Between Easter and Christmas there is a time known as the building season. It’s not that builders don’t work outside this time, but they generally tick over. Once the Easter bank holiday hits, things go a bit crazy and they stay that way until Christmas Eve, when we finish at lunchtime and go to the pub. So far, so romantic. Architects have a similar cycle. From the cycling world championships to Milan San Remo we get a steady stream of enquiries, some of which may lead to work. But after Easter, it all changes. There are more enquiries and they are for real projects. When can we start on site? Will it be finished by August?
Getting a scheme from an idea to completion takes a long time. The drawings, the revisions and obtaining the permissions. Waiting for the prices, waiting for the builder to become available. The slow progress on site. There is also another inevitable delay – waiting for the architect. During the building season, I use a simple queuing system. When an enquiry becomes an instruction, I write the client’s name in the next free weeks in the calendar. I usually allow four weeks, but sometimes less. It’s not a very accurate or even realistic model of the way progress on the office works, but it is much much better than nothing. So, for my summer clients, they will have to wait a little while before I can start work.
So here is what to can do while you are waiting for the architect.
1. Put together a list of three or four good builders whose names you would like to see on the tender list. Get recommendations from your friends and neighbours, or ring them up and ask for a reference. Everyone likes to be noticed and if you have been in touch with them they might keep you in mind when your project comes round.
2. Think about the kind of rooms you would like to see – what are they like, what happens in them. If you picture a family gathering around a table, a quiet place to work, or somewhere to chop wood, you should let your architect know. You will need to have these things in your mind so that when you get your first sketch designs you can evaluate them against your own criteria.
3. Draw the funny pictures. You don’t need to spend seven years in college to draw your ideas for where your new rooms might be, but you must be careful not to get tied down in the details. Sometimes I will go to an enquiry and out comes the graph paper. It is not wrong to draw this way, but before we resolve the design, we should have the funny ideas. Make pictures of the activities, the sunshine, the washing machine. You can cut out pictures from magazines or from the internet. When you draw, draw circles for the activity places and arrows for movement. At this stage there is no right and wrong – the only mistake is to leave out something that is important. It does not have to fit at this stage. First we make the donkey, then we change it.