A second guest article by architect Peter Tout of Castlepeake , as Robert continues his holiday.

The Brief – Virtually the single most important part of the design process. Balance the need to inspire and excite a creative mind with establishing clearly identifiable limits and boundaries. Write a concise two pages, the first noting your physical requirements of the house , the second the more hard to define emotional and aesthetic vision.

If you don’t write it clearly, then take time with your architect to analyze, debate and refine the brief and your personal expectations from it, then you are heading for trouble. More importantly, if your architects do not demand from you, this disciplined approach to defining the scope of the project, then they are not doing their job and the whole process is off to a poor start that may not recover.

Remember at the beginning of the process it doesn’t matter a toss what sort of taps you want or what stone you want on the bench tops. That will come later. What really matters are the conceptual decisions about site planning, form , scale, orientation and budget that must be established and got right from the very beginning. A talented designer presented with a well considered brief will, on most occasions, produce a wonderful result

Enjoy the design process. This should be the fun part where creative minds working together develop a wonderful design. It truly is a joy when it works and an informed client feels that they are part of the creation of their own house and have in effect signed off on the major conceptual decisions because they feel they have had a part in their formation. The best clients get the best projects and the opposite is also true.

Demand your architect produces a model. Nothing displays better than a well executed model of the potential final result. Many clients can look at drawings all day and not understand them, many can read them but have no idea of the scale implied on the drawings, but virtually all can understand a model. It must be an integral part of the design process and the ultimate presentation to the Council and neighbours. Also demand detailed furniture plans. I am amazed at the number of plans I see without any furniture drawn, it seems to me an arrogant fashion that I constantly warn against.

Do not delude yourself. There is far too much delusion by both clients and architects in many processes. Figures don’t lie. Don’t think you can build any cheaper than everyone else, there are only a few concrete suppliers and brick suppliers in Sydney. They nominate the price and that is it. The poor old builder is mostly a price taker who tries to make a margin at the end on top of all of these costs imposed on him from suppliers and sub-contractors..

Do not think you can outsmart your neighbours or the Council. In Mosman they are just as likely to be smarter and better connected than you are. Work within the rules and get clever in how to get the most with the least and to exploit the opportunities within the rules.

Do not think problems inherent in the design will go away, they wont and they will get worse . Drawings are only that, an aid to an end result. It is far better for all involved if the drawing is changed when it can be, and not during construction. Don’t be afraid to say “ look I know what you are trying to achieve here Mr Architect , but it doesn’t suit me , can we look at another option please “. That is the design process, constantly refining good ideas and discarding the bad ones that don’t survive the process of analysis and review.

Don’t be a hands off client who says “ Oh’ I leave all that to the architect “ or “I’m too busy to worry about all that “ as an excuse for not knowing what is going on. This kind of client is heading for trouble. The process is too serious and too difficult for you to not be well informed at every step of the way or you will get some horrible surprises at some stage. Surprises such as when the approval is received, Condition 37 states you have to move the side wall in one metre and you didn’t know about it because it was negotiated at 10.30 pm on the Monday night Council meeting in your absence.

Hope those few tips make for a more enjoyable and successful project for you. There are many, many more, perhaps next time Robert goes away we can explore them further.

Peter Tout

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