pie 1.c. 2 Architects’ response:
1. d) Innovative use of technology enables architects to produce initial design concepts and proposals at relatively low cost and time.
Interpretation of the resultsResponse Breakdown
Overall response: Likewise, 45% of the respondents agreed and 19% strongly agreed that Innovative use of technology … relatively low cost and time. However, 17% remained undecided and 19% disagreed that this was the case. One client said, ‘The time and resources required to learn new software and applications may be costly; however, once understood this should give more opportunity for architects to acquire new business in an efficient manner’ (SP4—CL). ‘The product idea in a better-illustrated design helps convey the purpose behind the designer’s inputs and helps in clarity in overall project concept’ (SP18—CL).Pie 1.d. 1 Overall response:
Architects’ response: Half (50%) of architects believed that this was true, while (30%) voted in disagreement. One architect said, ‘…innovative technology (such as BIM etc.), whilst vastly improving efficiency…does not replace the iterative, and often time-consuming, a process of design required at the outset of a project’ (SP102—AR). Another commented, ‘Ι am not a fan of using only new technologies and I am afraid that most of the time, in order to “communicate our ideas” architects have to become graphic designers’ (SP140—AR).Pie 1.d. 2 Architects’ response

 

1. e) Acceptance of digital technologies as a standard practice by architects ensures efficient working, which is the key to better architect-client relationship.
Interpretation of the resultsResponse Breakdown
Overall response: Even though 59% agreed that acceptance of digital … better architect-client relationship, 28% of the sample remained neutral, whereas 13% disagreed with this idea. According to one client, ‘using technology makes us understand things clearly and easily and makes conceptualisation of concepts and ideas easier and better when it comes to dealing with designing and planning and its understanding by clients’ (SP29—CL).Pie 1.e. 1 Overall response:
Architects’ response: Whilst a minority (19%) of architects mentioned that they believed otherwise, 53% agreed that technology helps foster better relationships. One architect said, ‘…It can be hard for clients to understand drawings; hence, communication is key, in the most client-friendly manner possible’ (SP119—AR), whereas another said, ‘…clients tend to understand a 3D world easier than 2D flat drawings’ (SP107—AR).Pie 1.e. 2 Architects’ response:

 

 

Following from the architects’ and clients’ voices in the online survey, this section offers detailed insight with examples about scenario one from face-to-face interaction with respondents.

There was a general acceptance that recent technologies have changed the way architects do business. Some architects held the view that the introduction of technology too early in the design process can be time-consuming and expensive and requires specialised skills for complex projects. Others maintained that ‘for smaller projects it’s good to introduce technology at the start …moving around and for the client to be able to see that that make more sense. Outset it is fundamental for the client to have a say and understand’ (AR11). According to AR10, computer-generated images tend to appear too plastic and finished, which limits viewers’ imaginations and can be sometimes off-putting for clients. He argued that ‘he’ll hand-draw over SketchUp (digital drawing) because I think there’s a danger that looking at purely digital images makes it look like, we’ve taken the process too far into the project’ (AR10). However, A11 preferred paper drawings, because with ‘digital content’ as a means of presentation mode, it is easier to cheat by showing fancy finishes; she said, ‘you need to understand the extent of a building, and sometimes with digital technology you may not understand that you’re not actually going to have much space’ (AR11).

Regarding the notion that clients underestimate architects’ efforts i.e. clients think that architects put in less effort than they actually do and remove design elements, A11 said, ‘…I don’t think that the client needs to understand, that’s why they’ve taken you [architects] on board and they take out elements to meet the project cost because it’s their money that you [architects] are spending’ (AR11 P20). However, according to A1, ‘quite often architects are at fault in providing a design that the client can afford, but the client likes the design and the architect develops it further…because they both have high aspirations in the beginning’ (A1). He continued,

…if those aspirations meet client needs, they can find the money; such opportunities quite often produce great things and it’s amazing how clients can play a decisive role. But not all clients can play such roles, and when clients see these things [design elements] they say, oh I’d love to have these things, I just simply can’t afford them. Now if the architect had been firmer with the clients in saying “no, this is all you’ve got to spend, you can’t have these things”…there might have been a lost opportunity to explore the most adventurous things. Therefore, it is really on a client by client basis…and it’s important for the client to maybe…but it’s imperative for the architect to be able to read the client…to be able to see where that sits’. (A1)

‘Design is actually clarity of communication’, according to A1. He explained that ‘if a design is seen as a pure thing which isn’t client-specific, it’s not real… whereas a good design clearly demonstrates “form” and delivers “to” the client’s needs’ (A1). He stressed that ‘it is unbelievably important for an architect to be able to speak the client’s language and not in their own language…and a lot of architects can’t do that…and I think architects do feel a need to impress people…because they often are impressed by themselves or their peers rather than the clients…So, they do talk in that strange language of interventions’ (A1).

According to A2, ‘digital itinerary tools do not take the personal capacity out of the formula’ i.e. do not remove the human element from the act of designing. A1 explained that brief building is an essential part of establishing communication and winning a client’s trust . He said,

‘…you interrogate the client like they’re in a police cell to find it…what it is, what it is… they really want…the client says things about what they want…which are not true because they’re trying to impress you… but you say what is it that you actually do want…to me that’s kind of really basic pencil sketch drawing…chatting to clients is almost more important than the digital revolution’ .

According to A2, the innovative use of technology enables architects to produce initial design concepts and proposals relatively cheaply and quickly. He explained that ‘what used to take 10-15 days now probably takes 5, or it takes them 2…so probably architects say I can deliver it more quickly, therefore my fees can be lower, but that means…that they need to find more jobs, which they can’t properly concentrate on…’(A2). However, A6 highlighted that it can actually make things a lot simpler having everything in writing, eliminating loose talk and enhancing transparency and accountability. She explained that architects can be more focused when ‘Every email is logged…everything goes ok… all your drawing issues are open…fantastic…it takes away the filing nightmare, but it does mean there is no escape…your contractor is open…you are open…is an open book’ (A6). In the same tone, A9 emphasised the following: ‘I think it is really interesting what you said about accepting digital technologies, because it is not just digital technologies but its acceptance … and it doesn’t just have to be accepted, it needs to become standard practice…but this always takes time’.

Clients’ Response: Clients expressed that architectural drawings are not of much use when it comes to transferring drawn information into actual execution on site. A private residential client explained, ‘the guy who did our roof couldn’t read… he certainly wasn’t very good at reading drawings. In fact, I’ve had several experiences where you have handed someone the drawing and they haven’t done what the drawing has exactly said’ (C1). ‘Yes, but even experienced professional builders do not understand what they [drawings] mean, and when the building-control come to inspect it, they don’t even care anyways’ (C1). According to another client, technology should make architects more affordable: ‘Yes, I think that is the case. I think technology should be able to help architects very much …acceptance of digital technologies as standard practice by architects is key? Yes, I would strongly agree with that idea (C2). Accordingly, both C2 and C3 also held that communication is key in the ACR, ‘whether its architecture or maths or anything…yeah…I would say it is the key factor…unfortunately, good design may be lost because of poor communication’. C6 had the view that ‘most people…in terms of their homes are quite used to fit into what is there rather than designing or even thinking about designing it from scratch’ (C6).

 

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