Tell me a story and I’ll design you a house

Posted by on Nov 14, 2017 in Architecture

Tell me a story and I’ll design you a house

One of the most important stages of a building project is the briefing process. Somehow, everything that is spinning around in the mind of a client has to be transferred into the mind of the Architect who they now tentatively realise they need to engage with in some shape or form. Although this information will include ideas or even a vague notion of what is needed it will ultimately and often subconsciously be based around a life time accumulation of experiences; negative and positive, exciting and dull, practical and impractical, useful and useless, empowering and obstructive. Whilst no doubt conceived with good intentions and often with much care and attention to detail, ideas are a hindrance to the design process. They immediately constrain, causing misguided misconceptions as to where the ideas have come from. Architects are not cheap, certainly not the good ones so it make perfect sense to leave them to the ideas. It’s what a client pays for and it’s what Architects excel at. Why pay for someone to design your dream home telling them exactly what you need and how it should look. If that’s your brief, find someone who is good at technical drawing.

Architects don’t want ideas. Problems are better. Above all they want to tap into this lifetime library of knowledge that only you carry. A brief as a column of 3 lists, “things I need”, “things I like” and “things I dislike” work to a point but even this is limiting. To design exactly what a client needs (not “What they want” for even this can be wrong) the Architect needs to dig deeper and there is no better approach than by listening to stories.

Tell me about your family, your friends and those who you spend time with. Recall your most exciting holidays, the places you steel yourself away to during those free weekends. What’s life really like on a Monday morning as you and the rest of the household get ready for work and school. I don’t care what colour you want your bedroom painted, I am more interested in the pictures on your wall, the books on your bookshelves and your iTunes collection. I want to come round for a coffee, to see how you make it and what brand you use. I want to listen intently to your lifetime of stories. Only then will I design you a house.

David Johnson