It is summer and you’re likely thinking of remodeling your home or adding to it. Who knows, maybe you’ve outgrown your space and are looking to start somewhere else.
Please consider hiring an architect. Don’t go it alone. Architects can be expensive and it is understandable if you’d much rather take the money and spend it on a bigger deck or a more expansive view. But you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get good feedback.
If you don’t have $60,000 to put on a full commission, consider putting about 10 percent of that on sound conceptual drawings that should give you a good sense of what you can do with the space and budget you have.
With that kind of money you can sit down with an architect and vet your needs and aspirations.
And if you come to the table open minded you may realize you don’t need half the stuff you thought you did. Architects are very good at multiplying the effect of space, doubling and sometimes tripling its capacity for storage, living, cooking and more.
How and where you locate a house is critical, often resulting in savings of thousands of dollars.
A house well sited can capitalize on sound and simple environmental principles, including harvesting ground thermal heat and solar energy.
It can also mean the difference between an aesthetically pleasing union between ground and structure or an awful mishmash, lacking in continuity of line and purpose.
Nowhere is this more an issue than on the Palouse, where the terrain is almost never flat and plopping a house down without thought and integration can result in enormous waste.
Not all architects are created equal but most would much rather help you than not and risk creating a world alien in mind, body and spirit.
Always call architects and ask them what they can do for the budget you have. Some may tell you flat out that they can’t, but I doubt any will leave you hanging. More likely, they’ll suggest another option, a different architect, perhaps a recent graduate, naturally eager to build a portfolio and get ahead in life.
Architects possess a unique ability to see the world from multiple perspectives. They spend years in school and after, train their imaginations to generate different solutions to a singular problem. You’d be surprised how many ways they can spin a new kitchen or create access to a deck or connect a garage to a house.
Hiring an architect, even briefly, should help you see things you never saw before. Something as simple as a set of steps, in one sense no more than a matter of up and down, in the hands of an architect can turn into a work of furniture, uniting space and helping those in it come together and socialize.
Nonarchitects tend to see elements of architecture as ends in themselves. A door is a source of access, a window a view. Architects on the other hand see the built environment as having an impact beyond itself, a domino effect of sorts.
Adding a door does not merely add an entry but changes the very character of the wall in which it sits. Which if not studied, can lead to an awkward jumble of visual nonsequiturs, but also undo that which had been nicely accomplished thus far.
If your project is big, say a whole house, you may wish to talk to more than one architect, say, two or three. To the question of “should I look at more than one (architect),” the AIA (American Institute of Architects) says “usually yes,” with “the obvious exception when you already have a good relationship with an architect and it makes little sense to change.”
Indeed, it is good practice to get a couple of opinions and ask questions. Architects usually come with portfolios of work and ideas. If so, ask to see them, and when you do, don’t capitulate to “I like this” and “I don’t like that” but use the images as a source of getting to know the architect, the way he or she finds meaning.
Don’t arrive at the table already determined about what you want to do, turning the architect into a draftsman. Architects are most beneficial when engaged intellectually, asking them about ideas and views.
There is nothing wrong with coming to the first meeting with images you like and whose culture you have appreciated, especially if experienced firsthand. In fact, upfront preparation can save both you and the architect a lot of time. But don’t end the visioning process there, let it breathe and create a friendly, enlightening and professional relation between the two of you.
Designing and building is a very exciting, if slow, process. But you are much more likely to enjoy and do it well with the help of an architect. Have a great summer.
Ayad Rahmani has been with Washington State University since 1997. He is an associate professor in the School of Design and Construction.