On the Level

By Dan Maginn / Published by Dwell
Recommended by
Sadly there's no blueprint for how to best work with an architect. Follow the example of the Smiths, though, and you'll come out ahead.

Sheba is a good architect, and I’m sure the Smiths would agree. After Mrs. Smith found out she was pregnant with quintuplets, they hired Sheba to design an addition to their too-small 1920s bungalow, and it turned out great.

The Smiths started by researching architects then interviewing them and visiting some of their projects. They appreciated the simplicity and clean lines of Sheba’s designs, which aligned with their laid-back lifestyle. They asked for a proposal, and after reviewing it and asking her some questions, they signed a contract. The following day, she got to work.

Sheba took the time to really listen to the Smiths. Over the course of a couple meetings, she asked them a lot of questions, showed them some relevant prece-dents, and eventually utilized their input to develop a program. After confirming its assumptions with them, she helped the Smiths prioritize their needs to align with their budget. After eliminating Mr. Smith’s walk-in humidor and combining many wee kid bedrooms into one bigger multikid room, they found themselves firmly on track.

With the program and budget in place, Sheba 
began to design. After a couple weeks, she showed the Smiths a number of schematic designs, then developed a single scheme based on their feedback. She showed them different materials and developed a physical model of their design, so they could better visualize how the addition would fit in with the rest of the house. Finally, she worked with Kenny (the contractor they selected), who verified the design was on budget with a preliminary cost estimate.

After the Smiths signed off on the final design, Sheba got cracking and developed the construction documents. When they were complete, Kenny presented a hard bid on the addition, and construction began soon afterward. Sheba began performing the construction administration services that were outlined in her original proposal, which included regular meetings with the Smiths and Kenny onsite.

The meetings were especially helpful. In them, Sheba helped the Smiths put the seeming chaos of the construction site into context. She helped them understand Kenny’s schedule and worked with them to align the daily progress they were seeing with the requirements of the construction documents. On the morning that Kenny did his final walk-through of the completed project, Mrs. Smith became so excited that she went into labor.


Dan Maginn


Dan Maginn is an AIA-member architect who lives and carpools to work with his wife, Keri, in Kansas City. Although he and his partners at El Dorado Inc. are extremely interested in promoting sustainable design on all scales, he does not consider himself to be an "eco-warrior." Instead he prefers the term "eco-tainment specialist"

Everybody loves feedback. Be the first to add a comment.
The author will be notified whenever new comments are added.