Ill Communication

The Joneses went for a splashy starchitect to design their new home. Then things took a turn for the worse.

an introduction to architects done wrong

After decades of prudent living in a tidy but cramped apartment, the Joneses had methodically saved up a sizable pile of money. With their fiscal foundation solidified, they began the process of achieving their life’s dream: to retire and live out their golden years in a small, contemporary house designed and built specifically for them.

Their journey began with a famous architect named LeBollard, whom they had read about in a recently published compendium of modern architecture. They met him at his office and he mesmerized them with his strange accent, his black cape, and his slim, form-fitting boots. At the end of the meeting, when he yawned and said, “LeBollard designs your house now,” they didn’t disagree. When they asked for a proposal, he calmly replied, “I am proposal.”

The couple had a well-ordered collection of house precedents saved up, and they proudly carted these in to LeBollard’s office for the second meeting. He was unimpressed. After two minutes of pained attention, he dramatically ran out of the conference room and filled the lofty volumes of his studio with what they understood to be authentic French curse words. After 20 minutes, LeBollard returned to the table, and they continued. The Joneses handed him a document on which they had recorded the basic requirements of their program, but again LeBollard showed open disdain for their input. He sniffed it and frowned. “This is Jones menu,” he said, finally. “But I am not Jones restaurant.”

A month later they returned to review the schematic design. In the conference room, neatly arranged on the table were two items: a large model constructed of clear acrylic and an invoice for a surprisingly large sum of money. Seated at the table was an impeccably dressed woman. “LeBollard—–he is in Paris,” she said. “Now I am LeBollard.” She quickly described the house, which was much bigger than they wanted and included an apiary and a “duodenum space for Jones of concrete and of plastic chicken beak.” When they asked her how much the house would cost to build, she said, “I am architect, not cost estimate.” They politely made it to the end of the meeting, paid the invoice, and drove home in silence.

The Joneses ended up hiring a nice young architect named Sheba, who designed for them the small, contemporary house they had always envisioned. Having learned their lesson the hard way, they made sure all of the services were covered, from design and construction documentation to contractor bidding and construction administration. They ended up with a great house but found themselves deep in the red, due to the considerable sum they had wasted on LeBollard. As a result, all of their grandchildren got crappy Christmas presents for the next ten years.

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