Learning from mistakes #Architalks

This post is part of the ArchiTalks series where a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. The Topic ‘Leader’ for this post ‘Learning from mistakes’ is Steve Ramos:

Before I write any of these #Architalks posts I always do a little research and see what others have said before me on the same topic and lo-and-behold – the grandmaster of blogging BobBorson has already written a similar post on his ‘Life of an Architect’ blog entitled: Architects Don’t always get it right

So what can an architect possibly get wrong? Here are a few anecdotes & comments:

• I like Bob’s post above when he explains that “It’s possible that what I call mistakes are really esoteric judgement calls”. These ‘judgement calls’ are usually things where you are deciding when one thing looks better than another. You hope that when you advise a client on which way they should go then they take your advice but frequently I look at something where I have tried to explain when something will look better than what the clients decide; and more often than not when I return to the property I have to zip my lip.

• Probably my first big experience of getting something wrong as an architect was in my first job after college (where incidentally you know nothing after 3 or 4 years) and I was preparing a set of construction drawings for the builder to construct a new house.

My boss stipulated that the drawings should be ‘to the Building Regulations’ (to ‘Code’ for you US readers) so that’s what I did when I drew a staircase at 850mm wide and then left a gap of 850mm between a wall and a beam for the staircase to fit.

How was I to know that the staircase the builder was going to buy was 900mm! Well experience would; especially when you know that you don’t give dimensions exactly to the masonry without leaving room to manoeuvre & fit the object and also allowing for plaster.

How did my boss deal with this? Well 1. He didn’t shout at me. 2. He explained my error in order that I didn’t make it again and then 3. He put the builder in his place that he should have checked the dimensions prior to constructing the gap and buying the staircase.

• Possibly the biggest ‘mistake’ that architects can make is not including EVERYTHING that is required in the construction. Now, to include EVERYTHING is very difficult. It’s a lot of things that need to be thought about and then included. It requires that the client really understands what they need, to communicate that to the architect and then check that it is included on the drawings. So what do I do when the client says to me “I thought we had included x,y,z on the drawings and why is the builder asking for more money” or when the builder says “x,y,z wasn’t included as it wasn’t on your drawings” or worse still when x,y,z are actually on the drawings but the builder says “Ah, we didn’t price for that, our price was for a,b,c” (this last one can be frustratingly common in Ireland). My reply is simple:

“Yes you’re right; that isn’t on the drawings – as it’s something extra then obviously it wasn’t included in the price and needs to be paid for by you, the client”

But where are the biggest mistakes that an architect can make? The answer is simple and it’s surprising – By being too helpful:

The architect is not paid to be helpful. He/She is paid to do a professional job and if that means that it will cost the client additional money then so be it. The moment the architect becomes too helpful and try to save the client money (on something that is required by the way) then it will come back and bite you.

I have written more about ‘Being too helpful’ in my book ‘Architect Like a Star’ which you can buy as en-ebook or paperback – HERE

The conclusion of this is that building its a difficult, complex and can be stressful – it’s imperative that the client, architect and contractor work as a team to minimise these errors and omissions, to try and look-ahead for force any future problems and then try and work together to resolve any such ‘challenges’.

And if I genuinely do make a mistake then as the image says I’ll apologise, admit my error and then learn not to make the mistake again.

And don’t forget what Frank Lloyd Wright said about mistakes: “A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.”

Comments welcome and click below for links on how other ‘Architalkers’ have interpreted this theme:

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
some kind of mistake

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Archi-scar – That Will Leave a Mark!

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Learning from Mistakes

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Learning from mistakes in architecture

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
“Learning from Mistakes…”

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Forgotten Mistakes

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Are Architects Experts?

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
A, B, C, D, E…

Steve Mouzon – The Original Green Blog (@stevemouzon)
How Living Traditions Learn From Mistakes

photo credit: deeplifequotes Maturity–apologizing-when-you’re-at-fault.-Admitting-your-mistakes via photopin (license)

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