Having failed the first time in hiring a (ahem) competent architect, we’ve turned to what the American Institute of Architects has to say on the subject. And while this is like walking into a den of vampires to ask directions to the local plasma donation center, the advice seems solid. In short [with editorial adds]:
1. Define your needs and goals [and budget].
2. Develop a list of architects based on projects you like [that are within your goals and budget] and recommendations from others.
3. Contact the firms to see if they are available and interested in your project [at your budget; I’ve found that they will ask if you don’t offer]; if they are, ask for promotional/informational materials [this seems old skool in this age of the interwebs; I checked out web pages and googled for third-party articles/comments].
4. Reduce your list to two to three top candidates.
5. Interview and [hopefully] select!
One of the things you are assessing at the interview is the chemistry. For example, if you are screaming at each other within 15 minutes of meeting, you may not be a good fit… Does the architect listen to what you have to say? How does the architect respond to your comments and design preferences? Does he offer you delicious cookies? I’d suggest meeting at the architect’s office so you can see where the magic happens and, perhaps, meet other people that may be involved in your project. You also need to remember that the architect is also interviewing you to decide whether or not to take you on as a client. He wants to see if you have realistic expectations, if your design preferences are compatible with his, and whether or not you talk with your mouth full while eating his delicious cookies. For a humorous take on interviewing clients from a real live architect, check out this post at the most excellent blog Life of an Architect (perhaps we need to stop talking about wanting a catio…).
Questions the AIA suggests you ask potential architects includes:
1. When would you be able to start on the project?
2. Who will work on the project [If it’s a large firm, the “big guy” may be the one that woos and then delegates the project to someone else in the office; you want to make sure you get along with whomever has the lead on the project.]
3. What is your design philosophy? [If he only wants to build yurts and you don’t want a yurt, you might reconsider the architect (or not wanting a yurt).]
4. What is your design approach? [How and when are you involved in the process, how is budget considered during the process, what are the deliverables, how long does this whole mess take.]
5. What are your fees?
After you’ve winnowed down the list to one, you may want to ask for references/former customers and talk to them. As a pseudo-introvert, I’m not real keen on calling folks up to yap with them about the architect. Besides, the architect is going to give you the ones that love him (unless he’s totally clueless…), so I’m not sure what you learn. You could also ask for a list of the architect’s last three clients. But again, unless he is a rabid blogger, how do you know that he hasn’t skipped over a few folks? (For example, something tells me we’re not going to be getting calls from potential clients of The Architect).
For more info:7 Essential Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Architect