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"I have a really good design...I just want you to draw it for me..."

Today I want to tell you about a phone call I get quite often at the studio. With a few minor variations *plus awkward silences in between*, it goes something like this...

*phone rings*
‘Hi I got your number from *random source* + *rare formalities*
Hello! Yes, Roven here, what can I do for you? *With the usual excitement I get when I think of a new prospective project*
‘So...I’m building my house and would like to get your services’
That’s great news! This what I love doing. So what would you require? *Here I take the time to listen in detail to the requirements for the house and the client's aspirations. I then carefully and very simply explain the step by step process of how I would take on a project*
‘Oh no no… actually I have a really good design…I just want you to draw it for me…draw the plans...So...What are your charges for that?’
*cue the sound of a deflating balloon*
*Awkward Silence*

At some point in your career as an architect you will definitely have this conversation. Many, many times over. This is, if not anything else, a constant in your career trajectory as an architect. You heard it here first. Also...jokes aside, I didn't hang up at the end of the call above *side eyes*.

While this could be a bit of a taboo subject, I want to talk about it here, because I honestly believe this happens for the simple reason that most people have absolutely no clue what on earth an architect really does *or is*. To be honest an architect sometimes has no clue either what he or she does *mid-life | existential crisis* *weeps*

During the 'early years' of my career, before I dived head first into running my own small practice and had to spend time on correspondence for several hours a day at times, this call would definitely vex me. Nope, I definitely didn't love it - I mean, come on! I am an awesome-super-talented-punk rock-majorly-educated for 8 years-super-experienced-intensely-qualified-architect-person NOT a drafting service! How could you! is what I would think to myself *man! what an ego*. On some occasions I may have 'thought out loud' too *side eyes*.

Now however, I rarely react this way simply because most non-architect-persons haven't got the slightest clue as to the magnitude of variables, decisions, assumptions and time cost of 'just drawing up the plans'. So here it is to set the record straight, get ready... right from an architect-person's mouth... it takes way too damn long!

Let me illustrate this using as few words as possible. Here are a few drawings from a set of about 50-80 similar sheets that make up the documentation set prepared for the 'The Nest at the Bamboo Grove' - a relatively compact residential project of 1800 sqft (170 sqm ).

At times this conversation will waltz into how they have already got a friend *father's | sister's | husband's | friend's son, who has recently migrated* who is *also* a designer, to do the '3D design', which they have fallen in love with. Now they are looking to get the plans quickly drawn up to start building.

At this point I take a deep breath and start to explain to them *with the help of my love for analogies* that calling up an architect and telling them that you have the design all worked out and you just need the drawings done is akin to:

Hi Doctor, I know exactly what's making me sick I just need you to write me a prescription...


Hey there Picasso | Takashi | Andy | Beeple ! Here's what I need you to do...Take this sketch I just did...and create an artwork exactly like it!...oh and don't forget to sign it !

While there are doctors and maybe some artists out there who will do this for you, they are as hard to find as architects who will simply 'draw up a plan'. You can probably find them through some shady channels and super top secret alleyway meet ups *shudder*.

So what's the take away from all this? it ultimately comes down to the age old notion of getting the right person for the right job. If what you truly need is to covert an existing design into a set of documents, be it for approvals from the local council or a set of drawings for construction, then a drafting service is what you are looking for. The price point for these services are likely more in line with your expectations too and of course the pièce de résistance - you wont have to deal with the architect pointing out *oh so eloquently* all the ways in which you have bad taste . I'm kidding! *not really* *side eyes*

However, if you are looking to utilize an architect's refined skill set in designing spaces and the experience and insights gained through directly handling projects similar to yours, taking you from inception through visualizing, designing, detailing, meeting permits and pricing targets and finally managing the construction to ensure you actually get what has been discussed and agreed upon on paper - then that architect *dressed in all-black-everything* *probably cycling to work* is exactly who you need.

Looking back, I have always tried to help everyone at the other end of this phone call in some way by at least pointing them in the right direction. Although I would love to help everyone who reaches out with this request, most often the harsh reality is that it would not be a good fit for either one of us. I would gladly pick informing them of this and pointing them in the right direction, over moving forward and putting them in a difficult position.

I recall a conversation with a person who was completely unaware of the process of getting their house built from start to finish. As it is hardwired into my nature to try and help in anyway I can, this conversation ended up being an hour long phone call. I explained as simply as possible, the process of design, the importance of approvals and getting an engineer's structural input, how to choose a contractor and the importance of good material choice. No, my time and effort did not convert into a project for my firm or any payments. Yes, it felt awesome to help someone.

Fortunately, some of these calls have actually turned into real projects and clients, when the caller was genuinely unsure about what it is they needed in order to move ahead with their builds and in the end realized they needed an architect *me* *huge grin*. These moments have brought me happiness, since it was through my skills as an architect that I was able to be of help to someone who needed it.

Cheers my friend !

Your Everyday Architect sign off hand written


Thanks for reading!

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Your Everyday Architect monogram hand drawn ink sketch

Your Everyday Architect

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Nushkia Chamba
Nushkia Chamba
May 28, 2022

Just for the record, to whoever sees mine and my sister’s comment below: this is not a typical Sri Lankan family where relatives send their every post to them to get views or comments *grin* I got here by myself, on a Saturday morning, to read these stories. Fun, real and humble - and I got to learn something in less than 5 mins! Gotta love that. *shares on twitter*

Roven Rebeira
Roven Rebeira
May 31, 2022
Replying to

Haha, Thanks for this very real comment Nush. Don't I know it ! I'm glad you found something relatable in my writing. Hope you keep reading. ✌


Natashya Chamba
Natashya Chamba
May 27, 2022

What a riveting piece of writing! Absolutely love it. Keep them coming,Rov! Super proud xx



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