A good ole’ fashioned hoedown


The architectural process is, at times, like a carefully coordinated and articulated dance between the architect and the consultant. And, sometimes, it is a complete free-for-all.

I have recently been involved with a large housing project in an undisclosed location […not really], and have been for about six months now. There is a team of about three of four of us that have been handling most of the architectural work from within the office, and we are great. That’s just how we roll. We have contracted out the structural and MEP work, as well as much of the civil/landscaping work, to various other firms. Sounds like a great set-up, right? Not so much. Not these guys.

Normally, I would not be such a cynic. I have worked on other projects in the past and encountered some great consultants. These (said consultants) are the types of people that, if I ever encountered them out at a bar one night, I would offer to buy them a nice cold beer. Or a shot. Or both. I have a level of respect for them because in our time working together, they acted in a professional and respectful manner – the way they were contracted to do. And, isn’t that the point? Aren’t we all – architects and consultants – working towards the same end-goal? That has always been my understanding, and I don’t think I am too far off the mark.

So why, in the midst of working towards a complete set of drawings, would we revert to the old high-school-esque tactic of “call when I need something; ignore when I don’t”? To me, this is the farthest thing from fostering a professional relationship. It is the exact opposite; this is the definition of a destructive and admittedly frustrating relationship. And, in casually talking to some co-workers with many more years experience than I, this type of consultant behavior is not all that unheard of. So, I have determined that there is one critical piece of information to always remember when dealing with unruly consultants:

The consultant works for you.

Ultimately, you can’t change a person’s character or the way someone chooses to handle themselves within an office setting. But, as an architect or a designer either leading the charge on a project or providing the back-up support, it is your responsibility to do everything in your power to coordinate the effort and make the project a successful one. Send an email. Make a phone call. Insist on getting the coordination drawings you need. Narrate the dance.

Otherwise, you may as well strap on your boots, because it is going to get messy.

Happy designing.

*image courtesy of Joel Kramer’s photostream on Flickr, used under the creative commons license.

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