Last weekend was my 25th college reunion (#legendary), and the whole family attended. A 15-hour car ride left me with some time to catch up on social media, and there’s nothing better for Facebook/Instagram surfing than I-81 in Virginia. Summer is peak renovation season it seems. Owners want to have renovation projects completed by the holidays. I saw lots of good questions out there about how to complete renovations and new construction in a way that solves problems and fits budgets. Like any other question posed on the internet, everyone has an opinion, and there is a good deal of confusion about how architects fit into this process. The issue of cost frequently surfaces: owners want value for their construction investment, and architect’s fees can appear to be just additional cost. To the contrary, however, a good architect works with you as a steward of your investment, potentially saving you money on your construction project.
Working with an Architect
When we were in Italy this past summer, we worked with Context Travel for our day at the Vatican Museums. Being vaguely familiar with the crowds made me a little nervous about negotiating the vast museum complex with the kids, and I wanted to make sure they saw the things they needed to see, as well as some of the more obscure things that might pique their interest. Our guide, Valeria, met us at the entrance, and once past security and ticketing, air-kissed and waved us on to little used elevators and through roped off passageways at a quick clip, offering glorious tidbits of information along the way. Theoretically, if we had done our research, we might have managed the crowd aspect of the visit, but Valeria offered something we couldn’t have come up with on our own: an alternate route discerned through experience and ingenuity. We started with the Papal Carriages, a less visited and air-conditioned exhibit that served as a framework for understanding what we were about to see, a quiet place away from the crowds where we could ask questions and listen to the answers, and a starting point that was not overwhelming for the kids. In short order, it was clear we were in the hands of an expert guide, and I was so grateful for her experience and wisdom.
A little bit of history first. I did not attend an undergraduate architecture program. I made my decision to go to architecture school during my junior year, after I had already committed to an art history major (although I ended up concentrating in architectural history in that department.) I spent a good deal of my education writing papers, culminating in a 125 page thesis on Harvey Wiley Corbett, a little known architect working in New York in the early part of the twentieth century. My writing was about conveying information and ideas in a clear, concise manner.