Given the importance of this role don’t hold back.
ASK FOR REFERENCES
Ask for references and ask if you can take them up. The Spanish don’t do references: although this is changing. I can remember asking a lawyer here if she could put me in touch with some people who she had worked with who could recommend her. For me it is normal to ask to see references from a professional you haven’t worked with before. It is also normal to ask a satisfied client to provide one.
However my conversation with this new lawyer was not al all straight forward. I got the sense that she felt I was being impolite or questioning her integrity. Anyway the jest of it was that she simply couldn’t ask her clients for references because nobody did and that she expected me to already know that she was a person of integrity and so on. It struck me as a sort of small town mentality where everyone knows each other and professionals just put up a brass plaque on the wall and expect the clients to walk through the door. Unfortunately this attitude doesn’t work in an international context where trust needs to be earned. I believe your professional must be able to provide references.
THE GREATEST QUALITY AN ARCHITECT CAN HAVE, IN THE CONTEXT OF DESIGNING YOUR HOME, IS EMPATHY
The key quality you are looking for in the references is that the architect delivered on the client’s personal requirements. You want an architect that takes active steps to find out what you want for example by asking for for images of what you like. The greatest quality an architect can have, in the context of designing your home, is empathy. You are looking for an English speaking architect who can empathize with you.
Stay away from architects that say “I do the drawings and the layout”. They think they know better than their clients. Of course you want advice but the only thing that counts is what YOU want. Not what the architect wants or the builder or anyone else.
ASK TO SEE EXAMPLES OF THEIR WORK
If you want to build a modern villa there is no point in appointing an architect that specializes in offices.
Find out who, within the team, is responsible for what. Good professionals have their terms and conditions laid out so you know who is doing what in the team and what is expected of you.
COMMUNCATIONS ARE KEY
Designing and building a home, with the myriad of decisions that have to be made, especially in a foreign country, is an area with massive opportunity for misunderstandings. So the more systematic your architectural team are the better.
In later blog posts I will cover questions to ask your architect about your project, how they stay within your Budget, questions on the design and questions about their fees.