At a point in an Architect’s career where their reputation precedes them, every subsequent work becomes a celebration of their creative range. The pressure to churn out landmark buildings often ends up with one’s portfolio resembling art installations more than works of Architecture. In such cases, the client’s involvement is kept at a bare minimum to allow the Architect complete freedom over developing on the site.
While the resulting product will most likely grab the attention of every passerby, the user/client is destined to develop a sense of disconnect with the building over time. This indicates one of the major drawbacks associated with the inability of an Architect to communicate their design effectively.
Why is communication important in Architecture?
Theoretically, communicating how the building shapes out is one of the more important responsibilities of an Architect. While spending the hard-earned money of a client, it goes without saying that the final product should meet their expectations. A client or stakeholder needs to be given clarity on every aspect of what the Architect is planning to do, in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises or Habitus shock. Communication is even more important in the case of the client since he/she is also the direct recipient of what the space has to offer.
Once the client has approved the plan of action, it is time to communicate the design to the people responsible for executing these designs on site. This aspect is often overlooked since it is not taken into consideration that the workers are possibly seeing the design for the first time. The gaps in the documents and graphics shared with the workers will most likely reflect on-site, resulting in substantial losses for the client.
Effective communication is also key with several other parties associated with a project, like the civic authorities, potential investors, etc.
Reasons for communication gap between Architect and Client
A mismatch between client expectations and the product delivered by the Architect could be due to a multitude of reasons. The client needs to be involved in every stage of preparing the design brief. At each stage, their feedback needs to be reviewed and incorporated according to merit.
The client may be unaware of their role in the design process, resulting in a lack of involvement and feedback. They could also be ignorant towards the semantics of the information passed on to them by the Architect. Here, the Architect must educate their clients and help them overcome obstacles due to reasons ranging from lack of experience in construction to jargon. The Architects must develop a strong relationship with their client by establishing a consistent system of sharing information.
It is also important to create a very interactive and informative graphic template to share information about the project. This helps provide clarity to the client and all other stakeholders in the project.
Graphic Representation in Design Communication
Communication can be Verbal, Non-verbal, Written, or Visual. Visual communication in Architecture involves the use of Orthogonal drawings(Plans, Elevations, Sections, Etc.), Paraline drawings(isometric, axonometric views, etc.), sketches, 3D renderings, etc.
Visual Communication includes 4 major components:
- Media: The Digital and Non-digital tools used to generate presentations.
- Material: The surface used to present the communication.
- Design Elements: Components like point, line, slope, form, etc., that make up the drawings.
- Design principles: Attributes like Balance, Colour, Contrast, etc., that complement the drawing.
These components are integral parts of the design process, which involves research, Idea exchange, concept generation, refinement, and finally, the preparation of a design brief. This design brief and design process is communicated in the form of presentation drawings, working drawings, etc., to stakeholders.
What is the ideal way to communicate through drawings?
The thought behind preparing drawings and presentations is to effectively communicate the ideas proposed by the Architect to other stakeholders.
A few things need to be specially considered while approaching non-experts like the client:
- Standardization is important across the different documents shared with the client. Having an engaging and interesting colour scheme and library also helps while communicating with them.
- Addition of a human reference will be helpful to understand the scale of objects since clients might not be familiar with the size of certain elements used in drawings.
- Combining the above with comprehensive dimensioning, material selection, and explanatory notes, will enable the viewer to process the data as intended.
While this information is useful for presentation drawings, they are critical components of any working drawing. Studies show that people comprehend better with a combination of 2D and 3D graphics than only either of the two. 2-dimensional drawings like plans and elevations allow people to understand the ideas proposed by the Architect. 3D views allow them to experience the space in a way that is close to reality. Selecting the right angles and frames for this purpose is important.
More advanced means like Virtual reality, walk-through, etc., breaks the barriers associated with a 2-dimensional graphic and allows the client to use the space even before it is built. Furthermore, 3-D printed or hand-made physical models allow the stakeholders to get a more hands-on experience of the design and helps spark their creative instincts.
Writing as a tool for communication
On larger platforms, in order to reach out to more people, writing becomes an important tool. Project descriptions, critical reviews, social media posts, etc., provide Architects access to people who might not be able to comprehend Architectural graphics. Writing also helps to convey the design philosophy and design intent to stakeholders, critics, civic authorities, award juries, etc.
In order to stay relevant in a very competitive market, Architects need to gain the trust of potential partners and clients. Effective communication with all stakeholders involved in a project is the first step in this process.
It may be considered the duty of every Architect to share and receive information with the client during every stage of a project. Keeping clients and other stakeholders involved throughout the project and educating them about the relevance of the proposed ideas makes it more likely that the final product will satisfy all parties involved.
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