when clients attack


Any practicing architect knows a project in construction or completed has the potential to be totally fucked up by a client getting together with the contractor or interior designer only to make some last minute changes on the fly.  

I have mixed feelings about these changes/additions; On the one hand, you want to service your clients and make sure they are happy and content with the project, and that might mean adding some really shitty blinds at the end of construction or picking some horrible paint colors.  Most often, they want  your blessing to verify their taste is not as shitty as it inevitably is.  

As the architect it is your job to maintain the integrity of the project overall, but at what point do you just back off and let the clients live with their poor choices?  

What is the best way to let them down easy?  When do you know you are going to start a battle that you will surely loose?   Any horror stories?  Photoshop for days.

Apr 22, 14 7:29 pm

Cover your own ass. Document. Document. Document. 

Apr 22, 14 8:07 pm  · 

We've all been there -- and, it's frustrating as hell. There are no simple answers, but the best approach in my experience is to just express your opinion about the design decisions being made in the most complete and professional manner possible. Don't convey either anger or frustration -- be the consummate level-headed professional at all times. We are hired to provide guidance and authoritative judgment. If our clients choose to not follow our advice, there's little we can do beyond continuing to try.

However, this inquiry does lead to a somewhat bigger question: WHY do our clients not always listen to what we recommend?

In the world of day-to-day practice there is an ongoing struggle by all the various players to exert influence over the process. Learning to exert influence consistently, in a meaningful and successful manner, is high art and something that, for most of us, comes only after long experience and careful thought. We have to work at it -- it's not just something that happens automatically because we're "the Architect".

Apr 22, 14 8:39 pm  · 
Yeah. Happens all the time. Sometimes the client = the contractor = a guy who can't read drawings & builds whatever strikes his fancy. I don't have any good solutions but wish I did.
Apr 22, 14 8:45 pm  · 

Ugly blinds, weird furniture, and bad paint colors are the least of it.  When they start messing with the fenestration or interior layout, that's when the real fun begins!

Apr 22, 14 9:32 pm  · 

Sometimes they make changes to try and prove they know something, or more than you. Sometimes a decorator is hired because the wife needs a project, or sometimes to adopt the style of their would-be peers, or because that's what they're supposed to do at that station in life.

Then there's False Authority Syndrome. 

Apr 22, 14 10:00 pm  · 

when i'm in that situation (and it definitely happens), my best results happen by trying to re-connect (or connect initially if it's a new person in the mix) the overall vision together - how all the parts are working together towards a whole. and, then, i'll find the least damaging area that can be 'changed' and ultimately give it to them. they get a "win" which is what they're looking for most of the time and hopefully i've saved the overall vision and the most important areas. 


still, in the end, it's their building to fubar. 

Apr 23, 14 8:56 am  · 

I just blame HGTV.

Apr 23, 14 9:43 am  · 

quizzical:  excellent answer.

In the end you are a professional adviser, not an artist with a patron.  You give them the best service you can, explain your reasoning, trying to protect them from themselves.  Period.  Anything unsafe or illegal needs to be stopped by you.  But aesthetic detours are something you can't control.  Don't get too emotionally involved; you'll go crazy.

Apr 23, 14 12:33 pm  · 

and don't go out drinking with them

"Black out drunk used as defense in trial of murdered architect"

Apr 23, 14 4:53 pm  · 

That wasn't a client, it was an employee.

If it was a client, I think it would have been the other way around.

Apr 23, 14 7:36 pm  · 

Document.  Just 'protest' the decision and make sure the Owner knows he's making that choice without your support.  That's for the aesthetics or design stuff.  Up to you to decide how much to fight them.  One I did, the Owner, who sells exotic cars, decided on high bay lighting... Horrible color rendition for retail.  I fought tooth and nail, but was trumped.  A year later he did apologize because the colors look muddy on certain ones.

Unfortunately, sometimes they are life/safety/welfare issues like structural changes or changes that become non-conforming with code.  Hate to say it, because it gets hostile quick, but you have to turn it into the building department or risk your license.  It's not even just refusing to sign that change order or letting the Owner know or rejecting the change.  If they proceed, you have a duty to the State.  Sucks... because it escalates quickly when you do that and your referral goes out the window.

Apr 23, 14 7:49 pm  · 

Here's what I'd tell them; you can do anything you want, ultimately it's your home, but rest assured, with digital techniques available to the design professional today, the home you fuck up now, won't be the home that hits the Dwell publication for all your friends to see. I will fix your mistakes in post production and your friends won't know what to think, other than you're batshit kra, and your home sucks donkey balls. 

Apr 23, 14 8:17 pm  · 

I have been working on the construction phase of a project for over a year with a  building committee and a disgruntled man of the cloth.  It has been a battle from day one.  Just last week he came at me again with some wacko thing about how I should have provided a mock up of a  exterior guard/hand rail.  I explained  how this was not called for in the specifications and would usually not be provided on a job of this size.  He just kept coming at me like a bull dog.  I quietly got up and  said I don't  have to listen to this kind of  nonsense and started to leave the room.  The committee knows I have bent over backwards to  address all issues on this project. So they tied right into him and  the chairman waved to me come back...we need you.  I would not  recommend this kind of action by anyone but do save face when someone is  just getting out of hand.

Apr 23, 14 8:56 pm  · 

Hard ball works, but only if you are prepared to follow through.

It's important to pick your battles carefully.

Apr 23, 14 9:02 pm  · 

That sucks snooker... I've faced similar.  I dazzle with cost and redtape.  How I basically handle that is tell them that isn't a normal part of construction.  So I'll be happy to issue a RFP to get the contractor to provide the cost of that mockup.  A ornamental rail runs about $350/lf, so it will probably be around $1500 by the time the markups are done for a 3-4' section.  It also can't be salvaged and normally I would expect a 2-3 week lead time.  Do they wish me to proceed or would that money be better spent on actual construction?

Worst fights for me though are owner provided CM's of the variety that sell "we keep the cost down; zero change orders".  They usually put the entire job in a cya state where no one wants to give direction.  Hate those jobs; Actually I mark up my fee's 10% (and the CD's are padded too for the extra documentation) if I know there is a CM onboard for the 'blood money' and 'brain damage' I know I'll face. I've actually had to get lawyers involved in two because the CM decided they really didn't need to pay the additional services they signed off on and requested.

I stopped doing official CA Observation reports due to them.  I only write up things I see that aren't correct.  Why?  I had one tell me they expected that report to get very specific like grid line, observed 20 lf of rough framing at 10% complete for everything on a several million dollar project.  Also wanted daily observation. I refused, used the contract.  He also 'wrote me up' on me for not moisture checking a 50 year old slab we were topping... lol.   

Apr 24, 14 10:36 am  · 

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