Monday, December 3, 2012

Architects: the swingers of the business world

I just got back from a couple days' worth of meetings in Montana with St. Ermahgerd's staff. It was a good almost-week of meetings, but it meant I was out of the office for longer than I'm usually used to being gone. I love working with the users of a space to figure  out what they need in their clinics and departments and offices--I get to find out yet another way that hardworking medical staff deliver care and heal a small community one patient at a time. These days of meetings usually require that I'm booked to talk to these folks in back-to-back 30- to 60-minute blocks of time. Sometimes this can be a gauntlet of meeting after meeting where I suddenly look up and three hours have passed without me drinking any water or peeing. This trip was much more reasonable, though--the meetings were spaced well enough that I could get a break in between and get some water or a snack, hit the ladies' room...and check my email about my other projects.

Architects have to walk into every meeting acting like their client is the only client they have, but that's only true in rare cases.  If a project is really big--100 beds or more, 200,000-sf of building or more (as was the case for Gestalt's Uber MOB)--then your architects are very likely to only work on that one project.  At some point, a project is too big and detailed (or the schedule is too fast) for me to work on anything else.  But in many cases, I'm working on at least one other project while I'm working on yours.  This is especially true as architects move up the management food chain.  My interns might only work on St. Ermahgerd because there are so many drawings to do and those drawings take a lot of time. But as the planner on the project, my efforts are more focused and my scope is more limited, so I get to work on more projects.  For engineers, this is even worse: Design Associates might be able to support me by putting me on 2-3 projects, but engineers typically work on 4-12 projects at any time, depending on size, because of their even more-limited scope of work. It's a miracle any of us get anything done.

When we go to the doctor's office for a checkup or a sore throat, we know we're not their only patient.  Even without a glance around the waiting room, we know this. We know that our car is not the only one that our mechanic fixes. We know that we are not our financial planner's or psychologist's or or massage therapist's only client, so why do architects keep up this charade with their clients?  And why do some clients feel entitled to this? I suppose ultimately it's a matter of my profession not doing a good job of managing client expectations, both in the short term with clients and in the long term with our culture. Society, it seems, thinks that it's still 1786, and the architect/interior designer works for one person at a time, grandly hand-drawing the plans and selecting ornate gilded armchairs for the drawing room. But we are far from that--architects scurry from client to client, gathering the information needed to design the right building for their clients while interns feverishly turn these user comments into Revit models that contractors use to price the building, check the budget, and eventually build what's been drawn in the time allotted while trying to dodge material shortages, labor issues, and weather conditions. And given what we as a profession often charge for our services, we need more than one client to keep things afloat.

1 comment:

WG esq said...

It's a Doctah Thing, Sweety. U wudn't understand. Did you hear "Dirty Jobs" has been canceled? Replaced by Amish Mafia "reality" show. Jesus be a shining light back to sanity I'm up to HERE with "reality" shows. Red necks aren't fodder for some twisted idea of entertainment. They're my neighbors! Jesus Mary and Joseph.