Project Fog

Most times, the first phone call I get about a project is nebulous.

Fog at the beginning of a project

Fog at the beginning of a project

There may be a site, a prospective building, or tenant space. There may be a budget. And there is usually some idea about what the project is for.

Believe it or not, those are all the essential elements needed to concoct a project out of thin air. Usually, it’s up to me to derive the rest. And that’s what architects are for.

An architect is a type of mad scientist. If a client brings me the essential elements, we begin working together to develop the rest of the formula.

(Frankly, my base solution is usually coffee, although I have begun a few with craft beer, such as this one.)

Conceptual sketches

Conceptual sketches

This can become a bubbly process. Some projects end up with ideas all over the floor. Others become clear only when distractions are distilled out as we proceed.

Sometimes the chemistry is not predictable. A seemingly steamy project may suddenly freeze. Very recently, a client and I were able to improve the efficiency of a project’s internals so unexpectedly high that it exceeded the practical limitations of the site to park all the resulting occupants. We had expected the building to limit the project, but the result was the inverse of our hypothesis.

Other times, the mixture can become suddenly unstable! Interjections by the building code or site zoning and planning requirements can threaten a project in a number of ways. (See my previous article, Code Check.) The local regulatory authority has complete jurisdiction on the project and can be as flexible or inflexible as they want. Strange, cryptic requirements can suddenly appear in the mixture to turn lead into gold or vice versa. I have a good handle on most of the expectations from the towns, cities, counties, departments, and universities in the region. But nothing beats the catalyst of a preliminary review meeting with them over the conceptual plan to precipitate the requirements of the project.

Site fog

Site fog

Visualizing the form and materials of a project is why architects depend on drawing and rendering capabilities. But most experienced architects also have considerable background in navigating the project fog of codes, as well as the nearby clouds of costs and contractors.

Thoughts about project beginnings? (Or maybe too little connection between the images and text? Just a touch too much alliteration in that last line?) I’d love to hear from you. Please share below or on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.


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