Factors Outside the Influence of the Architect

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In this paper, I focus on the factors outside the architects influence the project today mostly. Considering the whole process of project, I think that the most impotent outside factor is the client. He or she gives architects all kinds of requirements such as brief, cost, time, quality etc. and make architects achieve these aims. The details of the positive and negative aspects of these influences are discussed in later sections.

Architecture trade, in commercial analysis, is service trade. Clients employ architects to complete design and pay them. Then architects achieve the project. It is the simplest process of one project. As the origin of the process, clients are the most important outside factor which impact the project. However, architecture trade also belongs to cultural industry. Designers have responsibility to show something meaningful. So when clients’ requirements meet architects’ thinking, conflict between architects and clients may be unavoidable. What actually happened on the conflict? In the follows essay, I focus two aspects, design brief and requirements, to demonstrate the impact.

At first, the effects of design brief are discussed. In fact, brief is clients’ desire. It tells designers what clients want or not. In most case the concept of one project is born from the design brief which helps designers make sure the direction of project as well. So the impact of design brief may runs throughout the whole process of design. It means brief might decide one building’s function, style even aesthetic form. For instance when clients need a train station, architects cannot do a school; when clients desire a countryside style house, architects cannot do a modernism house. That is to say architects cannot do what they own want, ignoring client brief. Whereas, the questions that should architects only do project to meet clients, and should form follows architects or clients, confuse designers a lot. From the point where I stand, Architects should never simply satisfy with clients’ demands without their own thinking. They need to use their own way to annotate the design brief rather than just copying it. Richard McCormack who is former RIBA president wrote in his introduction to the art process exhibition in 1993, “successful design transcends expectation.” (Ralph Morton, David Jaggar, 1995:19)

As far as the impact of design brief. The negative aspect is that the brief normally cannot be decided at once it will be changed with the development of project. In most case, architects may give their professional suggestions to optimize design brief. So often has to evolve to cope with changes in circumstances as the project develops. It is not easy for them to seek to answer needs and aspirations that are both mundane and poetic (Anderson,Jane, 2011:64). Though brief may cause some challenges, in my opinion, it brings more positive impact on building design. It is hard for architects to design project without brief. Actually, if the whole process is compared to one journey, design brief is our compass which leads to the direction. What architect need to do is respect design brief and then transcend it.

In second section, I focus on the clients’ requirements. These requirements include, cost, quality and time. These three elements make up a management triangle and interplay each other.

To begin with, costis a prime consideration. C.M.H.Barritt (1982:76) stated “budget stands for the maximum number that client can afford, or considers economically suitable.” The budget can limit architects in all aspects throughout the whole process, such as materials, facade, etc. So how to effectively use money is one pretty significant thing. Same as doing a math question, architects have to find the most value point. It requires designers balance various aspects and can control the rate at which money is spent.

C:\Users\newman\Desktop\Mies_van_der_Rohe_photo_Farnsworth_House_Plano_USA_1_副本.jpgMassive money cannot promise that one project must be perfect, but less money will be harder to support one fantastic design. For example if one client gives £1m to design a house and another one client give you £10,000 to do the same project, the result is obvious.

In most case, clients want to use minimal money to achieve more goals. It is a big challenge for architects. It means that architects may only scarify the quality to save money sometimes. On the other hand, once the cost is overspending, the whole process will be impacted. Even something worse happen. Take (designed and built between 1946 and 1951) for example, the primary budget increased by 50% from $40,000. It is due the fact that architect, Mies van der Rohe, only used the best materials and craftsmanship for his own need, ignoring the influence of the inflation attendant to the Korean War. With the development of construction, the relationship between Mies van der Rohe and Edith Farnsworth who was the client was broken gradually, although they probably had an affair. Finally Mies claimed Farnsworth owed him $28,173 and won the case. (Franz, Schulze, 1985:253-259)

C:\Users\newman\Desktop\搜ç‹-截图_2014-03-27_13-47-25.pngAs the matter of negative fact that most of clients actually do not know how much it will spent to satisfy with their aims. So it asked for architects to adjust client’s brief to control cost in a reasonable range (D. Jaggar, R. Morton, 1995:19). To sum up, I agree with the idea of C.M.H.Barritt (1982:76) that although design team usually feel not of very great because of considering cost limitation, they still need to know how much money can be allocated to the different components of the project so that each part can be design accordingly.

C:\Users\newman\Desktop\搜ç‹-截图_2014-03-27_13-47-44.pngTime is another crucial factor which impact project. Clients will give architects the time limitation for completing one building. Generally, a reasonable time limitation can be good to architects completing the project. But In most cases clients hope to minimise time. So in order to complete in time, designers may ignore some details. Even worse if architect cannot do the project as schedule, the results could be horrible. At first, the quality of project will be influenced when the time is too tight. Take Sochi Olympics for example, before opening some facilities are not completed, people can find some unfinished equipment such as urinals without pipe and extra shower hose. (As right pictures)

C:\Users\newman\Desktop\sochi\front-of-building2FP.jpgSecondly, as we all known, overspend always come together with overtime. Clients may be face with the serious financial problem that they need pay extra fees to support the whole team until the building is completed. For example, TheScottish Parliament Buildingunderwent 3 years delay and spirallingcostrose that roughly 10 times more expensive than original budget(Cohen, David, 2005:98), and

C:\Users\newman\Desktop\sochi\download.jpgThe Houses of Parliament suffered from a very serious overtime problem that it was 26 years late 5 times longer than expected and more than twice the expected cost (Cavendish, Richard, 2002:52). Moreover, in terms of some public buildings such as railway station, hospital and school etc. we must promise these projects are completed as schedule, we cannot let trains drive to construction site; students have lectures with steel and concrete; patients relax with dust. So how to effectively save time become pretty important. In order to avoid overtime, designers need to consider these things as follows;

  1. Prepare adequate money, materials, equipment and labour.
  2. Manage teamwork effectively
  3. Contact relevant departments

Only in this way can help architect reduce the risk of overtime and overcome the challenge of time limitation. In general, the impact of time limitation is pushing architects to do design, if the push power is suitable, it will positively stimulate architects do project. However, if the push power is too strong, it may influence the quality of constructions even lead to overtime and cause more problems.

In terms of quality, building code is one basic element. Building code is one way to test the building quality. It establishes pretty complete system to evaluate one project. The requirements that include thermal mass, waterproofing, fire protection etc. will restrain architects. It means that the projects which cannot meet the building code will not be achieved. To some degree, building code decides projects can be done or not. However, although the project satisfies with the building code, it just can be called “qualified”. Whereas, qualified is not means high quality. In order to improve the quality, architects also need to consider the safety of materials C:\Users\newman\Desktop\sochi\1ronan_point1_ready.jpgand technology. Actually, the materials we choose must last for a long time and suffer a lot of wear and weather (K.W. Smithies, 1981:31). Take Ronan Point for example, gas explosion caused a partial collapse of the structure that leaded to four people dead and 17 injured. Finally investigators astonishingly found that poor workmanship at the critical connections between the panels may be the real reason causing this issue. Subsequently, the issues of collapse directly lead to most countries have adopted structural integrity or “robustness” provisions (Pearson, C.; Delatte, 2005:172-177). In order to never allow the historical tragedy to happen again, people ought to pay more attention to improving technologies and materials. In fact, with the development of technologies and materials, the quality of projects increases proportionately. It is known to all, after the industry revolution a lot of new technologies and materials were invented. The dream of skyscraper was come true. Compared with traditional buildings, the new style construction improves building quality rapidly. These are the results of development of technologies and materials.

In my opinion, Architects must promise the quality of one project because it is the most basic requirement. Considering building code, architects sometime have to give up some amazing project. However, with more new materials and technologies are invented, architects can get more opportunities to achieve their fantastic and crazy design.

These factors cannot be separated, they interplay each other, if we change anyone, the balance will be broken and the project will be changed. So it requires architects consider these factors at the same time. D. Jaggar, R. Morton (1995:19) pointed out “as the brief is considered and developed, some idea of cost has to be established quickly.” For instance, when clients decrease cost, the project may delay and the quality may go off. If clients want to minimise time, the cost may increase and the quality may go off too. Furthermore, all these changes are unpredictable and the make the project out of control, finally these may cause all kinds of problems. So it requires the project has enough ‘space’ to suit these kinds of changes.

To sum up, Clients are not only the beginning of one project but also the end of one project. As the key stakeholder they reserve the right of final decision and the impact of clients’ requirements penetrated every aspect of design. Brief help architects make sure the aim and requirements decide design direction. Even though these requirements may cause challenges sometimes, they have more positive influence of project compared with negative influence. What architects should do is respect clients’ requirements and use their thinking to achieve more valuable design.


Cohen, David.(2005) ‘appallingly expensive and years late, yet bursting with dreamlike bravura, the Scottish Parliament may ultimately be EMBT and RMJM's bittersweet masterpiece’, Architectural record, 2005, 193(2): 98-111.

Cavendish, Richard. (2002) ‘State Opening of the New Houses of Parliament’, History Today, Nov2002, 52(11), 62.

Pearson, C.; Delatte, N. (2005) ‘Ronan Point apartment tower collapse and its effect on building codes’, Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities, May 2005, 19(2):172-177.

Morton, Ralph, Jaggar, David. (1995) design and the economics of building, London: spon.

Franz, Schulze. (1985) MIES VAN DER ROHE A Critical Biography, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Barritt, C.M.H. (1982) Architectural design and procedures, London: Longmans.

Smithies, K.W. (1981) principles of design in architecture, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Anderson,Jane (2011) architectural design, Lausanne: AVA Academia.