Special Feature

GIANNA B. VILLAVICENCIO, Special Features Writer

Coordinated designers

Posted on May 19, 2012

If you're giving an architect the reins over your future home or office, you'll want someone with the right mix of practicality and creativity. Here's what local architects have to say on choosing and working with a professional firm.

"A big part of one's day is spent at home or the office, which makes these spaces the most specific and tailor-made of projects ... Creating these spaces require[s] a considerable amount of time and a harmonious client-architect relationship," said Arkisens co-founder and architect Chok Manalo in an email.

Mr. Manalo said that clients should personally meet architects behind the firm and view their portfolio for work consistency. "Built works clearly demonstrate the firm's experience in getting their designs realized, but conceptual works show design capabilities as well," he said. He also cited licenses, registrations, affiliations, and testimonials as markers of an architect's credibility.

On deliberating between an established or a startup firm, Mr. Manalo said, "An old-timer may not necessarily be more experienced [and] a young group may not always be more creative."

"If a prospective client has decided on a particular design direction, then it would be advisable to hire a veteran that specializes on that specific type of architecture," he explained. However, more experienced firms often charge higher rates.

The architect also said to remember that the client, as the one who pays the bills, should get the final word. "If he finds that the architecture firm is not doing its tasks anymore, he can always consider moving to a different firm."

Carlo Mateo, managing partner of MANA Architecture and Interior Design, shared his insights as well. "If you will go for a firm with a young design team, you can expect creativity, but be sure to ask questions about the practicality of the designs," he said in an email.

Having an outline and budget is also advisable. For this task, Mr. Mateo said, "Take your time. Enjoy the design process. As you make changes in the design, the probable costs are also updated." He also said to inquire about design options, from the most affordable to the most luxurious. "The architect should not only know the [estimated] costs, but more importantly, the value for your money."

Meanwhile, Gruppo Arkitekto Company, Inc. President Donato Magcale said in an e-mail that clients should learn to differentiate their needs from their wants to avoid unexpected fees. "Each proposal should be economically realistic and doable within [the project's] timeline."

According to Mr. Magcale, regular meetings and site visits with the architectural group are a must. "Cordial, receptive, and professional communication between the client and architect will allow thorough delivery on all the requirements," he said. He also recommended hiring a design firm with the most up-to-date communication services.

Finally, Mr. Magcale said to consult architects about environmental design options for the home or office space. "Green architecture seeks to minimize energy consumption, and there is always a misconception that it would be expensive [to] go green," he said. For added guidance, he said to contact the Philippine Green Building Council (PHILBGC) and the Green Architecture Movement of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP).