Letter from the architect
Choosing who should design your home, renovation, addition or creative space is an important, involved, and ultimately personal decision. There are a number of different approaches to realizing any project. Each satisfies different needs and results in a different finished product. I thought this might be a good place to first share the approach and sensibility at Katie Hutchison Studio with you and then address some common misconceptions about the design field.
approach and sensibility
If you refer to the design process section of this site, you'll find a detailed description of what to expect from the seven typical stages of the design process. Many architects will describe a similar process. So how is my approach and sensibility different?
For one, I plan for the long term. I anticipate how design decisions made today will affect you, your family, your neighbors, and your community down the road. I encourage you to be honest with yourself about your wish list and your budget. What aspects of your current space work? What don’t? Why do you use the space the way that you do? Why don’t you use it? How do you imagine using your new or renovated space? What houses or spaces have a look or feel that you like? Why do you like them? These questions and many more will challenge you to evaluate what you really want, need, and can afford.
Inevitably, in the course of early design conversations, the issue of “style” will come up. I steer clear of reproducing formulaic styles such as “Georgian,” “Arts and Crafts,” “Modern”, etc. Such styles were developed in specific time periods in response to a specific set of circumstances, be they cultural, material, or political.
Instead, I believe in determining what it is about a certain style that a client would like to express in a project. Is it the delicate proportion, the craftsmanship, the massing, the materiality, the openness? The answers to such questions then inform my design which is further driven by the nature of the site and client program.
Of course, I have my own aesthetic and design proclivities too. I enjoy reinterpreting the regional vernacular for today's lifestyles. I’m particularly inspired by the charm and simplicity of New England vernacular folk and work buildings like fisherman cottages, farm houses, barns, sheds, and boat houses. I delight in the way that traditional Japanese architecture engages the landscape and modulates levels of enclosure. I believe in sustainable design in the form of responsive: siting and environmental strategies; thoughtful efficiencies; as well as high-performance building components and systems. I appreciate lush, sustainable materials: warm woods, dry-laid stone, glass tiles, natural fiber rugs, tactile fabrics. I have a fondness for colors found in nature. I’m influenced by the creative arts. I bring these preferences with me to the drawing board. It’s part of who I am.
One question I get a lot is “Are you a real architect?” Yes, I’m a licensed architect registered in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. What I’d really like to address, though, is the confusion that such a question reflects. Who is an architect and who isn’t? Does it matter?
In Massachusetts, an architect is someone who has graduated from a (National Architectural Accrediting Board) NAAB-accredited architectural program (or equal), completed a (National Council of Architectural Registration Board) NCARB-approved, minimum three-year architectural internship (in which specific hours of experience across a range of activities under qualified supervision have been documented), and has then ultimately passed nine separate rigorous state licensing exams. It’s no small task.
Once licensed, an architect in Massachusetts is required to satisfy ongoing continuing education requirements in order to maintain her or his license. Thanks to this extensive education and training, an architect develops complex problem-solving and technical skills in the interest of providing quality architectural design services that protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
Designers and builders who are not licensed architects simply haven’t the equivalent architectural education and/or training. If you’re looking for design expertise, you’d be wise to choose an architect, though a non-architect may be willing to offer you less expensive or more expedient services. Your project is too significant an investment in your future and your dreams to entrust to anyone other than a qualified professional. An architect can provide you with unmatched services that translate into an unmatched value.
Another common source of confusion is what the “AIA” designation means. It indicates that a registered architect is a member of the American Institute of Architects, an optional professional organization which charges significant annual membership dues. The “Associate AIA” designation merely describes another type of membership level in the AIA for certain non-architects. You needn’t be a member of the AIA to be a licensed architect or to purchase AIA contract forms. In my case, I find that the AIA is geared toward large firms, not small residential firms such as my own, so I have chosen not to become a member. I am, however, a member of the Congress of Residential Architecture (CORA) which supports "improving the quality of the homes and communities we live in".
If you're interested in the expertise an architect offers as well as the approach and sensibility at Katie Hutchison Studio, I encourage you to explore the rest of the this site and to be in touch.
Katie Hutchison / Registered Architect