It takes a village to raise a child.
Nothing in architecture is done alone, no matter who the architect may be - there is a design team, consultant team, contractor and client behind all the work. Further, just to get an architects licence, we would have years of schooling and work - so a majority of our friends or former colleagues are either other architects in the industry or working in the field in some capacity. There are countless times when a problem arises and I would bring it up with my close friends who would have a solution to a particular problem. In short, we gather from a collective resource of experience to help make good decisions moving forward (for ourselves and our clients).
...With a little help from my friends
When I started the practice in 2016, it was just me working in my basement. Having left a great position at Studio JCI (look them up, they do amazing work), I took a leap of faith that my firm would land on its feet. I'm not going to lie, the hustle was real - answering the phone, emails, and attending networking/marketing events during the day, while also drafting and designing at night. The weekends would be full swaths of time that I could develop new ideas, look into areas that require capital investment (new computers, file server, etc) and have a pause to reflect on where the company should be going.
One perfect example where a network of friends is so essential to our practice would be how my practice moved out of a basement studio and into a real commercial space in the heart of downtown Toronto. With the help of the late Kirsty Bruce and my former colleague, Jordan Winters, who ran bruceSTUDIOarchitects - which has now evolved into Wayback Architects with Jordan Winters and Stephen Van der Meer (Look them up too, they're amazing architects), they graciously offered a desk in their studio space for me to start things up. Since then, my firm has moved twice and we're now settled into our own space at 675 King St W. I must thank Kirsty, Jordan and Steve - without your help, I'd probably still be in my basement. Having a shared studio space allowed me to host clients, but more importantly bounce design ideas with my peers.
The Architect Team
My first hire was Tanya Lupo. An architectural technologist who is still with the firm today. We took a leap of faith on each other - my firm was in its infancy and she could have gone with a more secure position at a larger firm, and she was my first hire (I was either going to take the plunge or keep going ahead on my own).
Since hiring Tanya, my firm now has a nice mix of Intern Architects (similar to resident doctors who have the education and are now gaining experience), technologists and co-op students. To a degree, the intention is to train each individual - imparting a transfer of knowledge from myself to each staff member. But each person has their own creative mind and particular personality. Embracing our differences are what make the design team great. It is not in our agreeance of a design solution that yields great work, it is in the discussion of opposing views that force each member to consider something new.
But do not get me wrong, it is not design by jury. This does not work as too many chefs in a kitchen can ruin any meal. Since the beginning, I made it important that each project would have their own design lead - whether it is myself, or one of the staff. There must be one design vision or else the project loses cohesiveness. Other team members are encouraged to debate and criticize the design, however it is the design lead's role to make a decision based on their understanding of the client and their own design principles.
Opposing positions are a great way to internally develop designs among the studio team. But we do not follow this approach with our clients. It is important that the design lead and client share common ground from the start. We do not want to be fighting with our clients on design direction, but rather work with them on paths forward. If there is enough common footing from the onset, then the moments where disagreements happen have a strong chance of being rectified. If there is very little common ground to begin, then disagreements can feel nearly insurmountable. Overall, a great deal of thought goes into a matching staff for each client.
The Consultant Team
Our job is to design the most amazing spaces for each client. For a majority of our projects, it requires a consultant team of engineers to solve the structural and mechanical items in the design. On the architectural side, we would allocate space for these items using rules of thumb - then the design would be sent to engineers so they can "overlay" ductwork, structural members, plumbing items, etc. It's an iterative process where we would go back and forth to find the best solution to various problems.
In most cases, we would work with engineers and report back to the client on items that may be problematic (pipes that intersect with beams, etc). Some clients prefer to be more proactive and engage with their own engineers - working closely with the team to understand every inch of the building. In most of those cases, our role as architects would be to explain engineering practices in laymen's terms to our clients. Getting everyone on the same page is vital for finding ways forward in the design process.
Someone has to build it. Our role is to design something, and a contractor's job is to build the design - this is the clearest explanation of roles. To us, a great builder takes pride in their work, and would consistently run their ideas by us to not only execute the design vision, but to even improve upon it. Some contractors are good at executing construction and sometimes would not review the design intent with the architect. This becomes problematic as staring at any problem too closely can make you lose sight of a greater picture, and builders are not immune to this human condition. Our role is to always remember the big picture - making sure certain alignments and moments in the design are maintained. In many occasions, pointing out a specific detail on the drawings can make all the difference.
It's a Team Effort
All scales of architectural projects require many people to work together. When it comes to construction, it's vital that everyone is on the same page and heading toward the same goals. Communication becomes an essential part of the job - trying to collaborate with peers, present designs or solve problems - this job is rooted in working together.
We look forward to working with you - if you have any questions about the process, then feel free to read our other posts (and future posts) about the practice of architecture.