The employment of a professional adviser has been proved of value both economically and aesthetically.
Financially, the architect should be able to save his fee to the owner by suggesting economies in planning, in construction, and in the use of the materials which will not detract from the essential requirements. This is due to his experience in handling similar work and his training and familiarity with the building-market. Some of the simplest examples are in the grouping of flues to save chimneys; or in the placing of the plumbing fixtures on the different floors so as to save piping for supplies, wastes, and vents; or again by specifying those materials which are most available or wear best under local conditions.
From the artistic point of view the architect should either recommend to the owner the type of design best suited to the individual and the locality, or, if the owner has already determined in his own mind the character of house to be erected, he should be able to point out and eliminate defects, and at the same time further develop the individuality to be expressed, and emphasize the attractive features. His assistance in this case is particularly valuable, for from flat drawings he can visualize the house that is to be built; he senses the relationship of plans and elevations and so does not unwittingly place a second-story fireplace over the middle of the parlor ceiling, or make similarly awkward arrangements. He can analyze the special effect of age or richness his client desires, and point out how it may be produced by some small change in surface texture or by modulation of color. The width of a stone joint, or the proportions of a wood stair may signify as wide a difference between the best and "good enough" as between a Corot and a chromo.
1 From the House Beautiful Building Annual, 1925. (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1925), pp. 1- 4.
In selecting the architect, both his artistic qualifications and his business ability must be considered. The best way to determine them is by judging the houses he has built and by talking to his former clients.....
The terms of employment should be frankly discussed at the beginning, no matter how close a friendship already exists between the interested parties. The amount of the fee and the services to be rendered should be agreed upon, even to such details as the terms covering abandonment of the project, or the point in the preparation of the drawings - say, when the working-plans are started - after which the cost of redrawing radical changes shall be paid for by the owner.
It will facilitate the work of the architect and all future dealings with him if the owner can come to a definite and candid understanding not only as to the terms of employment, but also as to the limitations of size, quality, and cost for the new building. There is a common belief that an architect will make a house cost more than the owner can afford to spend; but this is not so. If the budget is carefully prepared, .... this can be avoided; but all the facts must be faced as frankly as a patient would explain his symptoms to his doctor, and the limit of expenditures must be recognized from the beginning.
After the first conference of the owner with his architect, a clear understanding should be had as to what services are to be expected from the architect and what his remunerations are to be.
His commission may vary on a domestic design from 6 per cent (the architect's minimum "living wage") for a house costing $10,000 or over, without unusual features or much ornamentation, to 10 per cent or more for a very small house, or for one where a great deal of special work is involved. This sliding scale is necessary, as the time required by the designer and specification-writer is almost as great on a building costing $10,000 as on one costing $15,000. There are no more types of doors and windows to be drawn out with full-size sections, the detailed written description of the materials is no more complicated, and the client will expect as many hours of conference; for, after all, to him it is the most important house in seven counties. Many architects who have reached preeminence in domestic design charge 12 per cent or 15 per cent on all their work, as the demand for their services justifies the increased rate. On the other hand, if the owner does not wish to pay the customary commission he will get no more than he pays for.....
If unusual engineering requirements are involved, whether in the structure or in the mechanical equipment - such as bridging quicksand or an individual sewage-disposal system, requiring the advice of a specialist-the additional fee is paid for by the owner; but this is not likely to occur in a house of medium size.
In the purchase of furniture or special objects of art under the direction of the architect, a fee of about 10 per cent is customary.
On completion of the preliminary sketches, one-fifth of the total estimated fee is due the architect; on completion of the working drawings and specifications, an additional two-fifths; and the remaining two-fifths as the work progresses.
If radical changes are made, causing the redrafting of plans already prepared, or if the project is abandoned, the services of brain and hand which have been rendered in good faith should be paid for. The basis may be as outlined in the paragraph above, or on an hourly basis, as shown by the architect's office books.
The architect's definite duties, aside from being the guide, philosopher, and friend of the owner, are to consult with his client in preparing the preliminary sketches and estimates; to make full working drawings and specifications; to obtain estimates; and, after passing upon them with the owner, to draw up the contracts. At all convenient times he is at the service of his client for consultation. He must make small-scale and full-size detail drawings; and the more of these included in the estimating drawings the better. After the contract is signed he supervises the construction, and he certifies to the amount and time when payments are due the contractor. Finally, after a last painstaking inspection, he passes upon the completion of the building in relation to the contract, which includes the written agreement, the drawings, and the specifications.
The architect is the agent of his client throughout the progress of the work, and it is his duty to see that the owner's interests are protected, not only in so far as the quality of the design or materials is concerned, but also in drawing up the legal documents and checking the financial arrangements. After the contract with the builder is signed by the owner, the architect must act also as the expert who passes judgment as to whether the agreement is being properly executed, and therefore he must also pass on the relationship between the owner and the contractor as well as on that between the builder and his subcontractors.
Occasionally a prospective home-builder will wish to employ an architect with the idea that a few sketch plans and elevations are all that are required; but it should be remembered that, in addition to this, it is essential to have careful working-drawings and detailed specifications; first, that the owner may know exactly what is contemplated, and may get accurate information on the cost before the work starts; second, that the estimators may figure closely; third, to avoid the danger of extras at a later date; and fourth, to ensure the avoidance of mistakes or misunderstandings in the coordination of the many trades which will take part in the construction.
No one would build an automobile from the beautiful colored drawing and brief description in a magazine advertisement, or expect to create a dressmaking triumph from a fashion plate if he knew nothing of materials and fittings. Yet many a prospective house-owner will expect to build his own home, a more expensive and permanent investment than either car or cloak, from a small perspective and two sketch-plans, leaving the details to any stray carpenter. And it is those carefully studied detail-sheets over which the architect must labor that give the final touch of line and grace, of strength and character.
In describing the architect's duties, reference was made to preliminary sketches in contradistinction to the working drawings.
Sketches or studies may be small and simple, but even then can serve as an indication of the grouping of all the elements of the plan and the essentials of the artistic treatment. These can be altered, amended, or even redrawn with comparative ease. The very fact that the studies are not precise leaves the imagination free and the mind more open to suggestions. It is like fitting a dress before the seams are sewed.
Working-drawings must be made on a larger scale, preferably with one-quarter of an inch equaling one foot, or, as it is called, "quarter-scale." With the preliminary sketches two floor diagrams and a freehand perspective may suffice; but for working-drawings all the floor plans and the roof, all the facades, and several sections should be drawn out with the materials indicated, and with explicit dimensions noted on all the sheets.
Details like the swing of doors, location of light fixtures and push buttons, headroom under stairs, and rainwater conductors should at this stage all have been carefully considered and noted. The working-drawings should also include, even in the estimating stage, details of the exterior and interior on the scale of ½" or ¾" = 1'.
Such sheets require much time and skilled labor. Changes which in themselves appear slight may involve rearrangements of supports or piping, doors or stairways, on each plan, section, and elevation, and cause a considerable added expense to the architect. When plans are redrawn at this stage owing to the client's new ideas, he should pay for the cost of the unforeseen labor to which the architect has been put.
Specifications which accompany preliminary drawings need be only one or two typewritten pages, listing the most important materials in the walls, floors, and roof, and a line or two on the heating, plumbing, and electric wiring. Working specifications, however, should cover explicitly all the materials which are to be included in the construction and the method of installing and finishing them. For example, if brick walls are called for, the common and face brick, their bonding and jointing must be described; their protection during erection from frost, rain, and drought and their pointing and cleaning-down noted; the character of the sand, cement, lime, and coloring matter, and the method of mixing the mortar, and the tests and restrictions must be fully covered; the preparation of samples and the building in of door and window frames, outside brackets, interior framing, nailing blocks for applied woodwork, flashing, and so forth, all included, if the specifications are to be really complete.
The specifications should clearly differentiate which part of the work belongs to any trade; they should be arranged in the general sequence the construction is to follow, and should be presented paragraph by paragraph, for ease of reference and to avoid misunderstandings on the job.1
After the contract is let, full-size details are prepared, by the architect, of doors and windows, balusters, cornices, mantels, and the like. The true artistic quality of the whole design may depend on these drawings, whether it is the delicate refinement of the Colonial period or the daring richness of the Spanish Renaissance. A crude entrance doorway may ruin a well-proportioned house, or a charming fireplace may "make" a living room.
Shop drawings, based on the architect's plans, are made by the contractor and may be called for from any one of the various trades as needed.
1 For further information on specifications see pp. 189-94.
Their purpose is to show any particular information which should be checked before actual execution is under way - such as a jointing schedule, if there is a stone portico, or assembly sheets for metal work if there are iron balconies, and similar diagrams depending on the scope of the work.
As soon as the contractor takes possession of the site, the architect's supervision begins. This need not be continuous, as the importance of inspection varies with each part of the construction. For instance, in concrete work, each batch which is mixed and poured may be defective. Unless both the contractor and his foreman are reliable and painstaking, the architect must give almost constant supervision, because, the material once poured, it is difficult to detect faults or remedy them if found. On the other hand, in placing the floor timbers, a quarter of an hour's inspection can check a week's work by the carpenter. A mistake in spacing or sizes can be readily seen and the correction ordered.
The better the general contractor and the better his chance of making a reasonable profit out of the job, the less need there is of a close and critical supervision by the owner and architect. This is a consideration the owner must bear in mind when placing the contract, not allowing himself to be governed entirely by the prices submitted.
Inspection is by no means merely police duty. The architect and owner should treat the contractor as an ally rather than as a natural enemy. A friendly spirit of mutual give-and-take will expedite the work and stimulate the builder to make minor concessions beyond the letter of the contract.
Payments by an owner are made only on the written recommendations of the architect, who submits them monthly as the work progresses. Before construction begins, the contractor should submit to the architect a schedule showing how the total cost in the agreement is to be subdivided. .... This itemized schedule serves to check the applications for payment, which are subdivided in the same manner. For example, the amount asked for on the value of the labor and material for brickwork incorporated in the building, compared to the total amount originally assigned to that trade in the schedule, can be checked approximately by comparing the brickwork already completed with that required for the entire building.
[Note. - The Illinois Society of Architects has divided the services of the architects into five fundamental functions: (1) the making of preliminary studies which is in reality the diagnosis of building problems, (2) preparation of the working drawings, (3) preparation of specifications which cover all items of information, (4) detail drawings, (5) general supervision of the work.]
Certain forms in building have come to express certain social functions. Proportion, balance, rhythm and harmony, contrast and scale - all are essential factors in the consideration of architecture. The forces that change architecture from one style to another are new materials, new modes of construction, and the rise of new social habits. Form and function, beauty and use, are coupled together in every good piece of architecture. The correct use of materials and forms which are also essential for beauty vary with both locality and climate.
Each architectural style has its definite characteristics, although a house of pure architectural style rarely is found. These various styles which have been used in America have been adapted to meet the needs in this country and adapted also for the section of the country in which they are located. The styles most common in domestic architecture are Colonials and adaptations of English, French, Spanish, and Italian. Design, however, is best developed from plan and not plan from design, therefore if the house meets the family's needs and requirements, it often does not even resemble a style. Few small houses are planned by architects, but through the work of such organizations as the Architects' Small House Service Bureau, better architectural service by operative builders, and appreciation of the value of good architecture by the general public, small-house architecture has improved.
The most satisfying houses architecturally, undoubtedly, are those which are designed by architects. The important functions of the architect are: (1) to make preliminary studies, (2) to prepare working-drawings, (3) to prepare specifications, (4) to prepare supplementary and detailed drawings, (5) to supervise the work generally.