Can you think like a developer?

It was a question posed by a client who bought a rental property, and wanted to completely upgrade the building, and planned to sell the property for a profit while  I was in the midst of  describing how we can add value to the building through new designs.

At the moment, I had to stop wearing the  “architect’s hat”, but trying a new one: developer’s/ investor’s/ client’s.  

We architects have love–hate relationship working with them. We love them due to their businesses being directly linked to ours, and at the same time, there are more than one occasions where the word, “hate” might come up during the design and construction processes.  Although the difficulties can vary-work schedules, unforeseen expenses, various material selection choices- the source of those difficulties almost always pointed to one direction: money.

With the question, “can you think like a developer?” presented, I  started thinking about all those above difficulties…but my answer came out as a resounding “yes”.  This is a story of how one project gave a lesson in designing a project with current, and unknown future clients. With the fixed budget assigned to the project with the mystery building occupants guessed, my initial resounding answer, YES was starting to feel not so “resounding” as the project continued on….


However, ultimately my view  of “us VS. them (developers / investors/ clients)” changed “slowly” over the course of the project.  Especially at the final stage, marketing/sale of the property which happened beginning of this year, I had to admit that it was a great lesson  for all of us (“us AND them”) involved in the project.  The Woodbine Ave. was the first comprehensive development project for the firm, Studio Jonah.  It started a few years ago, and finally finished earlier this year going through the process of initial design / construction and then marketing the project to potential buyers.

It was a valuable education in understanding the client, and the thinking processes, which guide the entire design processes.  During the whole project, I learn  to wear many hats: architect’s, developer’s, future buyers’, etc.  There are  number of lessons that constantly come up throughout the process, and the most important three, I want to share with my readers who are curious about the background story.

  • importance of research, 
  • “additional” value, 
  • design for the future as well as present

These detailed lessons are well documented on the PROJECT section of the website.

Please share your experience/opinions here to start the conversation.

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