Who's Design is it?

I had a client recently pose a rather insightful question, which was essentially: where does my architecture stop and the client's begin? Or asked another way: who's design is it?

While we don't engage in theoretical or what I'll call academic architecture often, this question is one that is challenging to answer and therefore worth discussing.

A few insights to how our practice is structured that may help frame the question:

1. Our approach to architecture is simply that of solving a problem (albeit a complex one), where the answer is not predetermined. At the outset of your project, I do not have a good idea where the design will lead us, nor what the final design will look like. 

2. Each client and solution will be different. We don't repeat architecture, believing firmly that there is a unique house for each client. I tell clients that the house I design for myself is different than what I will design for them and theirs will be different from the next client. 

3. We are not predisposed towards a 'traditional' or 'modern' vocabulary or aesthetic. What we do rely on is a traditional approach to site context, topography, climate, region, and materials. While this approach has some implications towards roof forms, it doesn't necessarily push us towards symmetrical houses. 

4. When a client's vision begins to mesh with our intuition about where their house should go, we end up with a better solution. Sometimes this takes gentle guidance on our part, and a willingness to listen to the why of what a client is requesting. 

5. We focus solely on residential architecture, where our expertise lies. I believe this gives us the ability to rely on our institutional knowledge- more than likely we have solved a particular design challenge previously. The more we practice, the better we become in the profession. 

A Couple Caveats:

1. I will lend my experience to the equation of what your house will be. I grew up in a farmhouse in the midwest, designed by an architect. I studied abroad in Denmark. I lived on the East coast and worked on Historic Architecture dating back to the late 1600's. I am particularly fond of barns and timber frame structures. I value traditional materials and craftsmanship. I have a strong background in building science and regional/ vernacular architecture. On every project there is some piece of my background that I can share that will help us solve an architecture problem. 

2. I will steer you away from solutions that I know are inappropriate, out of your budget, or technically infeasible. I will tell you what the best solutions are, what style is appropriate and help you envision what it will feel like.

The Answer:

At the end of the project the line of thought between architect and client is less relevant- we will have spent many months weaving a story together about what your house will be. We will both be proud of your project and what we created together. It will be as much mine as it is yours.