Several years ago I had the experience of sitting on owner’s side of the fence – I served as chair of the owner’s committee on a good size project, and hired and managed the architect, consultants and contractor. I learned 5 keys to hiring an architect:
- It’s a long term relationship. You will be working closely with whomever you hire for the next couple of years. Be sure you hire someone you are comfortable with, that you can see yourself working with, someone that will work for you and put your interests first. Compatibility with your architect is the single most important issue. We hired an extremely talented and well known architect [designed, for example, the LA County Museum of Art] who wanted the job came in with a very low fee…but was never working “for” us…made the project long and difficult.
- It’s your house [or retail center, or…], not your architect’s house. Hire someone that will build your dream house, not theirs. Most architects have a limited “palette,” they do what they do. Few take the time truly understand what you want. Few are willing to fully put aside their wishes in favor of yours. Reasons for this include their preferences, their experience, and money–it is much less work, and thus less costly, to use the same materials, details and products from project to project. On our project, we soon came to understand that the architect we hired does what he does, not what his clients want. We had to accept that there were many things we wanted that he wouldn’t do. I could have replaced him, but only at the expense of a great deal of money and months of lost time. An architect who builds his or her dream, not yours, might easily cost you more than their entire fee as you buy materials, products and perhaps rooms you don’t want.
- Plays well with others. Our architect tolerated his consultants, and had what might be charitably called a difficult relationship with the contractor. I found myself continually having to resolve disputes, and the difficulties with the contractor cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your architect needs to foster a team spirit, and to see that the entire team is working to create your dream as painlessly and inexpensively as possible.
- Money is important. Money spent on architects is money not spent on stone, stoves or landscaping. Ultimately, though, it is the total cost that matters most. Money ineffectively spent during construction will trump all other costs together. We spent a great deal of time focusing on thousands when selecting our consultants, yet once hired, decisions made resulted in variances of millions. We learned that the key is finding consultants who put our interests, including our money, first.
- Apples and oranges are difficult to compare. One architect in Malibu charges $500,000 for every project. His fees are high yet all inclusive, and his projects varied and very custom. Another charges $125,000. His fees are loaded with extras [clients typically end up paying serval times his initial “fee”,] and most of his projects are extremely similar. If you as client see the work of the latter and are happy to let this architect make the decisions and do what he typically does, I would advise you to use him. If, on the other hand, you want to build their own dream, and that dream is significantly different that his typical house, I would advise them to use the former. The extras from the latter will end up costing more money, and you still will not get the house you want. Your architect is also forming a long term relationship with you, and committing resources for a long time. Many architects run what I might term “product production” studios. They do what they do, do it efficiently and quickly, then move on. If you like their product, you can save some design fee. Others are more client, design and process focused. Their process is focused on customization, on creating a house that is uniquely yours. If this is what you want, you will ultimately get the best value with this type of architect. We chose the former, but really needed the latter. The result was a combination of increased costs, headaches and compromised dreams.
These 5 keys to hiring an architect, if carefully followed, will make your project far more enjoyable, and the resultant design reflective of your dreams, lifestyle and budget.
DESIGN PROCESS IN 6 STEPS
1. Blue Sky/Feasibility
(what is the “Big Idea,” and is it financially feasible?)
This is the brainstorming stage, where the “Blue Sky” is the limit. Ideally the design team sits around a table for a day or to with a facilitator and dreamers and thinkers with various backgrounds and generate lists of great ideas. The designers are then tasked with packaging the results into several possible “Big Idea” scenarios, which are next reviewed by operators and cost estimators. Repeat as necessary until a Big Idea that works has emerged.
2. Concept Design
(what does the “Big Idea” look like and how much will it cost?)
The design team is now tasked with translating the Big Idea into something that can be built. They will create then communicate the big picture look of the Big Idea. The design team will then meet with cost estimators to determine the cost, making adjustments as necessary.
3. Schematic Design
(how will it look and feel, what is the experience and what are the key details and materials?)
The design team’s primary task during this phase is to translate the big picture look of the Big Idea into a quantifiable form. They will determine how high and how wide it is, what it looks like from the front, sides….. what it looks like inside and the key colors, details and materials necessary to create the Big Idea.
4. Design Development
(how will it be built?)
During this phase the designers work closely with a variety of engineers and specialty consultants to determine, quantify and locate all of the components and systems necessary to make the Big Idea big, and determine how the project will be built. The design team’s key task in this phase is to maintain the Big Idea, refining and improving it with each decision made.
5. Construction Documents
(make sure the contractor builds our design)
Attorneys create contracts. Designers create contract (construction) documents. In this stage the design team and all related engineers and consultants carefully and thoroughly document and communicate the design, defining the parameters of the Big Idea for the contractor.
6. Construction Administration and Art Direction
(make sure the builders understand the design and build it correctly)
This is the hands on, get yourself dirty, phase of the work that many designers enjoy most. Designers are on hand to work with the builders, answer questions, explain design intent, art direct special effects, solve problems and make sure the builders build the Big Idea correctly.
TEDA Promendades Retail and Entertainment Destination
by GlobalDesign Workshop + Cuningham Group
How To Get Your Destination Design Project Started
Creating a successful resort, town center, entertainment or retail destination is your goal. But how do you get the process started? We have been through this process hundreds of times over the past twenty-five years. To ensure the success of every project we design, we have leveraged this rich experience and developed a successful methodology, a user manual of sorts describing how to successfully start and navigate the process. There are three steps to get your project underway — Research, Planning and Action.
We have assembled a number of extremely useful resources to help you with each of these three steps.
Conduct Online Research
Learn more about your project type, what has worked elsewhere and what has not. It is key to understand how successful projects work. It is equally important to understand why. Understand how those projects are similar to yours, and how yours is different. Browse through relevant websites, and read blogs – a great way to get a better understanding of both the theory behind the creation of successful destinations as well as practical how-to blogs, such as this one, with step by step guidelines and practical case studies.
- Online resources – This GDW blog contains many useful articles that will help you get started
- Ask questions regarding strategy, programming, positioning and how to get started.
- Ask about the theory and practice of creating successful retail, resort, entertainment or town center destinations
- Ask to how to choose a design firm, whether to use a large, big name firm or a smaller dedicated design studio
- Meet with an expert, on your project site, if possible. Ask them to:
- Review your site (if you have one), suggest appropriate site attributes (if you don’t) its strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis)
- Ask detailed questions regarding strategy, programming and positioning of your project
- Discuss possible “Blue Sky” (big picture, big idea) concepts for your project
- Ask what makes a great destination
- More specifically, ask what makes a great retail destination, town center destination, entertainment destination or resort destination
- Ask about the general challenges and opportunities shared by all destination projects
- Ask about the challenges and opportunities unique to your project type
Establish your project schedule. Set an aggressive yet achievable schedule, taking into account not only design time but also the time necessary to receive government approval and financing of your project.
Establish your project budget. Set budgets for both soft costs (Soft costs include design fees, engineering, governmental fees, financing, and legal fees, marketing costs and other pre- and post-construction expenses) and hard costs (Hard costs include land acquisition and construction expenses). At this early phase, be sure to include a significant contingency.
- Build your project team
- Internal to your organization:
- Project manager with a knowledge of:
- Design management
- Land acquisition (as appropriate for your project)
- Governmental relations
- Financial management
- Investor relations (as appropriate)
- Leasing (as appropriate)
- External consulting team:
- Architect/Master Planner
- Additionally, your architect should provide consultants from the following disciplines (as apply to your project):
- Landscape architect
- Cost estimator
- Specialty Consultants
- Lighting design
- Graphic Design
- Water Features/Special Effects
- Show concept
- Sustainability/Green Design
Project Analysis + Positioning
This is the first step toward creating a successful destination. It requires a minimal commitment on your part, yet gives you the tools and direction to get your project underway.
Your design professional should start with a site visit and analysis; then prepare positioning recommendations and a concept program; a concept land use diagram to conceptually establish the best uses, and placement of those uses, on your site; a written narrative describing your vision for the place you wish to create, including the experience one might expect when spending time there, as well as appropriate design metaphors or back-story; and concept image photos that both visually communicate your vision and give future direction to the design team.
You should further request and expect a presentation of findings and concept direction by your design professional, as well as professionally presented collateral materials to document the process and get your project off to a successful start.
If your first major project milestone is the approval of stakeholders such as senior managers, investors, partners or bankers, or getting approval by governmental authorities, you will need an Investor’s Package: Investors’ Package
Your design professional should still start with project analysis and positioning (as described above), but also should provide a recommended facility program outlining the major facilities and necessary area requirements; an illustrative site plan describing the arrangement, relationships and character of the place; concept diagrams indicating how guests and services access and move around your project; an aerial perspective providing an overall “bird’s eye” view of your project; and three or four ground level sketches illustrating the look and feel of your project as one would expect to experience it when construction is complete.
As described above, this package should also include image boards and a design narrative, appropriate printed and digital materials for you to use, and a professional presentation of all findings and materials by your design professional.
More information regarding an investor’s package or Full Design Services: GDW Services
If you have completed the above steps, or if you have your infrastructure in place and are on a fast track to completing a successful destination, you may desire to contract immediately for full service master planning, urban design or architectural design.
Full design services include blue sky/feasibility (what is the “Big Idea,” and is it financially feasible?); concept design (what does the “Big Idea” look like and how much will it cost?), schematic design (how will it look and feel, what are the key details and materials?), design development (how will it be built?), construction documents (make sure the contractor builds my design) and construction administration (make sure the builders understand the design and build it correctly).
Additionally, your design professional should provide consultants including Feasibility Analysis, Retail Strategy, Landscape Design, Civil, Structural and MEP Engineering, Green and Sustainable Design, Lighting Design, Graphic Design, Audio/Visual/Systems Design, Special Effects Design, Water Feature Design and Acoustic Design.
More information regarding full service design: Contact Us
Creating a successful resort, town center, entertainment or retail destination is your goal. The challenge is getting the process started. The steps above are an abbreviated version of the methodology we have developed over the years. Contact us for more details, to discuss the specifics of your project, or to request a proposal.