The Architect (2016) is a drama-comedy film directed by Jonathan Parker and starring a married couple, Drew (Parker Posey) and Colin (Eric McCormack), and their Architect, Miles Moss (James Frain).
After visiting a friend’s renovated home with a water view front, this suburban couple is inspired on how to invest in their dream home. They hire an Architect to realize this dream. It doesn’t take long before the dream Architect becomes a nightmare, as his agenda goes from his professional engagement to breaking through the cracks of an unstable relationship between the couple.
Drew is a dreamy Artist, struggling to find a perfect, unhinged expression for her Artworks. Miles notices this, latches onto her struggles, and sells his dreams to her as a fulfillment of their dream home. He sells the idea of who a perfect client is to Drew and she is determined to be a perfect client. Her desire to be a mother made her marital life unfulfilling, hence, she finds comfort in being the Architect’s “muse”.
Colin is in the financial industry but his financial obligations in the marital space left him constantly on edge. He is suspicious of Miles and his moves. He finds the Architect’s approach egotistical and made initial attempts to avoid engaging his services. A lower professional fee puts Miles on his path. Colin’s idea of a dream home requires lots of storage space, mostly for his medal display, kayaking, and exercise kits.
As a couple, Drew is expressive while Colin is stiff and practical. She wants to go with the flow while he prefers to plan his moves. She wants a baby and he clearly stays busy (constantly exercising), to avoid having sex.
Miles is a junior Architect in an Architectural company known as Sullivan+Moss. Moss is the late father of Miles, while Moss’ partner, Sullivan dies unexpectedly 3 months ago. In keeping the company afloat, Miles had struggled to convince his past clients of his dreams for their projects. Meeting the couple and Drew in particular, he found her susceptible and finally builds his first physical building project.
To you, my dearest Client, get to know the Architect’s style of work. If they have an online presence, get acquainted with it. You know where the shoes pinch. You know the problems you have in your building goals. Be vocal, and discuss your concerns with your designer. Be objective enough to know when a design solution has addressed your concerns to an acceptable degree. There are still bad designers out in the market.
To the Designer and Architect in practice, here are 8 lessons to glean from this movie.
1. Your project speaks for you
Take every project as an advertisement tool. Your vision, style, personality, and philosophy are displayed for every live project you design. Drew and Colin did not ask for referrals from their friends. They saw a building, fell in love with it, searched for it online, and made contact with the designer.
2. Create and maintain an online presence
Many architects are missing out on the internet space because they are too involved with creating the designs. The Architect could have lost out on the prospects if not for his online presence. Create a blog, a forum, or a website, showing your works, and explaining the details, processes, and challenges in layman’s terms. Set aside time to go on social media, consider her ways and be wise, engaging in conversations and comments within and outside Architecture.
3. Get to know the lifestyle of your client
And by extension, anticipate what their future indoor lifestyle could be. The Architect is a psychologist, who understands spaces and the humans using them. Getting to know the spaces a client requires is one thing, enjoying dinner with the family is another thing. You don’t need to get too personal to know how a client uses a space. Know when and where to draw the line.
4. Don’t design alone
Know when to bring in the other professionals and members of the building industry. Miles choose to get the contractor involved at the presentation stage. The little squabble between Miles and the Contractor in the presence of the client was not necessary. If Drew wasn’t already enraptured, that could have shown incompetence for a design team.
5. Control your emotions
It’s not about you, the designer, it’s about the client. He or she must find satisfaction in your design solution. Be open to criticisms, constructive or not. Don’t ignore, neglect, or make light of any complaint or client’s dissatisfaction with your work simply because it hurts your ego. Remember that the design concept is the actual statement solution before a plan is put in place and not necessarily the floor plan. Be open and willing to restructure your plans.
6. Be a professional
Design professionals understand their duty to a client. He/she does not get involved with an emotional breach of contract. Miles deceived the couple into building his first project, a project he had won an award for but was never actualized. He put aside the client’s dream home ideas and cunningly worked on his own dream. When Drew found out, she was devastated. In today’s world, a client can decide to pursue such unethical behaviour legally. This could cause you to lose your license, go to jail or redeem yourself with a huge fine.
7. Don’t be involved in unethical practices
Miles proved to be an Architect who could cut corners to achieve what he wants. He is seen telling Colin that the handrails for the stair will be installed for inspection and eventually removed to avoid obstructing the visual flow of the curved stair.
8. Learn to work with shapes and lines you understand.
Care must be taken when designing with curved walls or building envelopes. Straight lines are easy to work with. Mass production of furniture comes in standard right-angled, straight-line shapes except for customized use. Unless you intend to design the furniture for each space, some use of curved shapes may be impractical for a practical space. Nature may not come with right angles and straight lines but until you understand it, work with what you know.
In conclusion, the Architect is a thought-provoking movie that uses architecture and architectural practice to tell a story. From the time, the couple saw an existing building, to their site survey, to visits to her home workspace, to the time of the presentation (except for the dinner part with the family, which felt too personal), most Architects will find similarities in practice.
The movie portrayed the life of a struggling Architect who couldn’t get his designs built. A lot of young Architects struggle in getting clients but his approach to getting his project built is disgusting. It was easy to understand why he couldn’t fulfill his dreams. We didn’t see his previous designs but from the one we saw, he had lofty ideas in his designs which seemed impractical for a residential home with expansion possibilities; in this case, pregnancies.
Miles seemed more concerned about getting Drew to accept his dream project as her dream home, giving her a space that can be separated from Colin’s space when the need arises.
The result? A massive “show” building with one sleeping space and a space for a day bed. Does not seem like an ideal design solution for residency. Miles took his floor plan idea from a Nautilus shell but did a poor job of sectioning the interior to be practical and useful. This further explains the difference between Art and Architecture which states that while Art is simply aesthetics and visual pleasure, Architecture must be all Art and most importantly useful.
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