Every architect with a scintilla of ambition will believe in their design skills and that the client will benefit hugely from appointing them. There are other things, however, that clients want — and even design skills have to be communicated.

Caroline Cole of architectural management consultancy Colander warns: “Architects always focus on the design and rarely on the client’s project and the process by which they will deliver. If you put yourself in the client’s shoes, then you will worry about will they get on, will they work to programme or budget, will it be fun
to work with them?”

Too many architects, Cole says, fall into the trap when asked to give examples of similar projects of describing simply what they have done, rather than talking about how those projects will be relevant to this client’s particular needs.

Understanding the client
In order to understand what will excite the client, it is important to know as much about them as possible. Again this can be done through research, and again it is important, if possible, to actually have a conversation with the client.

Joe Morris of Duggan Morris says: “Sometimes the client group will offer a briefing situation. You should use that occasion to get as close to the client as possible. You need to get your face in front of them.”

If there is no formal opportunity to do this, then an architect would be advised to ring up and ask some questions - there is always something that it would be useful to know.
The way that the architect behaves in these circumstances is vital. Clients will be looking for people with whom they will enjoy working, and will be making a judgement during every interaction, whether by email or on the telephone or face to face.

Learning from losing

It is galling to lose a job that you were really hopeful of winning and there is a temptation just to turn your back on it and try to forget. But it is not the right thing to do. Entering competitions and filling in PQQs is a skill and one that develops with practice. It is important therefore to work out why an application was not successful. Some of this may be possible through internal analysis, but the process will be much more fruitful if there is also some feedback from the organisers.

Most will be willing to give feedback, and even if it is of the terse variety, such as “you were eliminated because of the health and safety statement”, that at least tells a practice which areas it needs to address. The feedback should help a practice both improve its entries next time, and also help it to select the projects it wants to go for in the future.

Look out for a new extract from the report next week on putting yourself in your clients shoes.