Recently I sat down to dinner with some prospective clients. It was really low key. The decision to get together wasn’t predicated on interest in hiring an architect. In fact it wasn’t until part way through dinner that it became clear they had ulterior motives for coming over. Which was fine by me. I always like talking about the design process and residential architecture. Special knowledge about their intent wouldn’t have affected my behavior.
Part way through the evening I started telling them about BIM and ARCHICAD—how smart architects now work with these powerful digital tools in order to help their clients understand what they are getting. After a few minutes of describing the difference between old and new, I said “why don’t I just show you”. Off I hopped to my office (a benefit of working from home) and returned with my laptop. I fired up ARCHICAD and showed them a project that was about to start construction.
I first showed them drawings, and then the 3D model. The project—and their potential project—involved mostly interior remodeling. So I showed them existing plans, demolition plans, and proposed plans. I walked them through the finished design in ARCHICAD and also discussed a number of renderings we did during design development. It was one of those weird coincidences that I happened to have all this stuff readily available. The renderings were even all placed in a PowerPoint presentation I happen to have open from earlier in the day. I showed them all this documentation and they were amazed. They loved looking at the 3D and exploring the model like a video game. They are my age and one of them works at Microsoft. I knew what I was doing.
This is all standard stuff these days. And I more or less told them that. They had already been talking to a few other firms. I happen to know all the firms because they also coincidentally use ARCHICAD. So I could tell these clients “look you’re talking to good people, I’m an internationally recognized expert with this software, but everyone you are talking to has these tools at their disposal too.” I of course love winning work, but my true goal is always to promote good design, to encourage hiring talented professionals, and to raise the status of custom residential architecture. If they hire me, fantastic. If they hire one of these other firms, great. I want them to live in a beautiful house that suits their needs.
It’s a good story, and an unfinished one because I don’t know if I landed the biggest project of my career thus far. Or if the conversation happened too late. Or if I didn’t get it because I don’t have the marketing infrastructure set up yet. Or because my portfolio is a scattered mess across everyone’s website but my own—and that too many of my projects from the past few years will never show up on my own website. Don’t ask. Or do. Or just search through my writing over the years and sniff out clues.
The big ah-ha moment though, the thing from this night that I’ll reference in lectures and future client meetings happened when I showed the prospective clients a model of the existing conditions. I changed the renovation filter of the model so that they could see the view from the front door as it is today, after demolition, and after the project is completed. One of the prospective clients made exclamations of “that is so cool! I love that! That kitchen is just what we want.” But she then went on to say something like “wait, that’s the same space?” or maybe it was “I didn’t know that’s what you changed.” My response was that I’d already showed them all of this, in drawing form. I’d shown them the existing conditions, what we were taking away, and what we were adding. And I showed them more, but all in drawing form: plans, sections, and elevations. I showed them all the stuff we architects have been showing clients for years and years. And this highly educated lawyer didn’t understand one bit of it. It wasn’t until we were walking around the model, flipping between before and after that it all clicked, that she actually understood the design we were proposing.
If I win the privilege to be their architect, I’m not going to bother showing them plans, sections, or elevations. We will live in the model. Perhaps once they understand the design in 3D space, then I’ll show them plans. But they don’t care about floor plans, they care about the experience of the space.
Before 3D View:
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