We sat down with Robert Pace, AIA, Principal at Bernardo Wills Architects, to talk about the five keys to a successful public project.
Begin with Clear Expectations
The most successful projects begin with open lines of communication between the owner and architect. Understanding the needs and challenges of the project before it starts allows the design team to anticipate needs and hiccups before they happen. It is very important in this stage to discuss any budget constraints, wiggle room, contingencies, and the schedule and scope of the project. If these get off-kilter at the beginning, it is very difficult to make up for those speed bumps in later stages of the project.
Serve as a Client Coach
One of the architect’s roles in a project is to coach the client, ensuring they are well equipped to participate in each phase. This is particularly important with clients that are embarking on their first project, but should be considered in every project. The designer’s job is not to impart their own aesthetic and plan, but to coach the client on the best pathway to success for their project.
Foster Good Communication
Improving communication can improve any relationship, and the architect-owner-contractor relationship is no different. Projects break down as soon as communication breaks down. A simple example of how to foster good dialogue from the start: we need to communicate with the client in whatever channel they prefer. Do they love talking on the phone? We call them. Do they prefer email? I make sure they know I’ve received their message. This is one way the client feels well-served in the design process.
Practice A+ Organization
While every designer might have a different organizational style, you must be organized. Keeping the plates of schedule, budget, coordination, regulations, and staffing in the air and spinning in unison often trumps the technical aspects of architecture as the biggest challenge. We must hone our unique organizational process and stick to it to serve our clients better.
Anticipate the Clients’ Needs
The collective experiences of a designer inform every project, and it is important that we listen to our instincts in order to anticipate needs and challenges before they arise. When approaching the owner and client with these upcoming speedbumps, we must also be equipped with the solution.
Architectural design is, above all, a service industry. Staying focused on the clients’ and users’ needs should be the number one priority of the design team. Architects need to check their ego at the door, keep communication open and honest, and remember that we are here to serve. If we can keep those points straight, we can enjoy a successful project and have some fun in the process.