Forever Under Construction

A Typical Client

Posted in Architecture, Iran by homeyra on October 10, 2006

I hadn’t seen Mina for many years. She called me this week. She is building a house in what used to be the “countryside” of Teheran. She thinks the plan she has does not fit well and she has already changed a great deal of the layout. Now she wonders if an architect’s advice would be of some help 🙂

Believe it or not, this is the case of almost 50% of my clients. I already know what this is all about: a project in halfways, god knows where the layout came from and how it is built up to that stage. The construction crew is usually local people who cannot read the drawings and for whom 1 or 2 meters of approximation is accurate enough.

One thing I have learned so far is that one must AVOID this type of work. It is twice as time consuming as starting a project from scratch and usually the client has already paid some architect fees and does not expect to pay more than a little extra for what he considers to be “just a little adjustment”.  

But I like Mina, she is a very lively and an unconventional person. This former “countryside” place is where we used to spend many of our holidays during my childhood. It is filled with memories, and if I can help to do a little good there I think I should. I also know that I will regret to have gotten involved in it! 

So when she arrived this morning to show me the drawings and explained what’s going on I was not very surprised. She obtained the drawings of a house she saw and liked during a visit to her daughter in Dubai, she hired an architect to prepare a set of drawings based on them to get a permit, and a local builder has already started to build. 

Just to give you an example of those “little adjustments” carried out so far: the original layout is for a house on a flat ground with an access road on the southside. But her land is on a steep slope and the access road is located on the north. Nevertheless, they have used the same plan, the large garage has been moved to the northside on the upper floor, the living room is now where the former garage used to be, and one of the bedrooms has bumped the former living room into oblivion. Just a few adjustments, but for all construction purposes everyone is still using the same set of drawings.

I made a short – and probably useless – lecture about this strange way of building a house. Of course she agreed on principle, but explained her reasons and that she couldn’t have done it in any other way.

Don’t think that this is an exception. It is almost the rule! I have seen all kinds of people doing similar things, wealthy and highly educated though they may be, they go from one architect to the other, spend several times what the project should cost, and finally blow a bundle on expensive finishings to make up for the blunders underneath. Unfortunately, one cannot blame it all on them. Very often even when they hire a ‘proper’ architect they get similar results! And don’t think that this is limited to construction. We have similar experiences with doctors and lawyers. There is a huge discrepancy between what we want and what we get. 

Anyway, I promised her to go and visit the crime scene next week and to help her as much as I can. A big mistake! But I like Mina.


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