Architecture thrives on relationships, and among them, the client relationship stands as paramount. Embracing a concept borrowed from Marketing offers a fresh perspective on understanding our clients. In this third article of the series 'Twelve themes, twelve months,' Pedro Silva Lopes (partner, architect) and Fernando Flora (associate architect) delve into the notion of the ideal clientand the enduring challenges of nurturing that bond.
Is there an ideal client?
I believe the ideal client doesn't exist. Unless we view it in an ephemeral way. The ideal client of today is not exactly the same as tomorrow's. We ourselves change over time, the world changes rapidly, and we adapt to these new realities just as the client does. In this sense, we can say that the ideal client is someone who respects the architect, gives time to the architect, knows what they want and don't want, and is someone who doesn't just think about themselves and their project, but adds something to the nature of the project, the street, the city, or the community. (Fernando Flora)
I would also say that the ideal client doesn't exist, especially in a definition like, 'the ideal client is the one who makes the best project.' We, at Fragmentos, consider each client as ideal, and our job is to do the best for them. The practice of Architecture can be somewhat egocentric, selfish, but our purpose must revolve around the client's happiness. Our purpose should be to satisfy the client's desires more than our own architectonic aims. However, there are clients who challenge us more. That's something that makes us grow as architects. A client who challenges is an ideal client. (Pedro Silva Lopes)
How to attract clients and, above all, how to keep them?
There are two completely different types of clients: end clients and institutional clients. The end client is the one who wants to design their home, where there's an emotional relationship that can't be confined to a professional relationship and eventually becomes personal. With the institutional client, the relationship is more professional, less emotional, and the challenge is complex in a different way: they involve projects of a different scale, with other challenges. In that sense, this is our ideal client, a client who forces us out of our comfort zone. The most important things are A. Liking our work and identifying with it, and B. Trusting our work. Of course, there's an initial attraction, but the key is maintaining that relationship, which is even more valid for the institutional client than for the end client. Because the end client will build a house, maybe two at most, hardly three, unless they're crazy because it's something that wears out. Nurturing this 'ideal client' and maintaining trust, which takes a long time to build and seconds to lose, is a very important focus of our work. (Pedro Silva Lopes)
I can contradict a little what I said earlier: by saying that the ideal client is the one who remains my client. It's the one who wasn't my client, came to me for the first time, and suddenly seeks me out for another project. That makes them ideal; it indicates that my work and interaction with them generated a relationship and that this relationship has the capacity to endure. And that adds value, both to me, to the project, and to the client themselves. I would say that keeping a client, in this case, an ideal client, is a challenge. This issue of friendship and personal relationship with the client cannot be undervalued. Sometimes we really have to take daily care of the client and think of them, regardless of being end or institutional, as a person and not just as a client. (Fernando Flora)