Ask These 9 Questions Before You Hire an Architect in Austin
Brady Lane Residence, Rollingwood, Texas
We share interview questions to ask your architect before starting a residential project in Texas.
Embarking on a new home construction or remodeling project can feel like beginning a new relationship. You may experience a rush of different emotions—that exhilaration when you begin the project, the excitement of deciding on your design, and the anticipation as you watch the project come to life. You may even feel a twinge of nervousness—custom residential architecture is a major investment, and the outcome will affect your lifestyle and comfort for years to come.
To avoid costly, headache-inducing missteps and bring your design dreams to fruition, it’s essential to work with the right architecture firm for you and your house. Every architecture team has unique specialties, styles, and values, so your challenge is to find one that aligns with your goals. To help you hunt down your ideal candidate, here are nine questions to ask an architect in Austin, Texas, before you hire them, along with sample answers to give you an idea of what to look for:
1. What is your design philosophy?
Although most architects take pride in their adaptability, many firms have an overriding design philosophy they bring to every project. An architect’s philosophy defines what they wish to achieve in their projects and which principles they use to do so. By talking about your prospective firm’s design philosophy upfront, you can determine whether their philosophy aligns with your own.
Our answer: At Webber + Studio, our philosophy is that architecture should be an adventure, and every adventure comes with obstacles. By embracing challenges in a client’s program, site, and vision along the way, we find ways to turn these obstacles into assets.
2. What is your firm’s mission?
An architecture firm’s mission provides the principles that guide the work of its architects. Inquiring about a company’s mission will give you a glimpse of how it operates and organizes its processes, as well as a sense of its values.
Our answer: Our mission is to follow a consistent process to achieve unique design outcomes. Our consistent process is rooted in our four core values: functionalism, expressionism, regionalism, and minimalism. Prioritizing function and context, we aim to marry our client’s visions with the characteristics of their program and site.
3. What is your firm’s vision?
If a mission statement focuses on today and what an architecture firm does, a vision statement focuses on tomorrow and what the firm hopes to become. Every architect firm has a different vision of what the responsibilities of an architect are, what the relationship with clients and inhabitants should look like, and how architecture can contribute to a better world. If the firm’s vision resonates with you, it might be the right match for you and your project.
Our answer: Our firm’s vision is to use the power of architecture to inspire people to lead their best lives. We want to create a world where all architecture is unique as well as adaptable, enduring, and sustainable.
Columbus Street Residence, Bouldin, Austin.
4. What distinguishes you from other architects?
An experienced architecture firm has a good sense of its own skills, strengths, and qualifications. It should be able to explain with confidence how its qualifications and approach differentiate them from other firms in the Austin, Texas area.
Our answer: Architects can be amazing designers, but not all of them will give deep or focused thought to a client’s personal needs and vision. Because they may have a certain style of architecture or a specific way they like to do things, many architects come into a project with a predetermined design strategy. At Webber + Studio, we are less concerned with our own style than our clients’ unique objectives and programs.
Similarly, our architects pay close attention to the unique features and geography of a site. Because we’re an architecture firm based in Austin, Texas, our architecture will look very different from similar projects you’d find in Minnesota, California, or Florida.
5. Will my project look and feel like your other projects, or is it going to be tailored to my needs and reflect my own life’s vision?
While all architects come with their own unique design sensibilities, they should be committed to designing a home that is suited to you—not one that looks like all their past projects. Don’t settle for cut-and-paste design plans. Instead, look for an architect who can create designs that cater to your personal style, specifications, and budget.
Our answer: We are sometimes asked what our “style” of architecture looks like or what a Webber + Studio home looks like. The truth is, we never go into a project with a predetermined style for a final product. Our projects are not about us—they are about the people and places for which they are constructed.
6. Will you protect me from my worst impulses and guide me towards smarter design solutions?
While you do want your architect to listen to your wishes, you also want them to use their training, experience, and expertise to steer you towards the right solution and final design. Your architect shouldn’t be afraid to speak up to protect you from errors that could result in less-than-amazing results or costly mistakes.
Our answer: We have a pretty good success rate when it comes to convincing clients away from things that we know are probably not in their best interest long-term architecturally—particularly when it comes to climate-based or geographical issues. For example, we advise clients to steer clear of overhangs or dark black brick facades due to the hot Texas sun.
When we spot a potential problem, we work to find solutions by digging deep to find what is behind our clients’ choices. What is it about big windows or about big open spaces that they like? What is it in that picture that they’re showing us that they’re really trying to communicate? By listening and talking through choices with our clients, we can solve issues together and guide them towards smart solutions.
Clearview Residence, Tarrytown, Austin
7. How can the architecture you design for me be better than the sum of me, you, the site, and the structure?
Architects, clients, inhabitants, design, construction, and location all play major roles in shaping the overall architectural outcome. Your architecture firm should be able to explain how all of these elements come together to ensure a successful project.
Our answer: We want to help you design a house with a story behind it. To do so, we fuel our projects with creativity, teamwork, and communication to design a home that is bigger than the sum of its parts.
8. How can I, as the client/owner, enable you to do the best piece of architecture you have yet done?
Think about whether you prefer to let your architect run with a general idea of your goals or want to be deeply involved in the design process. If you aren’t sure how involved you can or should be in the project, ask your architect how to enable them to do their best work. It’s helpful to first understand the firm’s typical timelines and workflows and then ask how you can be most helpful within those structures.
Our answer: Our primary role as architects is to listen, so the best thing clients can do is engage with us in extracting their vision. It’s our job to draw up the plans and execute the design, but we want you to come along for the adventure with us.
9. How can you design my space to evolve with me as I evolve through life’s stations?
Homes can and should evolve with your changing life. To help your architect design a house that evolves with your changing life and remains relevant for generations to come, be sure to explain your plans for you and your family—and ask how the house will accommodate this maturation.
Our answer: The challenge of building an evolving home is at the forefront of our mind at the start of every project—and it’s a challenge we work with our clients to solve together. For example, a parent might feel certain that they want their children’s bedrooms to be close to theirs. Expanding on this idea, we’ll explore how the house will need to evolve as their children grow older and want more space and independence, and then how the house will need to evolve again after the kids leave,and again as the parents grow older. We seek to design homes with rooms that can evolve to serve different functions to accommodate changing needs and lifestyles. As esteemed architect Frank Gehry said, “Architecture should speak of its time and place but yearn for timelessness.”
If you are searching for an architect firm in Austin, Texas, we invite you to get in touch with Webber + Studio. As a premier architect firm in Austin, we have more than two decades of experience designing custom residential homes. We look forward to answering your questions and discussing how we can bring your home construction or remodel project to life.