We all have seen architectural forums, the questioning that happens across the dais. One such question arises – is there a gap between what a client or the people want and what architects deliver or provide?

Many psychologists talk about that there is a difference between what we want and what we need. A glass of water filled half will be visualised by some as half empty or half full. It applies to any topic or circumstances too. There is typically no one-size-fits-all approach to any given situation, even to any design and construction. There can be designs that may not go as planned, evolve, or even stall; on the other hand, some created are wonders.

Before inferring an answer, whether it’s a gap, one should look into the dynamics that surface during any project construction – from start to finish.

The notion that the Architect knows it all. 

Missing Blocks between the Client and an Architect - Sheet1
A share of Investment between the Client and an Architect . Photo credits @Autodesk Redshift

Clients often invest months into selecting the architectural firm for a specific project and expect Architects to balance the design with technical strengths while serving as a conduit for all the parties involved in the production. Many Clients at times place the burden of construction management back onto the Architect. 

Architects learn to concentrate more on design through the college years but less on the process or administration involved in developing that design. Architects feel; in case more time is endowed to managing projects, less time they can have to focus on design innovation and adding onto more responsibilities reducing the firm’s ability to take up designing more projects. Consequential doubt amongst Clients arises, feeling that conceptual ability is a liability once the project progresses. Not all Architects are experts in construction management, thus, tipping the scales towards selecting skilled technical consultants despite having a necessity for conceptual skills.

 “There is always temptation to impose one’s own design, one’s own way of thinking or, even worse, one’s own style. I believe, instead, that a light approach is needed.”

—- Renzo Piano / Pritzker Prize Acceptance Speech, 1998

Instead, it is an Honest-Bilateral Relationship.

Missing Blocks between the Client and an Architect - Sheet2
Photo credits @IArchitectureLab

Architects spend a great deal of time canvasing the Client’s vision for a project and even prolonging that time to discover its scope when it is not as evident. Time is precious; it’s pivotal that the time and effort invested stay intact as the project advances through construction. 

For any project to be successful, the Client’s active participation should be there during the entire design process by being open and transparent about their expectations and the budget. Tiptoeing around this problem will inevitably end in disaster for the Client and the project. The Client should be open to new ideas, provide honest feedback during work progress, and be flexible towards the limitations arising from the site or budget. 

Missing Blocks between the Client and an Architect - Sheet3
An Architecture Meme . Photo credits @Instagram
Missing Blocks between the Client and an Architect - Sheet4
An Architecture Meme . Photo credits @Instagram

On the other hand, the Architect should be firm on grounds relating to cost and viability matters, must deliver a clear understanding of the possible outcome within the stipulated timelines and budget. The Architect should always strive to learn and hone their existing skills, help provide the technical knowledge that can stack the built connection with the Client for the better.

Conflict of Vision.

Missing Blocks between the Client and an Architect - Sheet5
I know what but I Don’t know What. Photo credits @Instagram
Missing Blocks between the Client and an Architect - Sheet6
Power of Client approval. Photo credits @Digitalsynopsis.com

There are instances when some clients are unable to communicate with clarity their desires or needs in design. Architects may misinterpret the information if they do not understand the nature of the Client or their business or the crux of their want to determine their need. They have considerate knowledge to determine the basic principle, but reading someone’s mind and perceiving their vision is a skill set to be established by the human race.

Improve User-Experience.

Clients aren’t obligated to have the same imagination and may even find reading or understanding the drawings or sketches challenging. All Architects speak from experience that social media platforms like Pinterest, Google, Instagram, Houzz, and YouTube, travelling across the world; and the enormous channel- the family & peer circle, have reformed the Client’s momentum and dialogue. A rendering of the design boosts communicating the canvas painted by the Architect and help in the Client’s understanding, and fastens up the approval process and project onset.

Communication is the key to bridge any relationship gap.

Missing Blocks between the Client and an Architect - Sheet8
Effective Communication has the power to build better relationship.Photo credits @cgiflythorugh.com
Missing Blocks between the Client and an Architect - Sheet9
Effective Communication has the power to build better relationship.Photo credits @cgiflythorugh.com

The importance of listening and understanding Client’s needs, engaging in asking the right questions to comprehend how they live, work, interact and what they love, to know them better. It will help in determining the factors to be incorporated during the project outset.

Keep the Client updated by communicating the work progress often, less prolonged, by providing clarity to boost their morale and understanding, maintaining the trust and respect between the Client & Architect relationship. The absence of clarity translates into a disconnect between Client and Architect, consequently devaluing the architectural services.

The construction field is competitive, and the fear of losing clientele is inevitable. Though architects should not fear losing, instead determine the reason behind the prospect shifting. Everyone needs to keep all emotions aside and focus on the concerns to deliver a good design or partake in a project. One lousy service story spreads like far, ruining the reputation and decorum of a good relationship.

Are we all on the same page?

“Together we stand, divided we fall.” This saying resonates well in the construction field. All stakeholders involved in the project have a very focused plan; eventually, it is all about income generation and the reputation at stake.

For a client, there is a program, demands, a budget. For an architect, it’s the vision, the design, performance of the building. For an engineer, it’s substantiating the strategy to build and for a contractor, it’s the execution, align the labours as they are the ground force. Indeed, the relationship between all involved can be tense, missing information intermittently, losing opportunities, and drama of Chinese whispers can start. In the end, everyone would want to wash their hands off an unfavourable built design.

Paper is mightier than the pencil.

To avoid any conflict or blame-game that arises due to the defined roles and responsibilities. A contract document, project estimation, well-defined roles, draft terms and conditions from the beginning for any project scale.

Information related to drawings, bills, and the project budget should be well-kept recorded, creating ease to go back-forth for any info that skips one memory.

Being Social is being Human.

Missing Blocks between the Client and an Architect - Sheet7
Being social . Photo credits @Arch20

Even if an architect is via a referral, the first thing clients do is search for their work online over websites or media platforms. It helps understand where an architect comes from and what they are looking for in a design. So, a professional website with well-documented photographs and active social media accounts matter and hold value.  

Collaboration is the new connection.

Bob Borson of Life of an Architect described in his piece, “The Architect’s Ego,” stating that an architect’s relationship with their Client should never be confrontational.

Buildings aren’t built in the blink of an eye by a single person’s imagination; instead, it’s through team effort, various roles and responsibilities distributed amongst the team. It is not to develop tension but rather an opportunity to release the hidden potential in each team member or parties involved, transcending towards a superior design solution over an average cookie-cutter.

Missing Blocks between the Client and an Architect - Sheet10
Collaboration & Teamwork results are fruitful. Photo credits @freepik.com

Hiring the professionals for construction administration during the build outset to augment the build process through the lens of the Architect and viewpoint of the contractors by complementing the design strategies implemented and bridging the gap between the design studio and construction site. A construction manager or project manager can be the link to bind the teams and motivate them based on the shared goals of completing a project in stipulated time and budget. Suppose they happen to come across mistakes on site. In that case, they quickly fix the error and allows transparent communication, quick responses and expedited follow-up from beginning to end, saving each contributor time and money.

Let’s Keep up the Spirit of Co-operation

Architects are known for boundless optimism; despite some stumbling blocks within project decorum, they are well-equipped to overcome and establish precedents for the future.

It is time to dive headfirst into the new project crescendos injecting a bit of level-headedness, technical know-how, and a desire to learn from the clients who have much to share. With each project, the team grows to understand the Client’s preferences, goals and harness these s­kills to build relationships with new clients—showcasing their level of dedication at the design phase and maintaining it throughout construction.

Alone we can do so little, Together we can do much more . Photo credits @freepik.com

If all play to their strengths and roles to the optimum and consider taking the onus responsibility, communicate effectively and understand each other’s unique perspectives to cultivate relationships based on respect. There is no stopping the pavement to the success of the project.


Blog | cgiflythrough.com. 2021. Architect-Client Relationship: 7 Tips to Strengthen It. [online] Available at: <https://cgiflythrough.com/blog/architect-client-relationship-improve-7-tips/> [Accessed 28 September 2021]. 

  1. [online] Available at: <https://www.wagstaffrogersarch.com/blog/theclient-architect-relationship> [Accessed 28 September 2021].
  2. [online] Available at: <https://www.wagstaffrogersarch.com/blog/theclient-architect-relationship> [Accessed 28 September 2021].
  3. [online] Available at: <https://www.wagstaffrogersarch.com/blog/theclient-architect-relationship> [Accessed 28 September 2021].

With a practice background of over a decade & founder of NJ Archstud/o, her quest is to explore & believe in being a lifelong student as education in architecture never ends, rather always begins. She is constantly working to inculcate the extensive journey behind any design to reach people through words.