In today's blog post, I asked Gaby Bordino to share some of her tips for working with private residential clients after we discussed this during a recent conversation together. Gaby works as an architect in Argentina and teaches at The University of Buenos Aires. Passionate about discussing all things architecture, I'm always so engaged and humbled to listen to the huge wealth of knowledge Gaby has to share about her passions and the profession. I have appreciated learning more about her work and different perspectives from Argentina and seeing and hearing just how generous she is with her students. Thanks, Gaby, for sharing your words in today's blog post.
work in progress - an unfinished project that is still being added to or developed.
let something sit - means to make an active choice not to engage a particular thought/feeling that may pop into your mind/body for a given amount of time
figure out the program - to know the scope of works or the configuration of the building/design
challenging preconceived ideas - change your mind or have your mind changed
analogy - a comparison between one thing and another, typically for explanation or clarification.
I´m an architect from Argentina. I´m passionate about my profession. Since graduation, I´ve developed my career in two main fields at the same time. Private practice (including people who need projects, renovations or assessments and professional colleagues who need construction documentation or council presentations; and teaching at University.
My interpretation of Juhani Pallasmaa leads me to believe that architecture is about people + spaces.
"The timeless task of architecture is to create embodied and lived existential metaphors that concretise and structure our being in the world. Architecture reflects, materialises and eternalises ideas and images of ideal life. Buildings and towns enable us to structure, understand and remember the shapeless flow of reality and, ultimately, to recognise and remember who we are. Architecture enables us to perceive and understand the dialectics of permanence and change, to settle ourselves in the world, and to place ourselves in the continuum of culture and time." The Eyes of the Skin - Juhani Pallasmaa
The tips I want to share with you are not strict rules. Instead, they come from my own experience, and I believe they will be useful for other professionals or students just beginning with their careers.
Listen. An essential part of a meeting should be listening to the clients and reading the underlying message of their words. Sometimes this might mean long pauses or waiting for them to respond.
Tip 2 Define the requirements of a project collaboratively. Collaboration is key. While some professionals ask for a list of things to consider from the clients, expecting to clarify the outcomes of a project, I prefer to figure out the program during the initial meetings. That allows me to check if I´m grasping all the needs and challenging my preconceived ideas. In a way, I'm asking them to visualise their thinking.
Involve all members of the family. That applies not only to actual families. It's important to know the needs of every person who will live/use the project in the future. While in a house design, you can even involve the kids (not only adults) and listen and talk carefully with them. Suppose you´re committed to designing a large building or even to take part in an urban design project. In that case, it´s essential to be prepared to know about the appreciations through other ways and means (meetings with different departments, surveys, etc.)
Use simple words to explain the project. Even if you´re trying to explain technical issues, be aware that the client might not be familiar with these concepts. If there´s no way to explain them differently, make comparisons with more common concepts to the clients. For example, link more known objects such as cars, technology, social media, books with the characteristics or important aspects of the project that you need to communicate and are challenging to express in simple words. Make comparisons or use analogies.
For example: Recently, with a client, I used the example with windows and cars. They wanted an old type of window that was nice. Still, it wasn't as efficient or effective because it wouldn't be airtight (it didn't efficiently insulate the interior from the exterior). So I made the comparison using a car to help them understand. I explained that you might like an old car as an antique, but if you use it every day, you must be aware that even if this old car is in a really good state of conservation, it wouldn´t be as efficient as a new one in terms of safety, pollution, driving performance, etc. As a result, the client was more informed and understood the points I was making to make a decision.
Talk about the things that you´ve already figured out in a project. Don´t bring what is still a work in progress or it's not resolved yet. Give yourself time to let it sit. Designs have different stages, and it´s important to talk about the main thing in each one of them. You will have time to get everything defined. Trust your capacity on this. After the conversation, you might feel better equipped to resolve the unresolved.
Ask for visual references. In my opinion, it's the best way to understand what they are trying to explain. Ask your clients to find photographs or images about what they consider their project has to have. Most of the time, they repeat words without visualising what they mean. Show your own references explaining why you consider they would be related to the project.
Be receptive and open. As architects, we are specialists in spatial management. But if we are designing a house, it´s really important to be receptive to how each family lives, without prejudices. They are the experts on how they live. We are facilitators of these needs through the management of spaces.
Final thoughts from Gaby
I focus on human beings, and I consider that Architecture requires a big dose of empathy and service vocation. I believe that every job, every client, every student is a challenge full of opportunities, and I'm keen and excited to work with them.
Desde mi experiencia, una gran parte de nuestra profesión es la comunicación. Sin una apropiada comunicación (con los clientes, constructores y gremios, instituciones, colegas y especialistas) nuestro trabajo no sería posible.
Tener la posibilidad de afianzar mi capacidad de comunicación en otro idioma, Inglés en este caso, me hizo valorarla aún más en mi propio idioma.
Thanks, Gaby for sharing your words and ideas. Follow ArchiEnglish @archienglishteacher on Instagram for more tips and strategies to help you with your English.