The Public Officials’ Guide to Hiring Architects


Architectural design projects for governmental agencies often have one thing in common: the persons in charge of selecting the architect are not completely familiar with the architectural design process.

Selection of an architect can be a long and complicated process and it can be an unhappy and unnecessarily expensive experience if the client and the architect are not a good match.

Ask the architects you are considering hiring these five questions and allow their answers to guide you toward making the right choice for your project.

1. Have you done similar work before?

And by similar we mean the same. If your project is a municipal building, has the architect recently completed design of municipal buildings? With codes changing regularly, you’ll want to make sure your architect has relevant experience in the past three years. There are plenty of architect s who can dazzle you with an extensive portfolio of impressive buildings. But if there are few municipal buildings among the representative projects, beware. Look at it this way-if you were going to have heart surgery would you want a surgeon who has an impressive portfolio of brain surgery or one who has successfully completed dozens of heart operations similar to yours?

2. Do you have references for similar work?

In the case of the heart surgeon mentioned above, if you discovered that none of his many patients survived the operation would he be your surgeon of choice? The same is true of architects. They should be eager to give you multiple references for similar work. They know good references will seal the deal quicker than anything they could say themselves. However, don’t just ask for references, call the references. Keep in mind, firms seldom use litigants as references, and that is perfectly acceptable. Architectural firms want you to talk with their best clients; the clients who love them. So if all the references are lukewarm, beware. Also be wary if the firm shows plenty of projects just like yours, but none of those projects are included in the references. It could be an oversight, so ask, but if the architect is unable to provide any references for relevant projects, run. Again, if you had a happy client who had just finished a project like the one you are pursuing, wouldn’t you be insisting the prospective client call the happy client?


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