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From the Architect's Desk



In From the Architect's Desk

By lthomas

Too Many Cooks?

On 11, Feb 2016 | In From the Architect's Desk | By lthomas

What happens to a project when there are no clear lines of responsibility between the architect, interior designer, kitchen designer, lighting consultant and landscape designer? When there is a great team, but no team leader?

Fortunately for me personally this is not a common occurrence. Typically we are first onboard with a project. When I receive a call from a prospective client I see it as part of my job to advise on the scope of work, help put together the team, and be the “general” of the schedule until a contractor is selected and the design documents are handed off. Although I insist on a decent survey by a licensed land surveyor, I begin the rough concept design as the sole “designer.”

From my perspective, the architect should not only complete the design of the architectural/structural components, but also conceptually design the interior built-ins, the kitchen and baths, and the porches, terraces, decks and primary pathways to the home.  [The First Outdoor Room] Truthfully, most architects prefer to even select the fittings and hardware, leaving the soft furnishings and fabrics to an interior designer. We also not only want to design the lighting ‘concept,’ but to help select the decorative fixtures if possible. In this way the entire design is ‘cut from the same cloth;’ a singular concept and design permeates the entire project.

Typically, however, at one point or another along the line, other design professionals and consultants are brought into the fold as part of the project team. A fully orchestrated design team will help bring forth a great project. That said, there are times that there are just too many designers moving in too many directions and multiple tangents—or as is often said, too many cooks in the kitchen.

We have worked on projects where we are left not knowing who is responsible for what. Our drawings are covered in notes saying, “Design by Others” or “Verify with Owner.”  I know from experience that the contractor just loves that. The design easily becomes fragmented, additive and not cohesive. Unnecessary problems and questions arise like, “Does the crown molding continue to the ceiling in the kitchen or is the kitchen designer picking that up with the cabinets?” Or, “Whoopsie!- does the medicine cabinet hit the bathroom sconce mounted above it when it is opened? Oh no!”

A team effort does work, but someone has to be in charge and responsible for the coordination necessary.

I love this description from a recent forum on architecture and design:

What is needed is an “appointed benevolent dictatorship of good taste. A Governor-General of Design….”

Unfortunately, without this “Governor General of Design,” the owner or contractor or perhaps, worse still, nobody gets left with this job. That’s when there are suddenly too many cooks and no executive chef to run the kitchen. The architect is perhaps the one person with the broad-based knowledge needed to orchestrate the process. The architect is uniquely trained to know the right consultant to add at just the right time so that when each team member brings in his or her expertise, it’s at the moment when they’ll contribute to the best possible outcome for the client and project. Voila—Teamwork!