Size Matters

I’m contemplating making my latest correspondence a stock form letter:


Ida + Ben Doubtfire
6758 Weeping Willow Place
Youngsville NC 27596

Dear Mr. + Mrs. Doubtfire:

It saddened me to receive news that you had selected the big firm of the month to be your architect. You felt it would be most apt for your project to be handled by a large firm. You feel it will afford your project the attention it deserves. You further alluded to our firms’ lack of experience with your project type. I was surprised and felt a reply was in order.

We can readily come to terms with our clients selecting another architect; everyone makes mistakes and hopefully learns from them. What we cannot overcome is the primary rationale with which you came to your decision- size and experience. Seriously? No, seriously, is Ashton Kutcher going to pop out and start pointing and laughing at us? In my 18+ years experience as an architect I have practiced at extra small, small, medium, and large firms. Suffice to say I can speak with some authority.

Can the large firm handle your project? Yes they can. Will it get the attention you think it will? Maybe, maybe not. Sure they employ over 300 people; do you think they are all working on your project? I would venture to say that you met with one of the twenty six managing principals who’s in charge of your project, you were impressed. Who wouldn’t be, a custom tailored suit sporting elbow patches, I surely would be impressed. Keep in mind, you’ll be paying for the next one. They told you a multi-faceted team of the most apt individuals will be assembled for your project. To be the bearer of bad news, you will have two, maybe three individuals working on your project. Sound familiar? It should, that’s what we proposed.

As far as lack of experience, let’s just say that most of the project types/design you’ve been impressed with, I have done. However, a managing principal came in at the 11th hour signed the drawings and took credit. On the flip side, the projects that went awry, those I do get to take credit for! Experience? Rest assured I have it- just not the high gloss photos to offer credence. Well I have the photos; I just can’t legally use them.

Am I discrediting the abilities of a large firm? No, not at all. However, I am discrediting your rationale. Give the small firms a chance- those running them were the fuel for the large firms. “Huh.” I hear you ask “If the individuals who were the fuel now have their own firms, what’s the engine running on?” I’m not sure, alternative fuel? Maybe you’ll get some LEED points in that category.

I wish you the best and hope that your 10’x14’ deck turns out to be everything you had wished for. Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you and provide a fee estimate, it sure sounds like an exciting project!

Keith A. Palma, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Design On,

** Seriously big firms, you have your place… call me (wink wink)

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