Protecting the Client – 3 Ways to be a Citizen Architect

Lucky number 13 of the Architalks series created by Bob Borson over at is titled Citizen Architect. If you are like me, the first thing you think of when hearing that term is the excellent documentary on Samuel Mockbee,  Citizen Architect. If you haven’t seen it, I would highly suggest checking it out. Especially if you want to feel bad about yourself for not contributing enough to society.  Sometimes we all need a swift kick in the rear end when it comes to not being selfish jerks focused solely on our own livelihood and that movie definitely delivers.

However, instead of wallowing in self despair (a highly developed skill of most Architects) at not doing enough, I am going to focus on what every Architect can do every single day they practice this wonderful profession…. Protecting the Client.




At Bill Huey + Associates we typically design high end homes for extremely discerning clients. (the above image is not a built design, but rather a far fetched conceptual sketch of a high end house we are building) Most are CblankOs of some type (CEO,CFO, COO, … you get the point) and are very skilled in their respective areas of expertise.  However, they still rely on us as their Architect to protect and guide them through the process.  Below are my 3 tips for Protecting the Client and therefore Being a Citizen Architect.

Step 1: Protect the Client from Themselves

An analogy I like to tell Clients at the beginning of a project is that designing and building a house is similar to sailing.  There are going to be a lot of team members on this ship performing various critical tasks, but ultimately we are all headed in the same direction.  It is wise to seek and heed the advice of your experienced crew mates, but ultimately as the Client, they are steering the ship.   If they are about to make a decision that is going to take them off course or run them ashore, it is our job as their Architect to guide them back to safety or at the very least, alert (and document) them of the dangers.  Commissioning a custom home is a wonderful adventure, but it isn’t without it’s difficulties and protecting the Client from themselves is a critical service provided by the Architect.

Step 2: Protect the Client from NIMBYs

NIMBY stands for Not In My Back Yard and Steve Ramos over at Buildings are Cool  has written some excellent articles about this in regards to the Charleston BAR. Sometimes people think they own and therefore control everything they can see from their front porch.  This, legally, is not true, but there are various court cases where a neighbor sues another neighbor for the way their house looks.  So be a good citizen and make sure all the neighbors play nice.  Or better yet, do your homework and make sure this never becomes an issue…

Step 3: Protect the Client from incompatible team members

The easiest way to implement step 3, as the Architect, is to pick every member of the team.  In high school soccer practice, I knew that as long as I got to pick my own team, we could always win the practice scrimmages.  It wasn’t necessarily any one person that made our side so special, it was the combination of members that was magical.  I would pick the people I could trust to execute their position properly. The professional world isn’t all that different.  Yeah, we aren’t (necessarily) awkward, sex crazed teenage boys (or girls) anymore, but team dynamics are still in play. Picking the right team can make the whole project so much easier.  However, sometimes you don’t get to pick the whole team.  Sometimes you are given certain team members because of a variety circumstances outside of your control.  In that case, I firmly believe it is the duty of the Architect to research and reference check the assigned team members.  And… if worst comes to worst, protect the Client along the way from any incompatibility (or worst yet, dishonesty) of those added members.  Step 3 is probably the hardest to perform, but arguably the most critical to a successful project.  Like they say, 1 bad apple will spoil the whole bunch.

So my advice to all the Architects, Intern Architects, and Students of Architecture is to get out there and Protect the Clients.  By doing that you will, in your own way, be acting as a Citizen Architect.

Thanks and check out all the other super cool Architects blogging about this same topic below!!!

*links that send you to are affiliate links. Buying stuff from Amazon after clicking that link helps support The Architect’s Checklist. 

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Citizen Architect … Seems Redundant

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Citizen Architect

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Good Citizen Architect

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Does it Mean to be a Citizen Architect?

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
small town citizen architect

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: The everyday citizen architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Citizen Architect: #architalks

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Architect as Citizen

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
My Hero – Citizen Architect

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
We are the Champions – Citizen Architects

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Meet Jane Doe, Citizen Architect

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Architalks #13: How Can I Be But Just What I Am?

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Help with South Carolina’s Recovery Efforts

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Senior Citizen, Architect

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Citizen Architect

Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
Citizen Starchitect’ is not an Oxymoron

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Citizen Architect – Form out of Time

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
[cake decorating] to [citizen architect]

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Citizen Architect #ArchiTalks

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Citizen of Architecture

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Citizen Developer??

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Citizen Architect

Courtney Casburn Brett – Casburn Brett (@CasburnBrett)
“Citizen Architect” + Four Other Practice Models Changing Architecture

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How Architects Can Be Model Citizens

Aaron Bowman – Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Citizen Architect: The Last Responder

Samantha Raburn – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Inspiring a Citizen Architect

Join the Club!

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4 thoughts on “Protecting the Client – 3 Ways to Be a Citizen Architect

  1. While it is hard to admit that sometimes the client needs protected from the design team, we can sometimes get so absorbed in the project that the client concerns may get brushed over.

  2. Great list. Protect the client from themselves is something we talk about in my office quite a bit. I think you should expand upon what that means. I would argue that isn’t the architect supposed to steer the ship?

  3. As Jonathan Segal from Architect as Developer would say, The Golden Rule applies in Architecture: Those with the Gold make the Rules. Personally, I subscribe to this line of thinking which means that ultimately the Clients get to steer the ship because they have the gold.

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