Dealing with Clients - My Experience as an Architect

Opinions Dated:  Feb. 11, 2015
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British Lady's Bungalow - Shenbaganur Hills, Design by: Ar. PRS Sivakumar

As an architect, I have been lucky to work on projects of the elitist of politicians and industrialists in Tamilnadu as well as for common people. I share my experiences below for the benefit of young architects on this forum.

I feel that dealing with every client is an enriching experience in itself for an architect. And if they come from varying backgrounds, it makes for all the more a fascinating journey. Contrary to what some people might think, as far as the projects of politicians etc., were concerned, I felt really blessed. Either they themselves dealt with me personally (most of the times) or the highest level official dealt with me. When I first hesitated that I might not get along with any “false & fancy ideas” of theirs (if they had so), I was guaranteed that they would go by my ideas and that the projects - from concept to completion - would conform to my designs and advice. So it was perfectly smooth going with these projects and I was treated with high regards and was also compensated with very decent remuneration without any hassles !

And with other elitists of the society who either belonged to the corporate class or technocrats or industrialists, (I was mostly doing their personal bungalows / villas or their own personal office premises ), since it was their personal buildings, they always dealt with me directly - the entire family with grown up children too. Half way through their projects, I would have become their close family friend too ! And many a time their brothers/ sisters/ cousins would also become my clients. And for larger scale Institutional projects / corporate offices/ industries, it so happens that the owners / partners themselves deal with me directly. I have to thank the Almighty for having blessed me like this ! These type of clients have taken me abroad with them to China, Malaysia, Indonesia (Bali Islands), Dubai. Abu Dhabi, etc. either to select materials or to make me see some places personally so that I got a feel of that place - They gave me exposure to good things in life so I could design better !

I once again reiterate that all these clients came to me by word of mouth through my other clients - of course also having seen my previous projects done. So even before they came to me they knew my attitude and I was accepted by them for what I was & I am still being accepted for what I am.

Among these clients there are two types. One type of clients know exactly what they want and explicitly convey it to me by showing me pictures of what they like & what they do not like. And they are quite realistic in their expectations with the land on hand. And these clients have quite high taste. To me, this type is the one who make my work easy. The concept gets finalized in not more than 3 sittings and the design frozen and my office staff could go ahead with detailed drawings.

The other type - they do not know exactly what they wanted - they are confused seeing so many on the web, in ads, inputs through their friends & relatives, they may not even realize how large their building would be. With these people, the second sitting with me would be a long session riddled with questions by me. By the time they have finished answering my questions fully, they would have realized more or less what they wanted. This session may take even 4 to 5 hours. After this the 3rd sitting would be with the first concept drawings. Again this would be a long session. At this time they would have realized that they left out something which they should have told me before and some provisions were superfluous. Now I have dug out more of what they wanted from their minds. Even with these people (because I am also a good mind reader), the concepts would be frozen in the 4th or 5th sitting. From then onward they start listening to whatever I say.

Among these elites,  the projects I get the most satisfaction are that with such of those who have very high expectations from me. The more demanding their expectations are, the more satisfaction I get fulfilling their expectations and it is sheer joy & pleasure for me designing for these demanding clients.

Among these there are quite a few who think whatever I say or advise is Bible to them. If, by any chance, I made an error, they would think that I have done this for some reason ! So I have to be triple times more careful with my drawings with these people.

But I have had some bitter experiences with some corporate buildings where I did not have direct discussions often enough to the owners/ CMDs. I had to deal with the Vice Presidents & GMs. Then all kinds of  fishy stuff started happening which I could not tolerate. My formidable attitude did not have effect with these people. But here again, except for bitter experience, I won. I had the Vice President thrown out of the company ! The CMD had faith in me. All the other fellows became submissive! With bitter experiences with two projects, I decided not to take up projects where I had to deal with the subordinates. That holds good till today.

And now regarding the common people, they come to me with a lot of expectations - to get a very efficiently designed building in the available small land space. They do not expect any fancy or very stunning looking building / house. They come to me to get a building which would be value for money spent. But these common people first have lot of hesitation to meet me or come to my office - for fear of being declined ! Because the majority of my clients belong to the much upper class, these people have a fear of getting snubbed !! These people, before they finished discussion with me - had had a wrong impression about my true self.

In fact, I encourage these people to avail my services - at a more nominal fee - in a few cases at such a low fee that it would only cover my establishment expenses and nothing left out for myself.

I consider serving these common people as among the noblest services I do. I always consider & wish that my knowledge should become useful to even the man on the street. I hate being projected as a service provider for the high & mighty alone. While the high & mighty might enrich my bank account, serving these common people enrich my spiritual advancement and give a meaning to my life.

So when these people  come to me, I brain wash them for 2 to 3 hours till they find  themselves quite comfortable with me having no reservations by the end of the discussion (or brain washing session). And I always think twice before what I speak to them - lest they become uncomfortable mentally. I respect them the same way I do with the elitists. The day I really become happy is the day when I see smiling & happy faces of these people after they occupied the building & enjoyed the benefits of my design. Other than this I have not had any peculiar situations with these type of people.

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