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client design relationships

edited June 2008 in architecture
I entered a student design competition recently and having won a first stage I was interviewed for the next round by industry professionals who asked me to "imagine that they were clients and that I was trying to sell my idea to them". I am most grateful for this professional body to have convened the competition and particularly thanked them for specifying a strong 'Green' element to the brief. I was fairly unprepared however and probably flunked it, but I have to say that I was most astonished by the attitude that they assumed as pretend 'potential clients'.

I had previously met one of the jury members at a function and know him to be a fastidious designer with a huge reputation for detail and quality and to be a markedly polite man whose company I very much enjoyed. His pretend client was more aggresive than the other two, one of whom declared that he had my written brief analysis in front of him, that was included in my submission, but that he wasn't going to bother reading it! The interogation ensued and I had answers for most questions thankfully, even if I stuttered and staggered back and forth as the questioning moved back and forth and obliquley, but the general tone was one of my being a naughty little boy in need of reprimanding.

I have to say that the third gentlemen was often times attempting to rein in the exuberance of the other and several times raised the point that some of my elements were quite good or at least satisfactory. I felt afterwards quite distraught with the whole thing, in the manner of a Romanesque Jekyle and Hyde experiance in which all my previous assumptions about client behaviour were highjacked by an even more hideous manifestation. As I know these gentlemen to be perfect gentlemen, as they all were at the beginning and the end of the interview, I can only assume that they were indeed imitating a genuine air surrounding the client professional relationship as they themselves have experianced it over some combined sixty or more years of professional work.

After a long drive back home with my wife helping me 'debrief' and my recalling the working methods of a few architects I have read and particularly Glenn Murcutts supposed acerbic wit and gentle persuassions 'to try another architect', towards troublesome clients, I felt relieved to declare that if any client spoke to me in that manner I would definately demand that they leave my office immediately, and come back when they gather a bit of respect. I commend the jury members for having so patiently put up with clients behaving like that towards them for so many years and I am sure they will make the right decision as to who should win the main prize, but I will not be joining them in allowing a client to treat me like an errant servant simply because my chosen profession is based in the arts.

In my attempt to raise the bar of art in design and architecture, I must include the attempt to raise the bar on client respect for the profession. Please students who may read this, don't put up with rudeness from clients. It is not worth it knowing that someone somewhere will cow tow to some other delinquent for the sake of pocket money. The more people demand simple respect, the more they'll get it and the less other will have to put up with it.


  • edited 9:43PM
    [moved to relevant forum, P]
  • edited 9:43PM
    Thanks peter.
    Can't remember where i put it, but I thought the good Lord had deleted it for me as an act of divine intervention after my own second thoughts at having posted it. Too late now I suppose.

    I am nearly finished reading Robin Boyds, Australia's Home and have just read some hilarious observations of his as regards client professional relationships.
    I urge any student to get a copy as a great bedtime read. There is a good chuckle on every page nearly and quite a few gut busters.
  • edited June 2008
    I think it's pretty unusual to get a client going for your jugualr at the briefing stage, good time to walk I think. I suspect the architects thought they'd treat it like a lot treat student design crits: find a weak spot that the student hasn't thought about and keep on prodding it till the whole design is written off.
    I have had every emotion under the sun from some clients during tendering and construction - thankfully no physical violence yet... well it got pretty close, twice. Both were hospitality industry funnily enough. I emerged unscathed and wiser.
    Clients are one of my favourite things about the job though. You meet people who are completely unknown to you and have to learn a lot about how they live or work, quirks'n'all. As the stress of the building process gets to them, you see them at their best and worst. At the end they are (most of the time) full of gratitude that you got them through it. And if you can work out how a particular personality is best catered to early in the process, so you can tailor your service to fit, it is a whole lot easier for both parties.
    From elsewhere on the website:

    << Neutra was used to working with quirky clients - movie director Josef von Sternberg, for example, insisted on lockless bathroom doors because, as he told Neutra, "there is always somebody in the bathroom threatening to commit suicide and blackmailing you, unless you can get in freely" >>

    PROJO.COM FEB 14, 2002
  • edited 9:43PM
    Odd you should mention lockable bathrooms. My father in law died in a locked bathroom as his wife struggled to get the door open.
    Thankyou for that insight regarding "At the end they are (most of the time) full of gratitude that you got them through it".
    That the design process must not include ones own ego, but must include the clients ego is an interesting problem to be balanced. I can see that my temper will need tempering. Thank you.
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