Researching ‘Initiating’

Processes of ‘initiating’ in architecture

Smith and Jackson present a definition of project initiation as the “stage […] where the client’s needs, objectives and requirements are clarified into the definition of a project, or projects” and emphasise the importance of this stage in laying the foundations for a successful project (2000, p.502). Sahlin-Andersson (1992) presents a more nuanced view of the project initiation stages, as a complex, messy, stop-start series of events, in which the desires of a range of actors prove instrumental in the early development of the project.

Fellows et al. (2004) draw attention to the ethical issues inherent in the role of the designer in the initiation stages of a project and the relationship between client and designer. They put forward two perspectives of the designer advising the client in these early stages. Firstly, client sovereignty, where the sole aim is to elicit, clarify and fulfil the client’s needs. Alternatively, the designer as “custodian for society” using specialist knowledge to provide the best project to “preserve and extend the best possible built environment”, a responsibility outlined in professional codes of conduct (ibid, p.293). These perspectives reflect scholarly views on ethical concerns of architecture but present a simplified understanding of motivations and values on the part of the designer, ignoring, for example, the importance a project developing in a certain way might have for a designer in raising their profile among peers or extending their range of professional expertise.