Notes from Indigo's Principals: Designing with Clients

Jonathan Hammond, Principal

Jonathan Hammond, Principal

After decades of architectural and artistic practice, I believe that my best designs grow from an understanding and response to my clients’ needs as well as the forces of climate and nature present on a site. I can gain an independent understanding of a given site, its climate, shade trees and orientation. I can predict the angle of the sun on site each hour, each day of the year. The information I must glean from my clients involves their ideas and desires for the building.

I often give clients an assignment: write or draw your personal dreams, goals, criteria, in short your vision and ideas for the design of this building. My goal is for clients to express, directly from their hearts, without worrying about how practical, how silly, how mundane or how crazy their ideas may be. Once clients complete this process, we sit down together to discuss the ideas that have been generated. This way, I can get to work on a project from the position of an informed designer: inspired by my clients’ ideas, ready to create a building that expresses and integrates their vision.

I am fascinated by the challenge of taking disparate visions and molding them into a unified, functional whole. A whole that can be built within a specified budget and expresses what my clients do, how they live, how they learn, work and interact. Adding site considerations to this mix, I can design a building that is so exquisitely adapted to the microclimate that a small photovoltaic array will make it a net zero energy user.

This process requires a bit of effort and commitment from each client, but the result is a genuine creative process, that will, in the end, result in the best building.