WANNA HIRE AN ARCHITECT?

June 9, 2017
Los Angeles Mixed-Use Building, by Poon Design

Los Angeles Mixed-Use Building, by Poon Design

After interviewing your architectural candidates, hire one based on character. Know that the connection between client and architect could be a relationship of many years. I am blessed with repeat clients that appear to like me, as well as find me qualified as their design expert. Such relationships last more than just a few years; they can last a lifetime.

You will want to hire an architect that you actually enjoy being in his/her company, that you will be excited to come to their office each week to see the latest ideas—and to converse not just about your project, but perhaps, a recent weekend of skiing.

Client meetings, upper left: Alta Verde Group (photo by Poon Design); upper right: Buddhist Retreat Center (photo by Bryan Bethem); lower left: PayPal / eBay (photo by Faran Najafi); Ginza Onodera (photo by Anthony Poon)
Client meetings, upper left: Alta Verde Group (photo by Poon Design); upper right: Buddhist Retreat Center (photo by Bryan Bethem); lower left: PayPal / eBay (photo by Faran Najafi); Ginza Onodera (photo by Anthony Poon)

I am not brushing aside credentials, experience or expertise. I assume that your top three candidates all went to a good school, been published extensively, hold many awards, have a license and insurance, and references check out. But have all three displayed enthusiasm for your project?

Los Angeles Mixed-Use Building, by Poon Design (rendering by Niloo Hosseini)
Los Angeles Mixed-Use Building, by Poon Design (rendering by Niloo Hosseini)

The portfolio: Pretty pictures can say a lot. You will probably not see the perfect solution for your project in the architect’s portfolio, since each assignment is different. But make sure that you see themes that peak your interests and stretch your imagination.

Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)
Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)

How can you decide between three beautiful portfolios? How can you decide between the degree from Harvard, SCI-Arc or Berkeley? What is more relevant: a dozen AIA awards or a dozen magazine interviews? Does it matter whether the office is staffed with five architects or fifty? Five might be too mom-pop, but you will get full Principal attention. Fifty might have horsepower, but it could mean you are getting a team B or C, and paying for a lot of overhead.

Select the person that compliments your style of working and communication. A sense of humor too. In simple terms, find someone that you like. Then apply the criteria to the architect’s team: project manager, project architects, job captains, perhaps even the office assistant that greets your weekly call with enthusiasm.

Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)
Poon Design (photo by Poon Design)

I have heard of many clients who hate their architect, but they feel they have hired a “genius,” and so, will put up with the unreturned calls, project delays and arrogance. In only a few situations would I find the requirement for tolerance and patience worth the reward? Perhaps, the client has truly hired the greatest genius in the world since Michelangelo. And here, even I might accept personal discontent, so as to touch the shroud of someone so famous.

But, really? I would argue that there are other architects that have equal talent and a national reputation,

Residential estate, Northern California, by David E. Martin
Residential estate, Northern California, by David E. Martin

For one of our gazillion dollar estates that we designed, our client hired a celebrated interior decorator. By contract, this diva prohibited the client from ever calling the decorator directly. And that only the decorator can call the client. Though the client gave this situation a try for a year, so as to hopefully have greatness for the project, this fancy decorator was fired from the job—for unprofessionalism, egotism and ridiculousness.

© Poon Design Inc.