10 Things they don’t teach you at Architect’s School:1.Most projects don’t go ahead

I’ve seen this topic posted by a couple of other architects and thought I’d add my 2 cents worth, it’s also been a while since my last blog (sounds like confession, sorry), so here goes, number one of ten:

1. Most of the projects you work on will never go ahead and if they do, someone else will probably be the architect.

I’m not talking here about architectural competitions where the vast majority of architects will be losers but instead the projects for whatever reason and whatever stage just don’t go any further.

I was awakened to this fact in my first year out of practical experience where after working for weeks on the refurbishment and restoration of a large Victorian house, the project architect informed me to stop working on the drawings as the developer had changed his mind about the job and was looking at another project instead. What! My lovely design and drawings will never get built! Wake up and smell the coffee lad, the reasons why this happen are plentiful, here are a few, some of which particularly relevant to the current economic climate:

* Redundancy
* Unable to sell property in order to build
* Divorce or splitting up
* Act of God, yes seriously
* Trying to fit a pint into a quart pot
* Sums don’t stack up
* Death (sad but still ends a project)
* Change of job
* Decision to get drawings done by retired woodwork teacher (fictitious) rather than lovely design, construction and management by qualified and registered architect
* Unease taking on project due to current economic climate & risk of redundancy, business failure etc…

What’s amazing is that a project can end at any stage for any of these reasons, even when you’ve received the planning permission the project can still grind to a halt. Whatever the reason, that project ain’t happenin’ and you’ll learn early on in your career that it’s just a fact of architectural life.

But what can be done about it? I hear you ask. Absolutely nothing, it’s a simple fact that architects have to live with and it would be too depressing to work out the percentages.

That being said, the work put into a project needs to be paid for and it’s also one of the reasons why I ask for an upfront retainer from my clients before the project commences.

I would love to hear from other architects why projects have halted, please feel free to comment and disagree strongly if you think what I’ve said is crap!

Below is work in progress of job that did go ahead!


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7 thoughts on “10 Things they don’t teach you at Architect’s School:1.Most projects don’t go ahead

  1. Unfortunately I have never felt that comfortable asking for a retainer when I’m pitching for work but I’m going to make more of an effort to as it cuts out a lot of potential hassle down the line and has the effect of weeding out the serious people from the messers. We have had some serious problems with people instructing lots of man/woman hours of work and then disappearing when it comes to paying.

    1. Make the effort, it’s the only way I work now. The feeling that ‘ah sure it’s only a few lines on paper’ when there’s hours of hours of work put in can occur. The retainer gives a bit of safety, sorts out the messers and shows how committed the client is to the project.

    2. Also, remember RIAI Part III lecture where lecturer said that at beginning either the client has to put a little bit of money in (the show of commitment) or the architect works for nothing – why should you work for nowt if there’s a risk of the project dying for reasons beyond your control

  2. My sister has a phrase that seems particularly suited for this post:
    “Everyone has to have some skin in the game”

    I have incorporated this phrase whenever I am speaking to anyone about the process of working with an architect. The project is typically better when everyone takes an active role in the process and at the very beginning, that retainer represents the clients involvement.

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