Don’t rush the process (or the architect) or why good architecture should be like a pint of Guinness…

Architecture is a funny old game and ideally should fit outside of the normal business rules of deadlines and having to meet them.

Now we’ve all had deadlines and can remember working ‘all nighters’ to get things done at college and even once or twice actually in ‘real work’. But, to achieve great results the process (or the architect) shouldn’t be rushed; and as the title post says; think of good architecture as a slowly and carefully pulled pint of Guinness that’s then left to settle to perfection before consumption.

This ‘slow architecture’ gives benefits at every stage of the process, from the design to the construction information and on to the build and completion:

Design:

A good design doesn’t occur by happen-chance, and it doesn’t happen instantly. You may only see the finished product but the architect will have gone through many, many iterations before what you see has resulted. And these iterations take time. Time to explore each idea, time to analyse the pros and cons of each alternative, time for the architect to truly understand what you are looking for and what you want to achieve.

Now obviously the architect still needs to get the work done within a reasonable timescale and there’s a fine line between fine-tuning a design and going over and over the design ad-continuum.

The great and award winning Australian architect Glenn Murcutt follows exactly this principle:

“Murcutt admits that he puts off designing as long as possible, to give the project time to mature in his mind.”

Planning

The next stage on is to get the planning application in; again slow and considered are the operative words.

Before your planning application is even considered by the planning officer (in Ireland) the submission information needs to undergo a rigorous validation procedure. This procedure has been scorned at in the past over their ridiculous reasons for invalidation; from omitting a north point of a drawing (the drawing was an elevation!) to the failure of including the correct fee (and then returning the cheque with the invalid application!).

Needless to say, if you rush this process and hastily submit your planning application without rigorously pre-checking it’s validity then you can be liable to additional delays and costs (it can take up to 5 weeks to validate an application and you will need to resubmit the planning notice in the paper (not free!).

Production Information:

So you’ve got your planning permission and you’re ready to build. Let’s get cracking then…

Not so fast, you now need an excellent set of drawings, schedules, specifications and details that leaves no stone unturned or any bolt untightened in ensuring that every single piece of information is included in order for your builder to price accurately. And yes, you’ve guessed it, this takes time.

Why take your time at this stage? If you miss anything out then the contractor can claim the missing item as an additional, extra expense and your budget needs to be adjusted accordingly.

On site:

So you’ve chosen your contractor (based on the excellent tender information described above); let’s crack on with building. Again, not so fast.

The construction is also a process that needs to be carefully considered. Many people misunderstand the role of the architect at this stage; surely the builder can just crack on and build what the architect has drawn without his/her input?

With every good design there needs to be some underlying ‘idea’ that hinges everything together and it’s the architects job to ensure this ‘vision’ is held throughout the entire process and this includes during the construction phase. It’s very easy for a builder to build the easiest thing possible to get the job done but you need to ask yourself does this solution add to or demean the design; it’s the architects role to inspect and certify throughout the construction process and if problems do occur on site; the builder, architect and structural engineer need to work as a team in order to solve the details and build ‘the vision and idea’. And yes, you’ve guessed it, this takes time; and it doesn’t happen with the occasional flying visit from the architect.

So there you go, why architecture should be like a slowly pulled and longing-fully settled pint of Guinness. Now enjoy…

Comments as always welcome…

7 thoughts on “Don’t rush the process (or the architect) or why good architecture should be like a pint of Guinness…

  1. I loved this post! I always feel in uni that 2 or 3 weeks per project isn’t enough time to think about what I want to design. Obviously in practice you’re considering far more than I ever have had to so far, but still, it would be nice to be able to mull things over 🙂 I’ve just started a very small architecture blog, and I’m also from Ireland, Id really appreciate it if you could have a little look see, and let me know how i could improve! Just click on my name 🙂

    1. Many thanks for the comment, well done on starting a blog and stick at it. If you’re UK based I bought an excellent WordPress book/magazine in WH Smiths when I was in London last week which I would highly recommend to fine tune it, looking good so far.

      Mark

  2. Great post, Mark.

    I think architectural work and construction in general will always be under time and cost pressures. It’s just the nature of the beast. Get the maximum amount of value for the lowest cost.

    So any ideas on how we might square this particular hole. Does it require the adoption of new processes like Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) or something completely new?

    This is a serious lack of radical Innovation in architecture and construction in general and trying to address the issue as you outlined in your post will require radical thinking and implementation.

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