ARCHITECT MYTH #4: Speculative Design Work

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

In my article YOU DON'T NEED TO HIRE AN ARCHITECT, I present a rationale for hiring an architect and explain basically what you're getting when you engage an architect.

Today's misconception:

"I don't have a property selected yet, but I'll get an architect to make a design to inspire me."

Many people love window shopping. It's entertainment - a form of recreation. Browsing a clothing store, a bakery, or a car dealership lets you dream; you can imagine for a moment wearing that cute shirt out on a picnic or driving that sports car down an empty highway. Perusing the goods also informs you: it shows you in clear terms what's possible and more importantly what's available. Those possibilities draw you in - they make you want to buy.


Young woman window shopping

Generally when window shopping you also can see what things cost. Comparing prices, you establish a normalized range of what to expect to have to pay for what you want. Maybe the croissants at the new bakery are way too expensive. Maybe you could rationalize spending that much on the cute pair of casual open-toes.


Hand sketching in notebook
Sketching is one of the most honest forms of expression

It's understandable that you would approach the design of a house or any building the same way. You're looking for ideas, and an architect is a professional trained specifically to generate great ideas. Additionally, an architect can change those ideas and adapt them to your situation and to your personal taste. You may want to ask an architect to generate some rough ideas with minimal detail just to get you started on your design process. You may feel that as long as you're not asking for lavish renderings or for detailed technical drawings that you're not obligated to pay the architect since you can't actually use the material or show it off to others.



Most architects I've met enjoy designing -- it satisfies an inner compulsion. Still, it's work. The exercise of designing applies the knowledge and the skillset developed over many years of training and experience. Would you do your work for free? If you're not serious about a project and are looking only for free inspiration, you're wasting the architect's time. Would you ask a dear friend who lives far away to come visit if you didn't plan to set aside time to spend with that friend? Have you ever been stood up on a date - cleared your schedule and showed up at the agreed time and place - only to learn that the other person wanted to have his/her options open?



Lightbulb in thought bubble
Turn an idea into reality

If you're looking just for inspiration, look online. There's pinterest, Google Images, stock images websites, and luxury real estate videos. Go for a drive, watch travel videos or any of the many home renovation TV shows or online magazines dedicated to design. If you do commit to moving ahead with a project, your architect will want and will in some way need to see your design inspiration


You may also want to ask an architect - or several architects - for ideas to assess a probable cost for your project. If you take some sketches to builders, they may give you a very loose cost to build the building. You may also want to see what's possible - an approach that you may not have considered or seen elsewhere. Once you know roughly what your idea would cost, you can develop a plan to get the funding or you can revise the design idea to suit the funding available. You might also want to use the design material to shop around between builders to see how much of a bargain you could get. While entirely understandable, you must make it clear that this is your intent. Most architects are willing and able to undertake a feasibility study. An architect can take your ideas and parameters and will develop them into the beginning of a design suitable for preliminary budgeting purposes. What you may not understand is that this work is a paid service. You pay an architect not for the building that gets built, but instead for the services rendered along the way. If the project doesn't go ahead due to the financing, you must still pay for the architect's services that allowed you to make that determination.


If you're serious about starting on a project or will at least commit to a study to determine if you're able to proceed with a project, there's an architect who would love to hear from you.