Every project could benefit from an architect, at least that’s a belief many or most architects hold.
It doesn’t take much imagination to grasp that a team of architects (and a host of other professionals) are required to realize a school or a hospital or some other large structure.
Many understand that one might (or should) consider an architect for a house or a small business renovation, yet they might not consistently expect it. There is certainly a scalar shift between a bathroom addition and a university academic building, but architects take on both of these.
Scale to the architect is addressed, but more importantly is the scale to those who live or work in the buildings or at least experience them in some way. People do relate differently to a house than a skyscraper. Seriously, they just do.
To me as a practitioner
Perception – All people can relate to anything residential and most to the small commercial projects done by my office. Most can relate to a restaurant, apartment or small retail outfit. Why? It’s because these are part of most of our normal lives. I enjoy that my buildings are closer to the size of a person than the size of… say …a battleship. I believe people can understand what’s behind my work better if they can relate to it in the first place.
Personality – My personality is one of…control. Yes, I said it. I am so particular about my work, that I like, need, demand (you choose) to be familiar, if not intimate with all aspects of it. I am as particular about the corner details as I am the overall concept or gesture. I’ve never worked in a large office or on a very large building, but I know from fellow colleagues and friends who do that they don’t know everything about their projects. They can’t. They share the tasks with the team. I’m all for teamwork, but I have to know all of the details. I just do.
Practical – The larger the project, the larger the set of drawings, the larger the sheet size of the drawings and the more of everything. The output of my work is typically done on 11″ x 17″ sheets during the early design phase and the construction drawings are 24” x 36” sheets. I did one project last year on 30” x 42” and that aspect was annoying. I can also lift a set of my drawings as opposed to the set(s) of drawings required for a large project that are the same size and weight as a tree trunk. In specific terms, my last few drawing sets have been as little as 5 or 6 sheets, but often closer to 30 or 40 sheets of drawings. I do have a small 350 square foot addition under construction that has 17 sheets of drawings, but that’s because of the control-freak, detail-obsessed nature of my person.
To others who experience small projects
Comprehension – Simply put, one can see most of the space or building simply by standing in it or in front of it. This allows them to understand the whole to the parts more easily. I can’t say the average person consciously apprehends that, but it is possible. In one glance, one can get it. To do this with a large building, one has to be hundreds of yards away if not in an airplane above it.
Identification – It’s always pleasant to hear comments about my work from someone when they can respond to a living space or restaurant or even just a building façade. They most likely have a living room with which they can compare qualitatively, they’ve likely been to a restaurant at least once (in some cases once a week) and I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t stood in front of a building at least once. The building is certainly bigger than they are, but it’s not necessarily bigger to other spaces that are familiar to them. It’s easy to make a comparison, assessment, then in turn a judgment.
Appreciation – I’ll admit my reasoning might sound backwards to some. It’s easier, in my opinion, to appreciate the work and role of a creative when one can somewhat grasp what it is they’ve done. Even I don’t understand how architects and engineers create skyscrapers and I really don’t understand architects like Gehry Partners and others who use sophisticated software like CATIA to create complex geometric structures. It’s so mysterious because it’s so far from me. Even though most of my clients don’t completely get what I do, they can begin to grasp it a bit tighter due to the reasons previously stated. That doesn’t mean they automatically think they can do it (you’re chuckling…because some do), but it isn’t far from their ability to imagine it. I can somewhat grasp how medical professionals can understand how and when to give my son antibiotics when he had strep throat, but I’ll never understand how doctors can perform brain surgery on someone using microscopic tools. I appreciate both, but the latter is too far from comprehension.
I had opportunities to pursue working at larger firms therefore, larger projects. I just think it’s my nature or my calling to work at this level right now. One thing I have learned is never say never.
Next topic – detail.
All work depicted (c) lee CALISTI architecture+design