12. Using Big Words

Architects are a unique breed.  They are artists who take a raw material and mold it into the shapes their minds conceive.  They are scientists who understand the properties of heat, light and sound.  They are philosophers seeking to understand mankind’s relationship with the built environment. (Or so they think.)

Though the architect is involved in almost every aspect of life, they often fail to see a boundary between ‘amateur’ and ‘expert’ (which explains much of why architects think they are a jack of all trades).  Likewise, their projects seem to lack distinction between ‘important’ and ‘unimpressive’.  It is evident in the way that an architect speaks of his projects.  A few descriptive words can mean the difference between selling a job or losing the commission entirely!

Take for example, an architect who is describing his newest residential design:

“The towering concrete masses evoke an intrepid presence on the site.”

Translation: The house has really big concrete boxes that may or may not be appropriate, but with an angle like “intrepid presence”, who could refuse?  Sounds Impressive!  Everyone likes houses that are impressive.

The problem lies not with the use of big words in general, but rather, big words used inappropriately.  Take for example, the same architect describing the addition of a remote outhouse on the same site:

“I sequestered a human waste receptacle between the slender metal beams to account for the prevalence of unscheduled relief on the trails surrounding the main house.”

An outhouse exterior

Image via Wikipedia

Translation: Don’t take a dump in the woods, use the outhouse!  Although eloquent at first glance, once the client realizes the architect is over-glorifying an outhouse, he’ll begin to question why he’s paying so much for a toilet.  At this point, the negotiations can become volatile.  If the client begins to question the necessity of such opulence (as suggested by the manner in which such unimportant objects are described), he will begin to question the need for an architect at all.

Remember: the outhouse may indeed be your masterpiece, but make sure you pitch it as a necessity, not a lavish upgrade.

Secondly, an architect must be wary of other key words that can cost him a job.  Too often, architects will attempt to describe the process they went through to arrive at the final design decision.  This could be your downfall.  Most architects use go to words like “explore” and “play” when justifying their thought process.  Don’t be surprised if your client balks at having their building described as the next Lewis and Clark expedition or an elementary school game.  Here’s a hint: try describing your project in terms of what you actually did; not what you were attempting to do (and probably failed at if such words are floating around).

You sir, Mr. Architect, make a toilet sound like treasure.  Just remember, most people don’t want to pay for treasure.  Why not tone it down a notch.

Here’s a real life example, provided by Tumblr user Rhibozoids.


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