The Role of the Architect

Post written by Simon Droog. Follow him on Twitter.

Image by Royalty-Free/Corbis

I’ve been following a very interesting topic on pushpullbar.com on Physiology and psychology in Architecture and a member named Sudark posted a very intriguing question. I thought I’d share his ideas with you, followed by some of my personal thoughts on the subject. Here’s what sudark posted:

Great topic, and I have also been interested in the participation of the end users in the design process. I think the answer to this lies in that thin line which defines how much we ought to listen to and follow clients/end users. At the extreme end of the scale, where we just do what the client wants, we then become merely draughtsmen of their ideas. And at the other end, where we do what we want, whether for the clients benefit or not, no matter the cost, we become deluded dictators. So there lies a line inbetween these two where we ought to find balance. Just to throw in more fuel to the fire, I dont believe the client/customer is always right. Sometimes they are, but other times, they dont see the whole picture. We are here to show them the way by which things could be better.

Originally Posted by sudark

Interesting point, sudark!

I see the architect in two different roles. He/she needs to be able to fulfill both of them:

Architect as interpreter

I totally agree with you that we need to find balance in how much we listen to the client/end users. I believe that we as architects are responsible for interpreting/translating the wishes, needs and concerns of the client and/or end user. The interpertation of these concerns will be the foundation for the design.

Architect as manager

The quality of the architect lies in being able to keep overview of the whole design, a quality that clients/end users often lack. This sometimes means convincing the client and/or the end users that some solutions are better than others. Never blindly follow them. The architect needs to stay critical. We need to keep in mind, though, that client and end user are not always the same person. If so, they both require a very different approach.

Good communication skills are essential! As an architect, you should be able to speak the language of both the client/end user and the contractor/builder.

These are just my 2 cents about the role of the architect.

How would you guys describe the thin line that defines how much we ought to listen to and follow clients/end users?

If you have something to contribute about the role of the architect – please leave a comment below, join our discussion at Physiology and psychology in Architecture or contact us by sending us an email.

3 thoughts on “How much should we listen to and follow clients/end users?

    1. @Joren: I just read your blog about user centered design. Interesting distinction between design as an art and user centered design. However, you mention that the distinction is never this clear in the real world. I would be interested to discuss possibilities with you to make some sort of synergy possible between the 2 different approaches.

  1. Architecture and the built environment is not only about the user, often we see architecture that is about the “viewer”, about the architect themselves, sometimes a building built for remembrance, or for “creating” history. I am not saying any of those is right or wrong, just that these purposes exist and denying their existence will not benefit anyone.

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