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The Bucket List

So you have decided to take the plunge and get a bespoke architectural solution for your next home, which involves you providing the “bucket list” for the project. The more homework you do the better the result.


Why a “bucket list”, well not too many people build more than one house in a life time, therefore the one you do build should encompass all your dreams and desires – right? You are probably not going to get a second chance to do it again.

Being honest with your thoughts (not others opinions as previously discussed) is probably the most important thing you can do to ensure that the design brief collated by you and the Architectural Designer, is an accurate reflection of your requirements and goals for the project. Once identified write those thoughts down so you don’t forget or confuse the issues for discussion later with your Designer.


This “bucket list” is the blueprint of the blueprint, so to speak.

On a practical level, I generally ask clients to go through a typical day in their lives, a week and a season, and maybe a year. This will sort all the practical items and issues they currently face in their busy lives and how they find their current environment supports or detracts from an easy stress free life. I don’t need the client to solve how this will happen, as that is what they are commissioning me to do. I just need them to identify those items and issues that impact of their daily life.

I also encourage my client’s to just make lists of personal preferences like, “I really enjoy my first morning coffee, it would be nice to do this in a peaceful place, and it allows me to gently wake while I take some time to read the news of the day or just reflect on my thoughts before I tackle the rest of the world or those dam kids!” or “ We have a lot of friends/family who regularly come and stay, both during the weekends and holidays, and it’s really nice to see them – I love it, but I wish we could retain our own private space away from the hustle and bustle of the house when it’s full like this so I can escape if I need too”. This is where we as designers develop those issues, those dreams and desires into reality. It’s about how the client’s would like to live their lives apart from the practical reality of their lives.

I just want them to think, identify and write down what they wish they could have or do or think, so we can see how/if we could weave this thread of into the fabric of the whole project. What I don’t want them to do, is to identify those desires and then try to solve the issues or worse draw out their solutions. That’s not the intention of this exercise and doesn’t get the best result.

Following this exercise is where a good Designer will be able to talk and interoperate the client’s dreams and desires into physical solutions that harmonies together to form the whole design solution, including the practical elements that were identified earlier. This is what Architectural Designers actually do, not to just draw up what you think you want. They will and should challenge you to ask “why” you are doing the things you are doing. I know that sounds a bit arrogant, but be honest, how many buildings have you designed before, and even if the answer was one or two (a rarity) were they the answer to your desires. Obviously the answer is no, or you wouldn’t be doing it again - right.

A good Architectural Designer has designed and developed many houses and buildings in their career, and this is truly one professional discipline where age and experience does not wane, but is an asset to the client. Sure young designers are current and full of new ideas, but is a trendy idea what you want? Want proof of this statement? Arguably the most famous house in the world would be “Falling Water” designed by famous American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufman Family ………..when he was nearly 70 years old in 1935! Yet we still are in awe of this Architectural masterpiece in 2019, albeit itself now being 84 years old.

This methodology doesn’t just apply to residential building either, it should apply to commercial and speculative projects as well. In this instance we as Designers should push the speculative and commercial clients to provide complete solutions that may not be super personal to the buyer, but be well conceived and executed to be a point of difference to the norm and to improve the life of the future occupier of the property as well. Maximizing floor area has been the commercial “nirvana” for years, but we have learnt, not at the cost of the use of the space or the wellbeing of the occupants.

Good developers know this truth and adjust the “maximise floor space” rule as required to achieve the best all-round result for a healthy building and healthy occupants. Examples of this synergy of commerce and art, are then available for us to immerse ourselves within. The Auckland Art Gallery re-development was a perfect example of this. It is designed to give a user an ethereal experience when entering the building and beyond, playing with space and scale and ignoring the “maximise floor space” mantra to a large extent, and yet has been celebrated and recognised with worldwide acclaim for it design language.

So get your must-haves, your dreams and your desires all organised and collated, so you can finalise your own Architectural “bucket list”. Then go the next step and begin the process by approaching your chosen Designer. But who……….?

More on this next critical step of the adventure next time.

Remember – Art for Living. G

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