As architects, having the opportunity to explore our creativity and develop ideas to help our clients grow is an incredible experience. As they receive industry-leading thinking and design execution, we also learn and refine our designs to better suit their needs. When working with a client four or five times, as I have done, what do you get? Not only is the designer helping inform the culture of an institution, the culture of the institution is reflected back on us, we truly becoming a part of it.
My experience in the sports and recreation world positions me as someone intimately familiar with the needs of higher education clients day-in and day-out. I’ve researched pool environments in the past, and that kind of expertise only comes from having completed projects in that typology on many occasions. Despite my knowledge, I was not always convinced our end-users (students) gave us much credit for the spaces we design. Yes, our clients, the administrators and boards selecting our work, knew of the high caliber we bring, but in this digital age, and with the pressures of academia more daunting than ever before, I often thought that the physical environment was overlooked. That changed recently.
One morning while waiting outside our (six-time!) repeat client’s office, I was asked by a lost student where their class was located. Coincidentally, it was the very classroom I had the pleasure of designing and executing for this college. I happily directed the student to their needed locale and went into my meeting without giving the interaction a second thought. The sixth time, like the fifth and fourth before it, was certainly a charm. Based on our depth of knowledge of the campus and the design and integration direction the college was going in, I left the meeting knowing they would be a repeat client again. Just as that happened, I passed the very same student in the corridor with a group of colleagues. As I walked by, the young man was in the process of talking about how the classroom (a close quarters battle/scenario room I have experience with designing) really made the training feel real and helped him visualize his roles and put his learned theory into practice.
On the days when architecture gets difficult, I think about this experience. With every interaction, it is a goal to earn the trust of clients, having them become repeat ones, and using that respect to better inform their needs, ultimately creating more passionate students everywhere.