How To Find an Architect

15 Tips for Finding the Right Designer

A person adjusting floor plans in spiral bound sketch notebooks
Glance at the Designer's Notebook Sketches. Photo by Tim Klein / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Do you really need to hire an architect? If the answer is YES, what next?

Every architect—and every architectural firm—has an individual style and approach. First off, understand yourself and who you can work with. Go slowly, think ahead, and choose an architect like you would choose any partner. Take as much time as you need to meet a variety of potential partners.  Here's how to find the right architect for your project.

Know Your Personal Approach to Architecture:

Do you know what you want your end product to look like? Or do you want somebody to lead you? Honestly answering these two questions will save you and your potential architect a load of time.

Each approach is valid. Some people know what they want and will use an architect to flesh out their own ideas. If you're rather rigid about needs and sense of beauty, you're hiring an architect as a contractor to do the technical work of architecture.

Other people seek out a specific architect who has a unique and/or experimental aesthetic. In this approach, you, the client, become more of a patron, like the de Medici family was to Michelangelo. Many of the most famous architects have patrons who support their work. For example, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown experimented with postmodernism by building the Vanna Venturi house for Venturi's mother. Likewise, Herman Winslow didn't know what to expect when he commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to experiment with a new house style—the Winslow House in 1893 was the first Prairie Style.

More recently, for years the art dealer David Zwirner has turned to New York-based architect Annabelle Selldorf to design his galleries. In these cases, the client certainly has a say in decision-making, but creative trust is placed in the hands of the architect. When this relationship doesn't work out?

Well, remember Mies van der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and a glass house in Plano.

How To Find the Right Architect:

Here are some things to think about on your quest for hiring an architect:

  1. Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers about their architects. Also check with realtors and builders in your area. Find the names of architects who designed projects similar to the one you plan.
  2. For restoration projects, check with your local historical society or historic zoning board. Historic restoration may require a firm from a nearby city.
  3. Search through online directories. Most will let you search for architects by location and by specialty.
  4. Call prospective architects. Find out whether they would be interested in your project.
  5. Ask whether there is a fee for an interview.
  6. Request literature that describes the firm's qualifications and experience.
  7. Meet with several prospective architects.
  8. Confirm that the architect you are meeting is the person who will actually work on your project.
  9. Determine your architect's design philosophy.
  10. Ask how long the project will take.
  11. Discuss fees and anticipated construction costs.
  12. Ask for references from past clients. Find out how past clients feel about their new home.
  13. Visit at least one project by your prospective architect. Ask the owners about any problems that may have been encountered during the design and construction of the project.
  1. Verify your architect's licensing and other credentials. A licensed, registered architect (RA) will have different education and training than a certified building designer (CPBD).
  2. Find out the professional affiliations of your prospective architect. An architect who joins an organization is not necessarily more highly qualified than a non-member. However, by joining a group such as the AIA (American Institute of Architects) or the ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects), the profession indicates a commitment to the values and standards of that organization.

More Tips:

  1. You may be working closely with your architect for many months. Choose someone you can communicate with. Understand each other.
  2. Interview prospective architects at their offices, if possible. You'll get a better idea of their practice if you experience their own turf.
  1. Plan to spend at least one hour on your first meeting with a prospective architect.
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Craven, Jackie. "How To Find an Architect." ThoughtCo, Aug. 9, 2016, thoughtco.com/how-to-find-an-architect-175954. Craven, Jackie. (2016, August 9). How To Find an Architect. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-find-an-architect-175954 Craven, Jackie. "How To Find an Architect." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-find-an-architect-175954 (accessed September 19, 2017).