Alex Coppock

The Sunday Times’ view on how to choose an architect

by 9th Oct, 2014

The Sunday Times recently featured a piece called How to choose an architect. We published our own guide to this last year, so we were interested to see how the two compared. Broadly speaking, we were in agreement, although there were some differences of opinion too.

Like us, the Sunday Times recommends the RIBA website as a good place to start searching for an architect. It also stresses the importance of the personal connection – by calling up an architect for a chat and arranging a site visit (most architects, including us, will offer this free of charge), you can get a feel for how someone works and if you’ll get on.

We both agree that asking for references is a good idea. The Sunday Times suggests doing this to check whether projects were completed on time and on budget. We agree with this, but we also recommend asking about the process too, to see if previous clients found them easy to work with and interactive.

The Sunday Times points out the importance of fixing your budget and being honest with your architect about it. This is very important – our How much will your building project cost? covers this in more detail and discusses how your architect can and should work with you to balance what you want from your project with the budget you have available.

One quibble we do have with the article was its penultimate point: “Be decisive about the final plan. It will end up costing much more, and drive your architect round the twist, if you keep changing your mind.”

We think this is unfair.

A good architect will work closely with you during the early stages (which are the key to the success and cost of the project, as How to save money on your building project explains) to try to ensure the plan reflects your needs, wants and desires accurately. Doing this in-depth work at this stage increases the likelihood of having a plan you’re happy with, excited about and don’t need to change.

“Interfacing with Alex and his team at Communion is fun and productive, they can’t do enough to help. Although very passionate about the overall vision for the project, Alex listens and takes on board all the comments and suggestions my wife and I make. He cares and it shows!”

But as the project progresses we actively encourage you to speak up if something’s concerning you or you don’t feel something is quite right. It’s your project, not ours. It may be that your concern is easily addressed; it may be that we need to look at changes. If that’s the case, we’ll always look at how it will impact on the budget so you can make an informed decision. The important thing is that the final result delights you and if that means addressing concerns as we go along, so be it.

Because, as both we and the Sunday Times agree, you shouldn’t be intimidated by your architect!