how to hire a starchitect?


In looking at the 2013 record houses recently published, it got me thinking, how does one hire Renzo Piano (or any starchitect)  to design custom residence in Colorado?

If you aren't some big shit CEO or huge art collector, how do you even approach a firm like that?  Do they get cold calls?  The client probably has to fly Renzo and his cronies over first class and wine and dine em for a week before they would even consider doing the work.

As an owner you are going to be 50k invested in just the interview process and still doesn't guarantee that said starchitect even wants to do the work.  

I guess it is just one of the luxuries of being in the 1%? 

This house has to be over $2000/sf construction cost and the owners probably stay there 4 days a year:

Apr 25, 14 1:36 pm

To begin, I imagine that the 1%er's people contact the starchitect's people.

Apr 25, 14 1:52 pm

Says right in the article that he was a friend. 

Apr 25, 14 3:03 pm
pale shelter

I wouldn't be surprised if that was done for around $300/SF (at least it could be done if on a flat site, midwest construction labor wages,-  One of my past firms did a project of similar design and quality - smaller - for $200/SF which included 2010... but yes for a millionaire's office retreat. Same finishes in fact. I'd only estimate this is more expensive based on the obvious structural steel requirements vs. wood trusses we used  - but who knows the roof could be cheap open-web joists. That's storefront and not curtail wall... so the big costs are in the long spans.

I'm trying to say: it's a great design, but any architect can do it if they choose... designing is not hard to do....why pay a shit ton for Renzo?... we have numerous architects in town doing that level of who you've never heard of.... $2000/sf would be marble finishes, Italian tilework and custom cabinetry everywhere

Apr 25, 14 3:15 pm

Kind of a butt-ugly derivative of Bart Vorsanger's Wildcat Ridge home built on a butte near Aspen. This thing has a 500 foot long concrete wall to deflect landslides? Good luck with that.

Apr 25, 14 3:24 pm

pale, no way in hell that could come in at $300/sf, I don't know where you are building, but that building is dripping in cash, $2000 is a push, but it is way over $300.

Apr 25, 14 4:53 pm

by "friend" they mean primary patron of LACMA or some other heavy hitter that Renzo met doing a much larger, more important project.

Apr 25, 14 4:56 pm

Good way to start

Apr 25, 14 5:12 pm

^ Exactly. They won't even talk to you if the budget is < unlimited.

I wouldn't be surprised if that was done for around $300/SF

LOL The project was probably in the $20-25m range. Gotta love the way AR glorifies excessive consumption.

Apr 25, 14 5:30 pm

Pale, the great small firms - I don't think they have the armies pushing to publish their material that Renzo does.

Apr 25, 14 5:30 pm

The house is for Tommy Pritzker so I guess they met through that award.

Apr 30, 14 2:01 am
ross grindley

Renzo is great... even after the sun focus issue. "Stephen Drew" i know wrote a great paper on it. "Ross Grindley"

Apr 30, 14 4:37 am

So this house is owned by Tommy Pritzker? A wooden house in the ROCKY Mountains with large portions having a flat roof in heavy snow country built on a site that has a 510 foot concrete retaining wall to deflect any landslides? Maybe the roof is red so the rescue helicopter crews can find what's left after the landslides? 

Apr 30, 14 7:39 am
Famous architects and pretty much anyone w an office > 20 people have marketing/business development people who are the ones you should cold call. I very much doubt both the wine and dine as well as the unlimited budget comments: Renzo has to eat and keep people employed just like everyone. And they need to get more projects at some point regardless of how many museums they've done in the past. Of course anyone with some success can allow themselves to turn down a certain amount of work but I find it amusing how in this case the whole thing is being treated like "how do I get George Clooney to come bring in the cake at my daughters 16th bd"...:) Architects are just people, people.
Apr 30, 14 8:37 am

The question is not how but why?

Apr 30, 14 9:57 am
Erik Evens (EKE)

A few comments:

-  that house could easily be well north of $1000 per sq. ft.

-  I imagine that Renzo Piano does very few custom residences, and only for special clients.  friends, important firm stakeholders, etc.  They are probably not really set up to do much residential work.

-  I bet that if you are not connected to Mr. Piano in this way, and you just called the firm and said that you wanted them to design a house for you, they would probably turn the project down.

Apr 30, 14 9:59 am

In Aspen it isn't just the hard cost of construction.  Weird codes there like either building a low income fixed rent house with it, or paying massive fee's into a fund that funds low income housing.   On top of that like the last time I had a project there, a semi-truck is only allowed in town at very restricted times; I think 10am and 2pm and can't stay more than like 2 hours.  Then there's a hundred other oddball type restrictions dealing with landscape/animal habitat stuff, view corridors, zoning reviews, and on and on.  And there's the usual issues with mountain construction:  Cost of material transportation, access, weather, etc. 

Aspen is exclusive.  The codes and restrictions protect this.  So, generally figure 3x the cost of construction down here in Denver.  If a true high end custom home runs $500/sf... it will be $1500/sf up there.  And you see some weird and really cool stuff...leather wallpaper anyone? 

And woe to the architects working there.  Had one of my friends who graduated with me go there to work.  His entire internship was spent living in a converted hot dog stand and showering at the gym.  Most of my mountain friends were like this; Cabins heated by iron stoves, Campers, outhouses, no plumbing, etc.  Real housing cost a lot; hence their low income housing lottery.

Apr 30, 14 12:24 pm
pale shelter

ok ok ... i was wrong $300/sf isn't close lol...; (i did say IF it was on a flat sight of which it isn't and not knowing the bathrooms/kitchens... who knows)... but just to offer where I'm coming from... here's a midwest project built in 2010 for $220sf... cost was $1.4M or so... a scaled down/less quality then the Renzo place obviously... it's a biz retreat (so not having 5 bathrooms and 2 kitchens will bring the cost down).... but I'd take it! (was also geo-thermal w/ wells).

heck I'll throw another home out there that's around 600-700/sf  midwest

I'd then guess that Renzo's fee is probably 25% ??? .. not 18% like the two above I'm familiar with.

Apr 30, 14 12:58 pm

pale shelter that BNIM project is really lovely.  Thanks for sharing it.

Apr 30, 14 1:04 pm

Since it was supposedly a friend.  Wonder if he (or other starchitects) run into the same thing all us regular lowly architects do.  "Well, since you are my best buddy, I thought you might just do it for me out of friendship; It's so small it shouldn't take you any time at all..." 

Apr 30, 14 5:00 pm

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