I think it’s fair to say that there is a distinct difference between designing a building and the physical construction of one. And I love to design buildings.
In my own personal practice, I find that working on historic buildings is like designing missing pieces to a puzzle. Designing the renovation of 1304 N. Ritchie Court took me several months. It was an arduous process, which ultimately came down to making the best decisions for the future of the existing structure. In the end, I had thirty-two pages of a drawing set in which I had drawn every single line.
After the initial architectural drawings were completed, I sent them to consultants for review. With the renovation of 1304 N. Ritchie Court, I have been working with both a mechanical and a structural engineer. During this coordination process, they made suggestions. I made changes. We went back and forth. Once their work was coordinated with my drawings, I sent the drawings out to several contractors for bidding.
And now I wait.
The process of bidding and construction administration relies upon close relationships between architect, owner, and contractor. I have had many trying experiences with contractors, the majority of which stemmed from issues with the drawings. The contractor does not always read them through entirely, and the architect, while not legally responsible for means and methods, does not always take constructability into account. Additionally, as the owner traditionally holds the contract for both the contractor and the architect, there is no formal relationship between the contractor and the architect that legally ensures that they will both work in one another’s best interest.
My company, AKB Works, is in pursuit of a different approach. As both the owner and the architect, I am trying to unite the gap between architect and contractor by changing the relationship. My goal is to produce better work by working closer with the contractor to better execute my designs.
The compilation of a thorough construction bid takes time. A good contractor will take time to first familiarize him/herself with the drawing set, and then with the actual property. I have walked several contractors through Ritchie Court, and I have learned something new from each one. Surprisingly, I like this process. However, now I have to wait for their bids. The bids will then have to be reviewed, commented upon, and negotiated before a contract can be signed and permits applied for.
During these waiting periods, it is important to remember that the job of an architect encompasses more than just the design of buildings. While we as architects are not as well trained for these other aspects of the profession (don’t even get me started on insurance or accounting…), the more that architects involve themselves in the entire building process, à la the master builders of old, the closer that the building will turn out to be what was originally envisioned.
And so I wait.