1. Presence on Site during the Build
I bet you thought I was going to say Design Ability first. Of course design ability is really important (it’s on the list don’t worry) but I want to draw your attention to the importance of the architect being present on site.
A new build is made of thousands of small decisions taken on site on a daily basis. It’s about making sure the bones of the building, the parts you won’t see when it’s finished, are carefully constructed. Its important for energy efficiency. For example well-meaning workers might inadvertently create thermal bridges without knowing. Small design details that improve the quality of life within the building need suggesting and managing, view points, shade, the height of the washing machine………… Your architect needs to be hands on, they need to understand what you want, and, they need to care.
I would say a minimum of one site visit a week. I would aim for a small company that can give you their proper attention not a large studio where everything is delegated to junior staff.
2. Whose Villa Is it?
Is it your villa or your architect’s? I have to say some architects seem to be a little bit confused on this point. Now, you may well want your architect to express their art but only under your instructions. It is your villa not theirs.
If you were commissioning the Pompidou Centre or the Guggenheim Museum then I suppose it might be different but if your architect is designing your home then it must be done your way: exactly as you want it.
You need an architect who is sensitive to other people’s needs (yours!). Somehow your architect needs to get inside your head and understand how you want to live and come up with suggestions that match that.
4. Sense of Humour
Building someone’s home is a very personal thing to do. It’s not quite like dating but life is too short to be serious all the time. You are looking for a human being, an architect who enjoys their work, hopefully inspired by you, and who has fun while they work too.
5. Track Record
This is how you really know whether the architect is right for you. After the many months of working together are this architect’s clients prepared to write a letter of recommendation?
There are just too many opportunities for an architect to take advantage of the situation: hidden commissions, cutting corners, charging to investigate something when they already know. It’s like your car mechanic (at least in my case) a competent professional who you can trust is worth their weight in gold.
Yes yes and yes. This is what everyone thinks of when evaluating an architect. Look at examples of their work but remember those designs were done following those client’s instructions. Even if you don’t like the design the architect may have done a perfect job for that client.
When I watch architects work I notice design skills particularly when they are moving spaces around and adjusting the ergonomics of the building. Also of key importance is the choice of the finishes, floor tiles, windows and so on, perhaps blending natural materials with contemporary design which is really interior design. This is where design ability really counts.
Author: John Wolfendale
Bio: John is a founder of Eco Vida Homes 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 over 24 years experience living and working in Spain.
Eco Vida Homes is a team of Architects, Technical Architects, Builders, an Engineer, and a Chartered Surveyor. We help people design and build beautiful energy efficient home, designed for Mediterranean living, in Marbella and Southern Spain. There are two things that make us stand out: a sharp focus on our clients’ needs and everything we build is comfortable and energy efficiency………..It’s like Grand Designs………… only without the drama.