Magazine article Management Today

Four Walls Draughting in an Architect

Magazine article Management Today

Four Walls Draughting in an Architect

Article excerpt

Who hasn't fantasised about commissioning a knight of the drawing board to conjure a contemporary masterpiece for their roof and four walls? If money were no object, the likes of Richard Rogers and Norman Foster would almost certainly thrill to the thought of an icon to rival Philip Johnson's Glass House or Mies van derRohe's Farnsworth House.

But before you reach for the telephone, be aware that commissioning an architect can be fraught with problems. 'We haven't done a private commission for years,' shrugs Robert Torday, spokesman at Lord Rogers' offices, 'maybe because no-one has thought of approaching us. If we were presented with an interesting commission for a private scheme, I'm sure we'd consider it.' Interesting? Architects measure the interest value of a commission in pieces of string. Among Rogers' tiny handful of private commissions is a house he completed in 1968 for his parents in Wimbledon. The structure of two yellow boxes has an open-plan interior and is home to Lord Rogers' son. How interesting is that?

Certain back-of-the-envelope rules-of-thumb should be borne in mind. One unhappy client of a cult architect warns that any architect 'will be chiefly interested in the financial and social value of the commission. He'll want full control and only discuss it with you to have it rubber-stamped. Remember that the client's kitchen extension is the architect's cover of Architectural Digest.'

Then there's the cost. Top architects work in the best media. 'The cheapest building is made of bricks, block, render, wood and slate,' says one developer. 'A cuffing-edge architect wants to experiment with the latest materials. But when you get into stone, glass, stainless steel, fancy roofs and teak floors, for which several Greenpeace activists still bear the scars, you go up in multiples.'

Next up is where to draw the line between your own input and the architect's 'creativity'. Some clients bring their own ideas to the party: gargoyles modelled on family members, a Buckingham Palace-style Wendy House. These novelties may be wrapped up in I-bent-a-great-designer-to-my-will notions of self-worth. Being able to brag 'I had this wonderful idea for a barbecue area with marble floor and Renaissance appointments, so I had Quinlan run me up the drawings while I was at the hairdresser' sounds better than 'He sent me the plans; I posted him a cheque'. …

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