are you done yet?

 passage of time

Don’t take this post the wrong way, but I’ve been thinking recently about the myriad of tasks that we do as architects. There is so much more to do than simply “making drawings.” In fact I spend little time “making drawings” with respect to the time it takes for the thought and research to know what to put on paper with confidence. My intention is not to be impolite or insolent with my later statements. This stuff just has to come out of my head or I have to listen to it alone.

Since this is a business and a service, we must be efficient, meet deadlines and provide courteous responses. Now for those of you who can afford to “dabble” in architecture regardless of whether you get paid or not, I’m sorry to break it to you. Tasks must get done promptly and they must get done well at the same time.

I’ve found that being thorough is more important than being quick. 

Yet, there are still people, clients, contractors, whomever out there that just want it quickly or they’ll try to find someone who will (say they can) do it. Architecture is intended to outlive us so let’s do it well. Here are a few questions that are frequently asked related to time and completing a task/project. By the way, I know what you are really thinking when you ask these questions. Clients have every right to expect progress and a reasonable completion date, but may I ask for a little patience?

  1. What is your time frame to complete this project?
  2. What is the progress of our project?
  3. Why is it taking so long?
  4. Since you use computers, doesn’t that make your work quicker?
  5. Doesn’t that CAD program do most of the work for you?

I’ve heard that some of you architects out there “spit out” drawings quickly and leave important information off of them. They also show a lack of thought or development. You may have your reasons, you may not. Please stop that regardless.

Architecture is something that people enjoy when you get it right. Really, they do. Actually they expect it, but hurry it up already? Getting architecture right is not just seeing that it doesn’t fall down or leak or melt after the first rain storm. It is a discipline that takes thought, consideration, testing and research.

It actually takes rigor. My favorite quote with respect to this is “architecture is never done, it is just due.”

Oftentimes we as architects only know that we don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t just sit down and “draw up some plans.” Each project has its own set of issues and items to resolve. The technical issues are often the least difficult to resolve but if you don’t know how design works it is often difficult to explain the process. Design solutions come by part inspiration and part work…mostly work.

Work takes time, so it’s going to be a few more days until we finish your project.

time is waiting

photos are from two photostreams on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)

top photo   bottom photo

are you done yet?

14 thoughts on “are you done yet?

  1. I’ve been going through this EXACT same thing on a project that has been held up due to an incredibly difficult (i.e. combative) plans examiner. The process of getting to construction has gone on much much longer than anyone involved thought possible and so now “scheduling” and “deadlines” take on a whole new meaning of urgency. It’s Hell. Pure Hell.
    Keep fighting the good fight, brother! 🙂

  2. How right you are! The dilemma is that, with more time, it could always be better, but we don’t have unlimited time. And it’s often hard for clients to appreciate the thought, research, and iterations that went into what they finally see – when they say, ‘Why is this taking so long?!?’ But that’s part of what makes it challenging and fun, too ….

  3. Andjela says:

    Hello, Thank you for the post! I am just wondering how you learned to work hard in design studio? I feel like it’s tricky, and it seems your post looks at a reason for this being so, is that it takes time to figure out what you are doing and why. But do you have any references for a student (such as myself) on improving design work, from the designing point of view? Such as tools, and ways of thinking about design? Any books, lectures or websites would be tremendously helpful! Thanks again for the post!

      1. Andjela says:

        Thank you. I realized it isn’t a straight-forward answer. I did eventually find your post on sketching. I think my main issue is probably: what am I doing and why? (In terms of what to draw/how to draw it)… especially with distilling information into diagrams, and then making those diagrams architecture. I think I’m really confused about those parts of logic and organization and concepts becoming forms, but not losing their meaning. Hope I may have clarified my question?
        Thanks again,

  4. Hi Lee,

    How ironic as I just started writing a new blog post on this same topic- only, in my case the lease space was already built-out and I was being asked to “hurry up and do the drawings so we can get a Certificate of Occupancy and move our tenants in.”. You can read that rest of what happened when I post it this week.

    I think it’s challenging to educate the client who is new to the process. It’s less excusable when you’re dealing with a client who has been through the building department process and supposedly knows how long it takes for projects to be reviewed per all applicable codes. And that doesn’t even yet broach the topic of code interpretation which can lead to further changes and subsequent reviews before any permits are issued.

    Thanks for saying it like it is!


  5. Ted Rusnak says:

    Thanks Lee. The four most common words I’ve been hearing since I got into this business and the ones that I can least tolerate and you turn them into a topic. Nice.
    (And regretfully your observations are spot on).

  6. “I’ve found that being thorough is more important than being quick.”

    Thanks Lee for this insight….I agree.

    Some projects take less than a week to execute due some ‘small’ relative size of projects in a solo practitioner studio. This does not diminish the ‘time’ it takes verify the program, verify the site conditions, develop the design, comply with the code, prepare the energy code compliance, check the drawings, write the specifications, include the notation, write the project description, submit the project to governing authority, obtain a permit, communicate with the project representative, prepare an invoice, collect the payment, keep the client happy at all times for another project sometime, and keep everyone else happy too !

    It truly requires concentration, with a curious spatial isolation to allow the mistake free publication to emerge on time, on budget. A solo practitioner is more than a jack of all trades, s/he is a Master of Material Existence. The Creator may have envisioned the universe in less than a week too, but alas It thought through the details, yes ?

  7. Congrats on your to the point dialog.
    Im currently doing SEO improvements on my site, and the SEO people have a lot to say about resolving our typical problems online. It’s done with “keywords and funnels and the 5 steps to a goal conversion” if you get the marketing speak.
    This blog is an excellent way to accomplish part of this. The SEO folk may say it needs to be linked to other step’s in the sale process on your website. A lot of the “education” of consumers is now done online before the sale, presuming your clients speak english and can read to an adequate level. Other languages are even possible too. I find this required reading comprehension is not always the case in Toronto where I practice, as a lot of clients are older and not at all computer savvy.
    To bring consumers up to a level where they can work with us, I think we owe them an opportunity to understand the “hire an architect” issues, in there own terms and in their own time. Im not yet comfortable with what I see is the OAA’s emphasis on our “just trust me” approach. When I buy a service I expect to have a way of reading the manual, and not just get a confusing fee schedule by the AIBC. Yes there are guides online, but I feel the public does’t yet trust us to the extent they have to, to believe in them. Isn’t that a central point of your blog? How to establish the trust.
    I know I don’t have the time to “educate” clients, under our fee schedule, not once but every time, with little repeat work. Doctors don’t so it. Car mechanics don’t either.
    Client’s need to see youtube videos that they can find and understand, by a recognized authority and friend. Homes on Homes can do this for the construction industry, and I think we also need an equally accessible series to promote the good relations and proper methods made manditory here, in Ontario, by our government. Homes even has an article online about us architects, rather well written by his research team.
    As I do the basic keyword research in Market Samurai, I find that the great and growing internet engines are not asking questions about design, but about where the pain is. This is typical in today’s searches. That is how I found you, the “architect fees” keyword. “Architect tips” also works. Our industry blogs seem dedicated more to our own design interests, not our market’s interests. How then, can we complain about low fees? Is this a gentleman’s architects game, and clients are patrons under a noblesse oblige to the arts? If Apple computers can focus on design, competition, user needs, and apply a non-negotiable price, so can others.
    Your post here is a good step toward what people care about. But we know our client’s pains, and we yet don’t have a mechanism to heal and prevent all the injuries we all suffer in the design and construction process.
    I’d like to say there are answers today for these old problems, just a click away.

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