Just add water: architecture startups!

Not getting your hands dirty
August 31, 2014, 3:05 pm
Filed under: Startup

One of the skills that I’m most proud of is having worked on-site and in the field for many years.  While construction can often feel like a warzone — demolition causing huge craters in the ground, often looking like archaeological sites.  The daily conversations with subcontractors, and the people who really build the building. So when I’m meeting with new clients, its nice to be able to say you’ve been apart of the whole experience from early conception of a project to the final punchlists.  Truly a full service architecture firm. 

Recently I met with a client who has done three projects already with a contractor they like and have worked with.  They asked if I’d be willing to only do the design drawings (including construction docs) but omit construction administration— given they knew they could handle it and were willing to work directly with their contractor. Initially it seems ideal because let’s face it, construction administration is a total time sink. You spend endless hours coordinating with the contractor, you end up having to redraw things 10 times because after demo things look differently and all your basic workpoints feel like they’ve been reset. 

but then…as usual I overthink. Not doing construction administration also means not having control over the design direction when things do start to shift. and all those subtle details that you worked out so carefully during design get glossed over or clumsily (un)resolved.  Not being apart of construction administration means you give up the rights to the design in some regards.  It’s also a legal issue — if you didn’t file the drawings as the record architect, then you’d be basically just the “designer” and not the “architect of record” which legally has no ramifications (and a more limited accountability).  If you are the architect of record but aren’t doing construction administration then this is entirely different. You’ve filed, and it seems you would be accountable….even if it gets built not to your specs.

I’m not sure how I feel about not doing construction administration….what phases are you apart of?  




Unintentional Design Build
August 19, 2014, 5:58 pm
Filed under: Startup

I’m currently working on an interiors project in a Tudor style 1930s building. and like most renovations, there’s a period where you open up the walls and you start seeing the ghosts of past renovations. The walls start to resemble the cross-section of a gobstopper — ten layers of random wallpaper, paint, plaster layers upon plaster layers, random buildups for no apparent reason, cavities that you never suspected existed, and not to mention the relics of dumbwaiters and other things….it’s pretty fun until you realize that your design has more potential to graft into those spaces and you’re suddenly surveying the existing conditions AGAIN and AGAIN, while trying to figure out where your workpoints are.  *oof!*  These renovations are difficult because usually there’s no existing drawings and even worse, when you do have a sense of what is, you end up discovering new things as you open up the walls.  I guess this is all part and parcel for renovations…


The real issue that I’m encountering is not the (re)discovery period during demo, but the compound effect of clients who constantly change things during construction. It’s extremely difficult. At the time of construction documents, I had strongly emphasized like a good bartender, “last call”…they silently nodded in agreement.  But here we are, half-way through construction and each day is a new adventure.  A new “idea” for this…or that… It’s starting to feel like an unintentional design build, and while I’m trying to herd these clients towards reason, it’s been difficult because in the end, architecture is a service industry and no one wants to hear “no, you can’t do that.” 


Fingers crossed we make it through this construction alive!

Advertising vs. Reviews
August 17, 2014, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Startup

A few days ago, I was leisurely reading the New York Times Homes section. There on the front page was a picture of two modern interior projects with the proud owner posing alongside the glossy images.  Seemed pretty common and I quickly flipped through it, until I realized that the whole article is about the owner who is the interior designer for both places….and I being to wonder, is this an advertisement?  Is there a line between marketing and reviews on design?  Not that we should all expect critical writings on our work, but hey, it just makes you wonder how this whole marketing process works…