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Little Fish - 20 December 2007

Competition in the industry from non-architects is bad for business, worries little fish Jonathan Hendry of Jonathan Hendry Architects

I receive a phone call from a client’s agent, who says they’ve had two fee proposals that are very close, and asks if we are prepared to reduce ours. It seems we are pitching against an office of ‘architectural consultants’. I try to convince the agent they should go with an architect and that our fee is based on the amount of time required for project. He doesn’t disagree but explains that it boils down to money.
Have I wasted seven years qualifying as an architect? Perhaps I should have formed Jonathan Hendry Architectural Consultants at 18? After all, we’re being asked to reduce our fees to compete with non-architects. The public doesn’t seem to understand the difference between an architect and a draughtsman, as nine times out of 10 the selection of a ‘building designer’ is based on money. We reduce our fee and I leave the office feeling slightly disillusioned.
Two days later the agent phones to confirm that we have won the project. My frustration disappears until I realise I now have to deliver a quality building on a smaller budget. But later on that day we are chosen to design a community centre – a selection made on our reputation rather than our fee. It’s reassuring to know that at least one out of 10 clients prefers architects.

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