The Credible Architect

Would you trust Art Vandelay as your architect? Maybe. After all, he did do the Guggenheim and it didn’t take him that long. However, I doubt you would not trust him as your architect. Why? Credibility.

If you aspire to be a well respected architect and deliver successful projects, your credibility is crucial. Especially knowledge about construction. Early on I had, as the kids would say, ‘mad street cred.’ I was well respected by clients and most importantly, contractors on the job site. Did I have this from being the greatest designer? No. Was it that I sported a goatee? No. Were my CD’s really pretty? No, I mean yes, but No. Was it that I was an expert code guy? No. Was it that I dressed well? No. It wasn’t any of these. What it was can be attributed to three simple things:

1. As a kid, I learned all I could from my dad- he was a master carpenter and cabinetmaker.
2. In high school, I worked at a real lumber yard, not a big-box home improvement store.
3. In college, I was a laborer for a construction company.

How did these foster my credibility?

 1. My dad taught me the basics of construction and materials. Sounds simple, it is, but you need to know the basics. From an early age I knew what a 2×4 was vs. a 2×6, a screw from a nail, etc. It meant I could talk to contractors intelligently.
2. Working at a real lumber yard broadened my knowledge of materials and how/where they were used. In addition, it gave me the basics of material costs.
3. This construction experience underscored the fact that what is on paper gets built, but not necessarily built as it is drawn. I learned how things actually go together and the construction scheduling process.

These three combined afforded me knowledge which instilled to clients and contractors a sense of trust that I knew what I was talking about. It’s hard to get projects built. However, it’s extremely difficult to get projects built the way you want them built. If you’re taken for your word, and are knowledgeable and correct, your project has a better chance of being successful.

Having credibility as an architect is one of your best ‘tools’ and crucial to the success of a project. On the flip-side, having no credibility can ruin the best of all projects. Are you a credible architect? If so, why do you think you are?

Your credibility may be suspect if you…

a. Think a 2×4 is 2” by 4”
b. Think lines on your CD’s are just that, lines
c. Were asked if a beam was upset or not, you felt ignorant, as you had no idea beams had feelings
d. Think those changes won’t cost that much
e. Can’t draw a legible revised detail on site on the back of a ½ torn subway sandwich wrapper using a carpenters’ pencil
f. Think a grease trap is used prior to the taping of the Jersey Shore (I’m a legit Italian, so I can state that)
g. Don’t want to walk the site because it’s muddy
h. Forgo a pre-construction meeting because there is nothing to talk about because nothing is built yet
i. Are asked why there is no cricket indicated on the roof plan, you respond “Cricket? (covers phone and turns to colleague), “I think the contractor has been drinking, cricket, it’s a freaking stupid English sort of baseball game, phhh! He doesn’t know what he is talking about, I knew we should have selected the cheapest guy!”

P.S. This list is not all encompassing, feel free to submit your own in the comment section.

Design On,

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