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How do Architects work?

When instructing an Architect, it is useful to know how they work.

Imagine an architect drawing up your house, and you probably think of someone poised over a drawing board with a selection of pens and all manner of specialist measuring tools. Whilst freehand drawing is still a really useful way of exploring ideas (usually in the early stages of the design), final production drawing by hand is rarely done these days. Some smaller practices working on one off residential projects may still offer this, and it is a real skill. However while these drawings can look beautiful, they are time consuming to change and the architect of today is expected to make revisions quickly.

If you've been looking into hiring an architect, you might be aware of the software AutoCAD which is widely used throughout the industry. This effectively takes the 2 dimensional pen and paper methods and puts it onto the screen instead of a drawing board. This introduction of computer drafting saw a massive change to the Architects' tool set, but hasn't really change how architects work - it still involves drawings lines in two dimensions.

In the last ten years however there has been a big change in how architects work, and this has come in the form of a new software such as Revit ("revise it"). This allows designers to work in 3 dimensions straight off the bat, modelling a building in its entirety. Any 2 dimensional drawings are sliced out of this one 3D model, so in theory there is no 2D line drawing whatsoever. It's not flawless, but in my experience this is a vastly quicker way of working and makes it easy to show clients the 3D model as it progresses.

Architect evolution

And the next change to how architects work? To me, it has to be virtual reality. This allows Architects to really feel what a space is going to be like as they design it, and more importantly to be able to show this directly to their clients. The technology is coming on for most of the design work to be done in virtual reality, and it's a really exciting time to be at the forefront of it.

So, back to you instructing your architect, how does all of this help? It all depends on what you are expecting from them - while the way of working wont dictate the competence of your Architect, it will dictate their output. An architect who only uses AutoCAD will likely produce 2D plans and elevations, and possibly some 3D sketches if you request it. So if you struggle to read floor plans, then you might want to go towards an architect that uses Revit and will show you 3D models at every stage of the design. Better yet, there are a few practices offering virtual reality (I will be one of them soon!) which in my opinion is by far the best way of experiencing a design before it is built. At the end of the day, each Architect has a range of skills unique to them - so long as you discuss what you are expecting from the outset it should be a smooth relationship.

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