Click on a question to read the answer, or scroll down for the complete interview.

Q. What is your specialty?

Q. How would you characterize a good client?

Q. Are there any kinds of projects you would turn down?

Q. I want to make some changes to my home, which is in a registered historic neighborhood. I know there are some special challenges with this kind of project. What can you tell me about this process before I begin?

Q. I'm thinking about adding on to my house. How do I decide if/when to use an architect?

Q. What advice would you give me in selecting an architect?

Q. Why do architects have such cool handwriting?



Q. What is your specialty?

A. I have actively resisted having a particular specialization or style. My portfolio includes residences and commercial projects in styles that range from neoclassical to quite modern. There are certainly elements that characterize my work, including a fascination with natural and artificial light and an attraction to the innovative use of materials. I think what is most important to me is my collaborative relationship with clients; that, I suppose, is a kind of specialization.

Q. How would you characterize a good client?

A. I have found that all my best clients have something in common: A passion that is at least partly made manifest in the physical world. A few have been art collectors or artists themselves, several have been serious cooks or gardeners, one loved books, another restored old cars. These clients already knew that physical objects could enrich their lives; they were ready to demand that same kind of enrichment from their homes and offices, knowing that a well-designed space would give them pleasure every single day. This kind of client is naturally interested in contributing to the design process. The end product is never a generic solution; it expresses something important about the client(s). I like to think that good architecture ends up fitting the client like a well-tailored suit.

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Q. Are there any kinds of projects you would turn down?

A. Probably. Although I am open to almost any type of project, the intentions behind the project are important to me. For example, I take my civic responsibilities as an architect seriously. In Denver, it is becoming common to see older houses torn down and replaced with buildings that occupy every available inch of the lot. Increasing an older home's square footage is a perfectly reasonable goal, but I am uncomfortable if it is the only goal of the project. I would also be cautious about working with couples or business partners where one person is ambivalent about the project. This is a red flag to me that the process will be unnecessarily stressful for all parties.

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Q. I want to make some changes to my home, which is in a registered historic neighborhood. I know there are some special challenges with this kind of project. What can you tell me about this process before I begin?

A. When taking on this kind of project, the most important thing is to allow some additional time in the planning stages to work through the necessary reviews and approvals. Here in Denver, there are published design guidelines, which vary depending on your district. If your changes are consistent with these guidelines, the process is fairly straightforward. Keep in mind that historic approval and any required zoning variances need to be obtained before you can submit for a building permit. In the face of all these onerous-sounding approval processes, it's important to remember that there are advantages to living in historic districts, too; for example, you may be eligible for state tax credits to help offset your construction costs. Any architect familiar with working in historic districts can help you walk through this process fairly painlessly.

For more information or to download application forms, visit http://www.denvergov.org/Design_Guidelines/default.asp

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Q. I'm thinking about adding on to my house. How do I decide if/when to use an architect?

A. I would want to talk with you in more detail about your goals before I could answer your question. For example, if you already know what you want, you may save time and money by working directly with a builder, perhaps one who has some drafting capabilities and can draw up what you have in mind. On the other hand, an architect can be a great resource if you have a sense of what you want -- like a bigger kitchen or more privacy for a home office -- but not how to specifically accomplish your goal. A good architect will listen to your needs and explore many solutions, including reconfiguration of existing rooms as well as adding more space. I usually have a brief initial conversation with potential clients to assess needs and help advise them on the best next step. Sometimes their needs would best be served by a contractor -- or even a handyman. In those cases, I'm glad to refer clients to construction professionals who can do a good job for them. If you decide you want to work with an architect, I'd recommend you find someone whose work you like and ask for a preliminary meeting.

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Q. What advice would you give me in selecting an architect?

A. Well, there are specific questions that you should ask any potential architect, beyond the basics of how much they charge and how long they think the process will take. They should be able to explain how they will work with you and your ideas during the design stage, how they go about checking construction costs for you, and what their role will be during construction. I would check their references, both from other clients and from contractors, to see how knowledgeable they are about the nuts and bolts of buildings and how well they helped resolve problems during construction. I would also suggest that you trust your gut instincts during the interview: Is this person going to listen well to you and your needs? Do they seem excited by your project? Do you have the sense that they will respect your budget? You are about to embark on a major investment of time and money; it will be unnecessarily stressful if you can't enjoy the people with whom you will be working.

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Q. Why do architects have such cool handwriting?

A. We are locked in windowless rooms and beaten until we get it right. Actually, it is an art form that is based on the tradition of hand-drafting all one's drawings--the text on a set of blueprints has to be very legible. These days, with so many architects drawing primarily on computers, it may be a dying skill.

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