Brokers: Ever show up to a pitch meeting or client walk-through and wonder who’s who from the architect’s office and how each helps bring the project to fruition? Well, wonder no more! Below is a breakdown to introduce you to key members of the team.
Principal: This is a role I know all too well. Though each firm may have some slight variations on the principal position, typically they are charged with two chief objectives: bringing in new business while at the same time nurturing, hopefully in a hands-on way, the projects that are on tap, ensuring that what is promised to the client is properly executed and delivered upon. So what is the most challenging part of the principal’s job? In my opinion, it’s mentoring without micromanaging. In other words, letting the team members I’m about to tell you more about do what it is they do best. Other responsibilities include: deciding what markets the firm should be in and what types of projects it should take on, maintaining client and vendor relationships, expanding the brand, retaining and recruiting new talent for projects as appropriate and growing out the skills of existing employees to benefit the firm and its clientele.
Project manager: This team member is the go-to, day-to-day contact throughout a project. An integral role, the project manager maintains the team’s schedule and coordinates all parties, both internally and externally. The project manager leads and guides the client and consultants to make sure budgets are in line, so managerial skill is a must. This person also must be technically adept, having graduated, worked in the trenches and moved through the ranks. They have a true understanding of what goes into a project and all of the intricacies that make up each piece of the puzzle. Project managers are also leaders charged with mentoring and nurturing talented project architects (see below for more on that) or what we like to call “tomorrow’s PMs.”
Lead designer: Full of vision and known for their exceptional listening skills, lead designers conceptualize a project’s layout, aesthetics, finishes, materials and furniture choices, taking into account, and then interpreting, the needs and wants to the client at all times. They use the most up-to-date information and resources, essentially pulling from their library of knowledge, to find materials that are current and cutting edge from a design perspective yet stand the test of time and suit the client’s needs today as well as a decade from now.
Project architect: Don’t be surprised if you encounter a few different project architects on any given project. These professionals are in the trenches, directly coordinating with consultants and handling documentation. Their work is very technical and granular, and they are charged with coordinating with, and reporting to, the project manager and principal. They also work alongside the lead designer in creating a redundant set of drawings to protect the client.
Architects and interior designers: Not to be discounted are the slightly green, but often highly talented, new junior and intermediate architects and interior designers. They may be just out of school or a few years in, but these professionals get hands-on experience in all facets of design, construction and project administration by working closely with other members of the team.
Interns: No rundown of a team is complete without a mention of the interns who can often be found pitching in on a project or working alongside an architect or interior designer. In one of my very first articles for this weekly column, I shared praise for our summer interns and with good reason: They are the talent of tomorrow.
You may encounter one, or perhaps all, of these team members in the near future, but one thing is for certain: Each is an important part of the project equation and worth getting to know a bit better.