LINES ON PAPER – A LIFE IN ARCHITECTURE
“All you do is put lines on paper”, this is my wife’s assessment of what the architectural profession does. Whilst I find it amusing I guess it’s also quite a frustrating perception that myself and many other Architectural Designers and Architects face.
There does seem to be this perception that all Architects / designers do is draw “pretty pictures” all day long (I wish this was the case). Far from having a moan at this, or even “looking to set the record straight” it did occur to me that some of you may be interested to actually know what myself (an Architectural Technologist) or other Architects and Architectural Designers do on a daily basis.
Images above of a recent hand sketch prepared to discuss an option informally with a planning officer
So What Do We Actually Do?
After having my tenth coffee of the day when I arrive in the office (I’ve two young children so if I’ve not had a coffee at Five O’clock, another at Six O’clock and a third for good measure by Seven O’clock I’m struggling to maintain any coherent thoughts) I’ll turn my computer on and get down to business. After checking my inbox and responding to numerous emails from clients, planning officers, structural engineers and all manor of sales queries I generally manage to start on some meaningful work around half ten, Eleven. And by meaningful I mean “putting the lines on the paper”. By 1 O’clock when I’ll break off for another coffee and a quick sandwich I’m lucky if I’ve not had half a dozen emails and calls to respond to and have actually managed to draw more than “five lines”. Half One comes back round and I’m hard at it again sketching some ideas out for another option which “might just work help to solve the problem of the dining room and living area not quite linking together”, “wait I think I’ve got it, if I just move this there…… Hold on I better just answer that”. One fifty five, “ now where did I get too…”. By Five O’clock I’ll hopefully have finalised another scheme which …… you get the picture.
Images of a recent 3D visual study to look at the form of a modern house extension in North Wingfield, Chesterfield
Truth is that yes, a big part of an Architect or Architectural Designers job is to illustrate our ideas to people, be these a concept design to our clients or a construction detail to explain to a builder how he’s going to build something, they nearly always need to be conveyed through the medium of drawings or visualisations.
Now yes, the end result of our output is generally these damned “lines on paper”, but what you (and even my wife) won’t generally see are the hours of endless drafting, toiling with different design ideas and considering how they relate to your home or garden. Looking at how the orientation of that beautiful feature glazed screen you want to incorporate is going to act when the suns at its highest (Will the space get too hot in summer, will it feel cold in the winter?). I have even been known to spend hours obsessing about little things, minute things that you might not even notice or consider important, but daft little things (at least you may think they’re daft) like the position of rain water pipes to make them as conspicuous as possible or how we’re going to hide the giant beam that’s propping up the back of your house. And it’s a culmination of all these little details and obsessions which can make the difference between an extension looking good or looking AMAZING.
But it’s these hours spent meticulously looking at little things that help to form the bigger picture and create a sharper and more successful design. Now I’m not trying to brag, after all if you appoint an Architect or an Architectural Designer such as myself then you’d expect a highly thought out job anyway, right?
However, not only do we put in countless hours on the design front we also have to consider all the information a structural Engineer requires to design steel structures and appropriately size beams. We then co-ordinate all of their information back into our construction drawings to help give your builder all the information and details they need to build your dream home.
A good architect / designer provides much more than just a design service and the same is true of us. Outside of our perceived role of “designer” we are also required to be:
Translators -listening to what our clients want and interpreting their requirements to form designs accordingly.
A Guide – Helping you to understand how your home would work, how you could furnish it, what impact this has on the circulation and flow of the space or how light your rooms would be. Even on a smaller job there’s a lot to take in and understand to be sure that you’re getting exactly what you want and need from your home.
“Marriage Councillors” – I’ve often found myself mediating between a husband and wife (or partners) to find a common ground between two peoples aspirations to find a happy middle ground that everyone is comfortable with (although I dread the day that I have to perform this task with my wife).
Engineers – Ok, I should clarify here, I don’t specify steel sizes or produce calculations, you’ll still need a Structural Engineer for all of that, but any good Architect / Architectural designer worth his salt should have a good grasp of structural principals in order to enhance the form and design of any project, and the list goes on.
Negotiator – Whilst most projects run smoothly through the planning process, every so often a planning officer may not like certain aspects of a scheme, it is then my responsibility to find the most appropriate solution to fit your requirements that the planning officer will deem appropriate, or indeed, fight your cause if it’s deemed that the planning requirements are being overly onerous.
Financial Controller – I firmly believe that the process of working with an Architect or designer should be fun, and any project benefits greatly when all parties are given the opportunity to be involved with the development of the design process. However, this fun can lead to all parties getting carried away and whilst you should always be fully in control of your projects direction, it is the role of your Architect to keep one eye on projects costs at all times. It’s all well and good creating a design for that beautiful contemporary glass gallery on the back of you’re home but sadly if your budget doesn’t stretch that far then all that we’ve done is raise your expectation levels only to be brought crashing back down to reality. I must say, this is not my favourite part of the job, but it is a vital part of our role and something which is often forgotten about by many in my profession.
Project Manager – I also spend a lot of time visiting sites during the construction process always remain on hand should a builder be struggling with a tricky detail on site or reassuring clients that their dream home is on track (rooms always look smaller and often quite dingy during the construction process only to perform a magic trick time and again by suddenly “growing” and get much lighter once finished).
Contracts Administrator – I can even go one step further if you want that extra support throughout the tender and construction phase, managing the initial tender process to help you select your ideal builder and then monitoring works on site to ensure that your home is being built exactly as we’d intended.
3D visual study for a proposed community centre development on the outskirts of Chesterfield
The list goes on and on and I’m sure you can now appreciate the role of the Architect / designer is quite broad. We understand that the prospect of designing and building your new dream home is quite daunting but relax, after all we’re here to help you, we’ve got this and we don’t half know how to put some damn good lines on that paper for you.