Jan '13 - Nov '13
Remember the whole ordeal about finding a place?
There is no such thing as a free lunch, apparently. We were in our space for about 5 months, co-working with another company. What brought that relationship to an end was not so much what happened between the studio and them (we did a couple of projects for them) but rather the business deals my partner had (personally) with them. We were not asked to leave, but we thought we'd move anyway, mainly because we had found another place.
Hello new office. The stereotypical Carlo Scarpa and Corbu posters have been ordered, don't worry.
It's a long way from being ready, and there are costs hidden in anything that we do, but I am quite happy with it. It's a kind of stereotypical boutique-studio, at ground level, in what used to be a small drug store. We designed a large table for it (which is basically a 1.3 m inward offset of the plan outline), which we built ourselves, and recycled what furniture we could from the "old" place. Today is the first day of activity at the new address, after a week of renovation (yeah, the previous hands-on experience helped).
I don't believe a road-side presence will bring in any new customers, but certainly having your own place means you have more control over the way the space works for you and how it represents you.
In other news, I am currently in the process of writing an email to a friend/client in order to clear a messy situation. A few months ago he decided to buy a house and contacted me and another friend (who is an M&E engineer) to renovate it. After a couple of meetings we both submitted our fee proposals (mine: full design, all the permits, tender, site supervision. his: new heating and electrical system design)
To my amazement the other friend had inserted a lot of things in his quote that, by law, require an architect: filing for tax discounts on the costs of the work, site management, etc. His proposal was also so high that it was only about 200 euros shy of mine. This obviously scared the bee-jees out of the friend/client, confused him, and put me in a very awkward position. Was he trying to rip him off? Is he just greedy? Or plain incompetent?
I discussed the situation with my partner, and he suggested I'd call him. I didn't want to appear pushy, and I knew that a phone call would have put even more pressure on the client, something I wanted to avoid if I had not cleared his ideas on my role in the process. So I ended up taking the middle way, and wrote an email to the client/friend offering pro-bono assistance in understanding the next phases of his projects and the roles of the consultants involved (only hinting at the incongruences of the M&E's role), stating clearly that I would be this as a friend and not as a professional pitching for a job.
My partner also suggested we lower our financial request (by a great deal) and I kind of agree with him, but I would like to let this situation unfold a little bit more before we use the only leverage we have: discount prices. It's a bit like the secret move of the karate kid, or the lowering of personal freedoms by a government: these desperate measures should only be used at desperate times.
The more this goes on, the more I realise how hard it is to run a business and still leave time for actual design. It becomes so easy to just slip into repeating the same things over and over: you know those solutions work, and they save you time that you can spend looking for clients, filing paperwork or just, you know, living. But it is absolutely pivotal to do both: run a good business AND design well.
Actually, I'd have those two things in reverse order. Otherwise, really, I do not see a single reason for doing this job.
Starting up your own practice is often something you only dream of... what if one day you woke up and realized that you really had no other option? Young, determined, absolutely pennyless and without much of a clue, these are the chronicles of Richard and Stefano trying to start their dream practice: Osom Architects.