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September 27, 2013

The Good Client

With your First Architectural Questions (FAQs) answered, and considering I have you convinced, you should be on your quest to finding the right architect. But before you get into creating your criteria and asking trusted friends for referrals, it is very important that you understand what makes a good business relationship work. The architect’s talent, competency, and experience are not the only things that dictate the success of a project. While he is both academically and practically trained to handle every curveball, realize that it is just as important for you to hold up your end of the deal by being a Good Client.

But what exactly makes one a good client? Well, I’m sure every architect’s answer is different. So I’ve asked my colleagues, Arch. Jimmy Hermogenes and Arch. Edwin Barcia, to help take the ambiguity out of this topic by identifying how you can help your architect help you.

Architects at work. (L-R) Arch. Jimmy Hermogenes, Arch. Edwin Barcia, and yours truly.

Architects at work.
(L-R) Arch. Jimmy Hermogenes, Arch. Edwin Barcia, and yours truly.


So, here are your commandments to live by. Well actually, more like an architect’s request―a plea, an appeal. Hmmm, I think you get the point.

1. A good client initiates a clean business partnership.

Professionalism is expected on both ends and is fundamental to a joint endeavor. Mutual encouragement to follow the ethical business process translates into how you value each other. Pursuing a business relationship with integrity should not be a rare commodity.

While you are entrusting the architect with a significant amount of money, he is also entrusting you with intellectual property. What is about to put on paper is a creation of an experienced mind. This may only seem like a simple piece of imagination to you, but to your architect, it translates to years of training and labor. Consider the desire to be protected from dishonest practice and to accomplish a contract with a commendable reputation as denominators that you and your architect should have in common.

2. A good client has a realistic view of the project timeline.

Architects can’t do everything overnight. Crafting a good design is a lengthy process of tedious puzzle-solving. Be realistic in setting deadlines and schedules to allow a substantial amount of time for a project to be properly studied. Creating something that didn’t exist before takes time. Even a human being took 9 months to make and that’s already with divine intervention. We’re only human beings too, so please consider giving us the gift of extension when really needed.

3. A good client gives approval to the architect’s design only when he understands it.

This means asking the architect to clarify when some things are not clear. A hired architect is required to provide you with an unlimited supply of answers, so go ahead and exploit it. We know that our profession is filled with graphical symbols and presenting you a wide paper with lines is just like “selling a book to someone who can’t read”. So, if you find something confusing, go ask. Not satisfied with the answer? Ask again. Still disoriented and finding the answers to be vague? Keep asking. Don’t stop until you finally get it. And when you do and finally give your approval, do not forget that the permitted idea needs your support.

4. A good client keeps an open mind and actively listens.

Managing your restrictions can actually allow your architect to explore the full potential and opportunities of your project. By allowing your architect’s thoughts to be expressed, he is giving you an opportunity to see what you don’t and with it comes the exchange of more innovative ideas. Let it happen and don’t suppress it. The reason you hired your architect is because he is an expert, not you. Challenge an idea if you must but never hastily disregard a professional recommendation.

5. A good client understands that the architect and his consultants are working to make a living.  

Like you, we are also operating as a business, and compensation from our efforts is only expected. A good client does not forget that professional services and intellectual properties are valued and do not come for free.

 6. A good client remembers that the architect should be the only source of instruction.

If there is anything you wish to revise, change, or whatnot, consult the architect first and be consistent with this process.

7. A good client is friendly and kind.

Yes, being friendly is very helpful. Keeping yourself cordial even when issues arise helps in finding the resolution faster. Remember that as more professionals get involved in the project, conflicts affecting the design especially during construction are considered normal. These occurrences can be very frustrating not only for you but especially for your architect. Whatever change is threatening the design, understand that your architect is right with you in protecting the original intent. So, remember to work with him and not against him.

8. A good client doesn’t say “’Di ba drawing-drawing lang yan?” (Aren’t those just drawings?)

I hear this quite often and I am saddened to see what little understanding people have of what we do. Perhaps it needs to be mentioned that this statement burns us to the core. I kid you not, it really does. While of course we can’t deny the fact that we enjoy those parts of our day when we have our colorful pencils laid out and we immerse ourselves in the world of straight and curved lines, don’t ever disregard the fact that along with the movement of our hand, our brains are at work. Consider that we are just extremely talented that we make it look easy. So, unless you don’t want to feel the wrath of our sleepless living soul, please don’t say it. In fact, don’t even think it.

9.  A good client keeps in mind that architecture is art.

Would you buy a Picasso painting with the intent of one day changing some of the colors? Of course not. So just like the structures that we hand over, what you are entrusted with is a piece of our immortality. Therefore, we expect it to be properly maintained, appreciated, and, above all, respected. After all, when you come to think about it, along with your involvement and participation, this structure is your immortality too.


Remember, the good relationship between architect and client is the core of a well-built structure. Without mutual respect, trust, and open communication, your dreams will remain just that: dreams.

Want to get the most out of your architect’s fee? I’m telling you, apply these tips and rest assured that your architect will reciprocate with hard work. We know a good client when we find one and, trust me; we value such a rare find with overwhelming commitment.



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