Get the best from your architect

The most successful architectural projects are creative collaborations that take the client and the architect on a hugely satisfying journey as initial ideas and concepts are transformed into a solid three dimensional reality. Like almost any other relationship it requires good communication, mutual respect and trust, and a little chemistry.

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Here are some tips from architects to help that process

1: Choose the Architect who is right for you.

While a recommendation from a friend is a great place to start, remember that this is going to be a long-term relationship. Personality-fit, trust, and mutual respect are probably more important than anything else. See more here on choosing an architect

2: Don't be passive

This is a collaboration and while architects don't expect clients to have all the answers, they do expect them to ask lots of questions, especially at the planning stage. Don't pretend that you can visualize something if you can't. If it doesn't make sense keep asking questions until it does, or until your architect comes up with another solution.

3: Be open-minded.

It's not the same thing as being passive or a push-over. The relationship will work best when your architect has the freedom and scope to delight and surprise you with ideas you would never have thought of (that's why you've engaged them).

4: Be fully informed.

If this is the first time you have used an architect, make sure you are fully informed about the process (reading this site thoroughly is a good place to begin). Be very clear about who has responsibility for what.

5: Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Be absolutely clear about what you expect and make sure that the architect is aware of that. Don't move on to the next design development phase until you are fully satisfied that you know what the expectations are on both sides.

6: Involve your architect in selecting the builder

Not all builders will be right for your job. Your architect can arrange the tender process to select the right builder. The three of you will need to collaborate well so make sure that there is mutual respect in all directions.

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Choosing an Architect

A good working relationship between client and architect is vital to the success of any building project. Selecting the architect whose design approach and practice philosophy best fits your requirements is a critical first step.

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Where do you start?

Use our Find-an Architect function to find New Zealand Institute of Architects members in your region. This is a good place to begin as you are assured that all these practices have at least one partner who is a registered architect and NZIA member. Many of these architects will also have websites which will show you the sort of work they do.

Visit the NZIA website to view the work of award-winning residential architecture.

Personal recommendations by satisfied clients are another valuable way of selecting an architect. If you are interested in the work of a particular architect, contact them and ask to see some of their work or simply have a chat with them.

Magazines are another good way to get a sense of who is out there and what sort of work they do. Publications which showcase the work of a cross-section of architects include: Architecture NZ, Houses NZ, Home, Urbis and Home and Garden. Many of these magazines are held in public libraries as are books on New Zealand architecture.

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How do you choose?

Do your homework. Compile a shortlist of architects who seem to be a good fit for your project (no more than three or four) . Contact them, describe your project briefly, give them some idea of your budget and expectations and ask if they are interested in talking to you about it.

Be well prepared for your first meeting. It pays to put your thoughts down on paper, if only to clarify your own thinking. This is a great starting point for an initial discussion and to establish what the priorities are, but it should be regarded as something which can and will evolve over a number of meetings.

It is useful to have the architect write down their understanding of what you want (a reverse brief) and to refer this back to you for confirmation or further discussion.

Establish fees and services provided. Architects will outline the services they can offer and seek an indication as to how the client wants to engage them. Be very clear about how much you will be expected to pay at each stage of the project.

Ask to look at the architect's previous work and perhaps talk to clients they have worked for. They should, at the very least, be able to show you photos. Remember though that ultimately this is about the architect's ability to engage with you and design a home that is right for your needs and budget. It's about fit and comfort level as much as it is about past achievements and reputation.

Don't rush it! This is the most important decision you will make in the whole process, so allow yourself plenty of time. You are under no obligation to engage the first architect you speak to. On the other hand, meeting with too many architects may be confusing. Generally, two or three meetings should give you a sense of who you prefer.

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