Architecture that liberates the space, light and air” … “Natural beauty in Fort Greene” … “Sophisticated style, fabulous kitchens, fabulous bathrooms” … “The convergence of fine living and fine lifestyle.”
These phrases are all taken from recent advertisements for condos in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and reflect themes common in real estate ads since their invention. But how many prospective buyers or other people think about the process that got these buildings constructed in the first place? Many people know the names of “celebrity architects” like Frank Gehry, Enrique Norten and Richard Meier, but what do they know about the vast majority of architects who design residential buildings, and what they do? How much does the architect contribute to the design process, and how much is the developer's input? And where does the engineer come in?
There's far more to constructing a residential building than digging a big hole and then following a blueprint.
The First Steps
How does a residential developer assemble the team of architects, engineers and other professionals for a project? While some very large developers may have in-house architects and engineers, “out-sourcing” is more common.
One way that a developer hires an architect is through a previous working relationship—someone he or she has used before and feels comfortable with. Or else he could select an architect through recommendations or portfolio review. Clearly, a developer would typically seek out an architect who has had experience designing the type of building he wants to build—a condo developer typically wouldn’t hire an architect whose sole experience has been designing school and library buildings, for example.