A couple of days ago, Bob Borson (@bobborson) wrote a post on his blog Life of an Architect about strange client requests that may go against our values or way of thinking. This is the kind of issues that make us go back in time and leave us wondering if we are doing the right thing. So, of course, after reading it, I began to analyze my own experience on the subject and remembered that, in more than one occasion, I have worked with clients that make strange requests, even more bizarre than 5.500 square foot for 2 people.
I particularly remember a client for whom I designed a three-story house.
Right after starting construction, he decided to add an elevator. Three levels would seem like a lot of stairs if you are 80 years old or if you have a desease that does not allow you to exercise, but for healthy young people as the ones that were going to live in that house, it was a little too much.
He decided on a “small” model, which would cover four floors. Since his house had “only” three levels, he decided that, in order to take advantage of the four stops of the elevator, he should add a new level, in which he would place a gym.
This new fourth floor not only would change the facades to the point of turning a house into a building, but also had not been considered when calculating the structure.
But none of that mattered to the client. He wanted a fourth floor and was going to get it, with or without my help. In that moment, all the work of months went through my head. If I did not decide to modify the project and find the best solutions within the design already done, someone else would do it, and probably would change the whole concept that took me many months to achieve.
I finally made a proposal in which the area of the fourth floor was much smaller than the area of the lower level and it was relatively centered, so that the skyline was not altered. A review of the structure was also performed and thankfully, because the area was not so big, there was no need to strengthen it.
Under normal conditions, I would never have proposed an elevator for a three-story house, much less would I have proposed the construction of a fourth level, but the client wanted it, and while part of my job is to make clients understand the pros and cons of any situation to be raised, my job is also to make them happy, and to create the best solutions to their requirements and/or needs.
We do not always like to go against what we think, but sometimes, if we strive to think outside our comfort box, we can get much better solutions than we expected.