Searching for the Perfect Architect to Build Me the Perfect Home

What Makes Me Feel Good
When I wake up in the morning and it’s sunny I feel good all day. When I wake up in the morning and its grey then I may not. That’s why I like living in Spain. Put simply feeling good is a major objective in my life.

Granada Architect
Granada Architect

Architecture Affects My Quality of Life
Another influence on my mood is my surroundings. Being on top of a mountain, watching the moon: these things conjure up certain kinds of moods. The same is true when I’m inside my home or sitting on my terrace. The colours, textures, volumes, spaces, artefacts, and needless to say temperature, humidity and air quality all affect my mood and my quality of life. Architecture both inside and out has a major influence on my quality of life.

How we respond to good architecture is very personal and very complex. This is because it’s not just the architecture that affects my quality of life but also many other things: the weather, my family, my business what time of the day it is, what time of year it is, and indeed what stage of life I am at. Furthermore I may live with other people. What may relax me or inspire me may irritate or depress the people I live with. So how do you arrive at the perfect home?

Clearly I need some new species of super hero. Someone who knows everything about me, including what I don’t know myself, who can read the future, and who can then assemble all the ingredients of my perfect building without mishap. Does such a super hero exist? No? Oh well I’ll have to settle for an architect then.

Qualities of the Ideal Architect

Client focused
I want my architect to build what I want not satisfy some artistic impulse that will make the world more beautiful according to them. If I want a pink castle with battlements then I want my architect to design me an excellent pink castle with battlements. I also want my architect to protect me from myself and stop me from making stupid mistakes. So this is problematic. Whereas I do not want a “yes” man, I do want what I want.

Granada Architect
Granada Architect

In this case I would hope he would persuade me against having a pink castle with battlements. This kind of problem can require a subtlety of approach worthy of a diplomat. In some ways the architect has to be the arbiter of good taste.

So my architect should be sensitive to my needs, patient, and a good listener and also protect me from myself.

Creative
Yes I am looking for artistic creativity. In fact I love the moment when I give an idea to an architect, something which I have thought through with care, and they immediately draw something which is far superior.

I want an architect who can take my ideas and massively improve them. In fact personally I want an architect who can push me to the edge and design something exciting – but that’s just me. It’s quite possible that you are more traditional and conservative.

Technical knowledge
I want my building to last pretty much forever. I want it to work as described. Actually I want a comfortable living space and energy efficiency. I want low maintenance. I do not want rising damp, cracked plasterwork, no storage space, a tiny north facing kitchen in a separate room. And I do not want to hear someone having a pee upstairs! I want my architect to have the technical know-how to assemble a modern efficient building.

Leadership
I’ve already said I want my architect to stand up to me and protect me from myself if necessary. I also want them to lead the technical team of engineers, builders, surveyors, craftsmen and tradesmen so that my home becomes a reality and fulfills its promise when I move in.

Linguist, Psychologist, and Mind-reader
I know that to do the best job for me my architect has to speak the language of the town planners and bureaucrats, the regional and local politicians, the technical team of engineers and builders and so on as well as speak my language. And I’m not talking about being able to speak English or Spanish but being able to connect with all these people and create rapport which means the team give the best of themselves. My architect also has to put up with me, help me resolve differences in opinion with my wife, put up with it when I change my mind, and suffer all my other foibles. In short my architect has to be a master communicator.

Responsibility
I was on an architect’s website the other day and there was a whole list of things they said they couldn’t be held responsible for, mainly, because they weren’t the builders. It looked to me as if they had had a few complaints and were desperately trying to manage their client’s expectations. They said the following:

• Architects are responsible for services not products (i.e. if the building leaks don’t blame the architect)
• Architects assist in finding a contractor (same thing – they are not responsible for what the contractor builds)
• Contractors not architects are responsible for the project (same thing again – they are not responsible for defects in how the building is assembled)
• Architects give only approximate cost estimates ( i.e. if it costs more that they say it will don’t blame them)
• Architects do not manufacture or install components

So I was thinking to myself “well who is responsible then…..me the client? the contractor? Now normally the contractor is responsible, but let’s remember that, conventionally, the contractor hasn’t been involved in the design process. Furthermore the contractor is in a competitive bidding process when they quote for the job and what can happen is they quote too low in a desperate attempt to win the contract and then during the construction phase they cut corners and cover them up.

Wouldn’t it be great to find a company which built what it designed and was responsible for everything on that list? (please forgive the rather unsubtle hint but what would you expect?)

Author: John Wolfendale
Bio: John is a founder of Eco Vida and is passionate about bringing modern design and construction practices to Spain. He believes a home which is warm in winter and cool in summer is largely a matter of design and selective use of materials. He is British and a Chartered Surveyor with 18 years experience living and working in Spain.

John Wolfendale Chartered Surveyor
John Wolfendale