Design can be both the cause for and solution of most real estate development problems.

While credit for the original saying goes to Homer Simpson addressing the transcendental importance of beer as it relates to life’s problems, this philosophy is very appropriately applied to design; particularly in the context of real estate development where designers strive to be artifices manipulating spaces in which they weave the fabric of life and memories.

The conscious and subconscious effect of design in experiencing a space can be nothing short of miraculous. Design has the capability to pull you by the guts into the present, forcing you to question the very fabric of your perception. Virtuous design is also meditative; it can ground you and facilitate introspection, it can inspire discourse or reveal an underlying passion. A design translated into a construction defines possibilities and shapes the way you see the structure, involving both the world it’s trying to cast and the world it’s keeping out.

Design is also the key to the efficient creation of a space, allowing us to experience that space bodily and practically.

My favorite phase of any project is the design phase as this phase can influence 80% of the cost of the project. The remaining 20% of cost occurs during construction when the spaces, installations and structures are being established and the material costs for the project become the primary driver of overall cost. Ignoring the value of design is like stepping over dollars to pick up pennies.

Architects who understand the nobility and purpose of their craft can be some of the most multifaceted and talented artists. They must understand their user, oftentimes more than the user understands himself, and must envision a space which bounds their reality and allows the most emotionally enriching and efficient experience. Architects must intermingle their creativity with the needs of the purpose.

Developing homes or hotels is a team effort between the client and the architect, helping facilitate the ideation of spaces which can then be brought to reality in a commercially viable manner, both on time and on budget.

When interviewing an architect, it is imperative to ensure that questions being asked force the client to consider things such as:

  1. Lifestyle
  2. Priorities
  3. How the space is to be experienced
  4. How the space is to be utilized during different times of the day
  5. How will that foyer be most effective

It is important for the client to ask himself if he is paying a designer to draw a space that will then need a builder to create it, and which no one will ever comment on or inhabit or which will be given life with interaction. Architects must be practical in their understanding of commercial realities otherwise they are painters or sketch artists. Well executed design can make a project remarkable and inspiring, comfortable or inconsequential, unpleasant or even offensive; creating an experience which can be timeless both on a positive or negative note.

Take the time to interview your designers, looking for taste, talent and style. Once you have a group that fits the initial categories, compare bids from each to ensure commercially comparable proposals, to confirm quality and quantity of deliverables and verify transactional compatibility. Interview previous clients about important details such as compatibility of style, what they were billed for and how they were billed, for example. And lastly, ensure you interview the actual team the firm is assigning as many times the principal will be a great ‘rainmaker’ of new business only to then hand off the project to junior designers. Confirm that the team that pitches is also the team that engages. Ask plenty of questions to ensure scope consistency and consultant/specialty coordination.….Then again you may also consider hiring a great Development Manager or Project Manager who can guide you through this process…I may know a great team…

Juan Diaz Rivera comes from a family of leaders and innovators. From an early age he became acquainted with real estate development and marketing, which led him to become a partner in the founding of Capella Pedregal (now the Resort at Pedregal) – one of the highest ranked luxury retreats in Mexico. For over a decade, his leadership and market knowledge has served as a COO of Grupo Riveras: a real estate firm with several joint ventures that include Pedregal de La Paz and Pedregal de Cabo San Lucas, the first luxury residential community in Los Cabos. Juan is now managing partner of Artifex.

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    Noun: a master of an art, a maker, builder, author
    Adjective: skilled, clever, dexterous
    Plural: artifices The vessel in which alchemy takes place

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