After almost 3 months with Miller-Hull it became clear to us that we needed an architect with more creativity. We’ve worked with enough (graphic) designers in our careers to know that some designers just can’t get outside of their design comfort zone, so we decided to switch to a different architect. Miller-Hull’s a great firm, but just not the firm for us.
If creativity is what we now realized is what we need, we knew Tom Kundig was the person. We initially thought he was “too creative”, if that’s possible, but now realize that it’d be much easier to work with a creative designer in than it is to get a non-creative designer to be creative. In retrospect, we should have hired Tom from the start. Gay has always loved his architecture and wanted to hire him from the beginning and he does mostly residential projects rather than commercial and public projects, but we somehow talked ourselves into Miller-Hull. Tom’s won quite a few (50+) architecture awards including 27 AIA awards and his firm is the 2009 AIA Firm of the Year.
We intentionally gave Tom only the same information we gave to Miller-Hull: a “program”, in architect-speak. Ours is a 59-page document we wrote describing the requirements of the house, i.e., which rooms we want, their general size, number of bathrooms, etc. as well as some visual cues from architecture that we’d collected over the years. A program is a useful exercise to go through for the clients because it forces you to think about the details of the house and your lifestyle. For example, do we want the kitchen to be close or far from the dining room? Do we want the kids’ rooms to be close or far from the master bedroom? Do we want to enter the house from the front door or come in through the garage?
We didn’t give him any clues about our experience with Miller-Hull and we didn’t verbalize anything about what we were expecting in the house. We wanted to see if he came up with different designs than Miller-Hull based on the same information that they were given.
Today we had our first meeting with Tom and Dan, another architect Tom works with, and it was immediately obvious that they get it. I wasn’t even expecting drawings, I thought we were going to just talk and wave our hands at vague ideas. But he came with four general designs of houses, each one was unique and each one was clearly trying to get at various parts of our program (he seemed to have actually read it!) and the feel for the house and the property. We want the house to embrace the Seattle weather rather than just be a shelter from it and to take advantage of both the water/mountain view that we have but also the views of the big Douglas Firs and the wooded part of the property. This was a struggle to explain to Miller-Hull but Tom clearly understands this from the start. We had a good talk about what we like and don’t like about the designs and I feel like we’re much closer already to the layout of the house than we were after 3 months with Miller-Hull. I may be overly-optimistic, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we had the layout of the house all but nailed down a month from now.