Julien Meyrat
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Julien Meyrat

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Be Sure to “Like” My House...Continued

When individuals build a new home, they have access to a wider range of information than ever before. From television to magazines, and especially on the internet, an unceasing torrent of images full of landscape and architectural ideas find a captive audience. Does this abundance of visual sources affect the way architects design residential projects? Does the new media favor trendiness over a slower, more considered design approach? We invited five of the leading residential designers in Dallas to share their experiences of working with clients within the current social landscape. Each describes the issues he or she deals with in practice—and the core values they maintain.

An extensive article quoting various residential architects in Dallas was published in the Fall 2017 issue of Columns magazine. The following comments provide a continuation of that conversation. Add in your own thoughts in the reader comment section to the left.

How important is it for clients to make a statement, and do you tend to encourage or discourage this?

“I design beautiful, well-proportioned, well-detailed houses. I prefer romantic, asymmetrical, but balanced compositions and appearances over formal, symmetrical ones. I do encourage clients not to go for imposing, pompous homes. However, it is always a challenge and fun to work out the requirements of today’s floor plans and get the syncopated rhythm of the forms and the proportions of the forms to look good.” Richard Davis, AIA, Richard Drummond Davis Architect

How have cable television channels such as HGTV and websites such as Houzz influenced the way a client communicates their needs and wants on their project? 

“These outlets have streamlined communication in my view. They can be used as a point of reference to discuss many aspects of design including details, budgets, etc. I believe it’s the architect’s job to set expectations while leading the direction of the design; communication in whatever form is critical to that process. An informed client can help improve the flow of the design process at a minimum; even better, they may provide beneficial research to the architect or contribute a thought that might otherwise have been overlooked. Research and discovery is an important part of the design process.” Joshua Nimmo, AIA, Nimmo Architecture

The phenomena of the “tear-down” has become a major feature in the development of private residences in Dallas. Do you tend to support tearing down an existing house if a client demands it or do you tend to try to make a case to renovate and expand?

“Land values have increased significantly and many developers want to maximize the return on their investment by building large homes on small lots. Sometimes the easiest way to achieve that is to scrap the older home and start fresh. Often, during a remodel, as walls are being torn out and rooms are opened up, problems are discovered such as aluminum wiring, outdated HVAC systems, rotted wood, or plumbing issues. New construction allows for a more seamless construction process for a contractor. Unfortunately, this builder trend has led to some beautiful, architecturally significant homes being torn down.” Patricia Magadini, AIA, Bernbaum/Magadini Architects

How much consideration do clients give to the idea that their homes should relate to the existing character of the neighborhood? How strongly do clients insist on emulating a home they saw in a magazine or on a website? 

“Before the process of design even begins, clients have consumed hundreds, maybe thousands, of images and ideas through publications, social media, and by visiting projects—which is the preferred method, of course. This preparation is necessary. Not only does it inform clients of what is out there and available, but it also speaks to trends, which isn't always a bad thing.” Ron Wommack, FAIA, Ron Wommack Architect

Beyond building a shelter unique to the household, the design of a home also communicates social aspirations of the client. How much of a role does “keeping up with the Joneses” play in the final built product?

“While we may have seen some of this behavior in the distant past, we do not see a lot of that stuff now. There is a lot of conversation around the culture of the client(s) and how the new home can reinforce that. But I also suspect there can be some of the ‘keeping up’ stuff nagging them in their subconscious.” Gary Cunningham, FAIA, Cunningham Architects

How much are design trends and fashions thrust upon the architect by the client, and how much of those factors are guided by the architects themselves?  

“Design trends are not very important to us, nor to most of our clients, so this is not a big factor in the work we do. Our clients are happy to let us lead them in a somewhat logical process of design that does not center on such things. We are very lucky to have such trust.” Gary Cunningham, FAIA