The architectural design process consists of five phases. As you begin working with an architect, or consider hiring one, it's helpful to know where you are in the process and where it will take you. An architect will orient you during each phase, and work with you to get the most value from each stage of the process. It's a time-tested method for establishing a close working relationship between you and your architect, and producing the very best buildings.
Phase 1: Originate
This first phase includes all of the discussions, thought, and exploration that lead to the moment when you realize you need to build something new. The phase ends with your decision to move forward with a project.
Phase 2: Focus
Here you define the project - its scope, features, purpose, and functionality. This is the time to select an architect and establish an owner-architect agreement. Together with your architect, you develop and refine a "vision" for the project. Your architect leads you through a "programming" exercise to help you explore the needs of those who will live, work or play in the space you create. You will identify the services you need from your architect, and the design team will begin to form a cohesive relationship and a shared concept for the final building.
Phase 3: Design
Once the requirements of the project are determined, the design phase begins. Your architect gives shape to your vision through drawings and written specifications. Your input into this phase is vital, as you get the first glimpses, and then a more defined look at how your building will take shape. It is important to establish a clear decision-making process with your architect during this phase. The design phase ends when you agree to the plans that will guide construction.
Phase 4: Build
The contractor who will construct your building becomes the most active member of the team during this phase. Investments are made in materials, and timetables are extremely important. Good communication within the project team is critical, as the need for changes often arises. This is typically the time of highest stress for the project owner. Your architect will discuss changes and options with you, and ensure that alterations are compatible with your vision for the project.
Phase 5: Occupy
This phase beings the day the project is up and running and never really ends. It's where your satisfaction with the project is determined. If you are turning over the project to others who will ultimately use it, good communication during that process is important. Your architect can help ensure that the terms of your building contract were met, and can use the experience of this project to inform future work, should you team together again. For these reasons, it's a good idea to maintain a relationship with your architect.
About the author: David Kim, AIA, is an architect and the 2017 chair of AIA's Retail and Entertainment Knowledge Community.