Our clients’ brand DNA is the essence of their businesses’ identities. It defines what makes them unique and distinguishable from competitors, giving customers a reason to emotionally connect with and buy from them. For luxury and premium brands, the creation of brand DNA is about reflecting on their heritage and looking inwards: who they are, what they stand for, and how they want to be remembered. It is extremely important for luxury brands to create an image of themselves that endures. When working with a new client, we learn as much as possible about our client’s brand DNA, which ultimately is the key factor in defining the physical shape of the store, the spatial arrangement and flow through all spaces, the selection of materials and finishes, and the overall customer experience within the store.
Pre-design is an information-gathering phase that is the foundation for the design phases to follow. The main goal of this phase is to learn everything possible about our client’s personality, lifestyle, and needs, as well as to determine how much space is needed now, how much is likely to be needed in the future, and how that space should be used, organized, and arranged. This information is organized into a document called the Program, which describes all rooms and spaces of the project, their approximate sizes, and any specific qualities or unique features our client is looking for. The other part of the pre-design phase is observing and documenting the existing conditions at the project site. This usually entails a detailed survey of the space to determine and document all existing base building structures, utilities, and all aspects of the space that will impact the proposed design.
In schematic design, we begin the process of translating the Program into an efficient building design and start exploring design concepts. This phase is the time for testing options and getting a general idea of the look and feel. The floor plans and shape of the project will begin to take form, but the specifics about materials and details will come later. The schematic design phase includes several meetings in which we present ideas to our client using images of other projects, hand sketches, and 3D renderings to help visualize the size, shape, and relationship of spaces to each other. We listen and observe reactions, and then refine the ideas according to feedback until we reach an agreed upon design direction to develop further in the following phases.
During design development, we advance the design significantly based on the floor plan and exterior concept approved in the previous phase. The first priority of this phase is to define and develop all the important aspects of the project and to produce a set of drawings and outline specification to show potential contractors for preliminary cost estimating. If adjustments are necessary to bring the project scope in line with the construction budget, it is most efficient to do this sooner rather than later. Once we know we are on track, we begin talking more specifically about the interior/exterior materials and finishes, as well as construction details.
In this phase, we develop the design drawings into a thorough and precise set of construction documents. These drawings and specifications have all of the details, dimensions, and notes necessary to communicate the entire design intent to the general contractor. We show how the building components should be connected, specify all of the materials, finishes, fixtures, equipment, and appliances to be installed, and coordinate our drawings with the MEP engineer, structural engineer and any other consultant drawings. The construction documents phase often requires the most time, which can surprise clients because the design seems complete after design development. However, this is a critical step in the process of successfully and accurately executing the design our clients have invested in.
During this phase, we add to the construction documents any additional information required to acquire a building permit. This is the information needed to show that the project complies with the applicable land use, building, and energy codes, and any other applicable guidelines and regulations required by the city or jurisdiction issuing the permit. We submit these drawings, along with the various forms required for the permit application, to the local plans reviewer, monitor the progress during the review period, and provide additional information or clarifications as requested. Our goal is to guide our clients’ projects through as quickly and painlessly as possible, but the length and cost of this phase can vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction, complexity of the project, and any special historic district or community design review processes.
We are happy to introduce our clients to a number of reputable general contractors we work with and trust. We can also be available to attend interviews and walk-throughs, help our clients evaluate contractor qualifications, and provide assistance with obtaining and reviewing bids. Some clients already have a contractor in mind when they come to us, but many take advantage of our extensive contractor rolodex and relationships to find their general contractor.
While most of the architect’s work is done before any building begins, our consistent presence during the construction phase is equally important. During this phase, we visit the jobsite at regular intervals to answer questions from the general contractor and proactively address potential issues. The frequency of our site visits could be weekly or monthly depending on the project and our client’s needs, but it is vital for us to keep an eye on things to ensure the finished project meets our client’s expectations. Inevitably, some decisions must be made or modified in the field, and our involvement and ability to work quickly with contractors to solve problems is essential for helping our clients avoid costly delays and change orders. During construction administration, the architect’s role is that of an advisor to the owner. At our site visits, we will take photos and write field reports to document the progress, confirm the materials and workmanship are of the quality agreed to, and verify that contractors’ billings accurately reflect the work completed. At the end of the project, we help our clients develop a final punch list to ensure all work is completed to their satisfaction.
During this phase, we assist the project team with final close-out of the permit and all sign-offs required by the Building Department, Landmarks, Historic Preservation or any other prevailing governing authorities. We coordinate with permit expediter and contractors as required. We assist in obtaining contractors’ final “as-built” drawings and close-out books (warranties, maintenance procedures, manuals, sub-contractor list, shop drawings/submittals, certificates, inspection reports, etc.) within 30 days of punch list completion. We assist in evaluation of the contractors’ final Applications and Certificates for Payment (AIA Form G702) and final Lien Releases based upon 100% completion of their respective contracts and delivery of “as-built” drawings and close-out books. We then attend 3-month and 6-month video conference meetings to assist our clients in resolving any outstanding items.
If you have an upcoming project, please contact us for a consultation.