The Architecture of Relationships

In the spirit of the New Year and continued professional reflection, today we want to share some perspectives on a particularly significant aspect of our business. One of the important things we have learned over the years is this: architecture may be our profession, but we are really in the relationship-building business.

There are many components to building client relationships and the process can vary project to project. Over time, however, we’ve discovered there are certain cornerstones to relationship building that have helped define our architecture brand.

Patrick and his wife, Marsha, with local builder, Norman Rankow, and his wife at the Patrons’ Party & Auction during Taste of the Vineyard.

Communication is Key

First and foremost is timely communication. We are in a service business, so whether it’s during the interview process (when both the client and firm are assessing the “fit”), or halfway into a significant program, being responsive to our client is paramount. It demonstrates that we value and respect their time and questions, and signifies that we are a conscientious and reliable partner.

“Being accessible is key, and I understand the importance of getting back to people. At the end of each day, I try and return every single email and phone call I’ve received. It’s my responsibility.” – Patrick Ahearn

Be the Good Listener

Patrick sits down with homeowner, friend, and builder, Peter Rosbeck, in his newly finished home in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard.

High-end residential architecture, in particular, is very personal and requires that we genuinely get to know our clients. This means not only recognizing the goals and objectives of their project but also understanding how they live day-to-day. This process involves asking a lot of questions and being the good listener. A skilled listener can successfully translate a client’s ideas into an architecture that works for their life.

This all rings so true. Patrick designed our “city” house just over 20 years ago. In the process he learned a lot about our family, our friends, and how we live. This involved many conversations that drove design decisions. We live with those decisions every day. As a result, while we may not have been in close contact with Patrick through those years, we often felt his presence in our home. So, when we recently decided we wanted to build a new summer home we knew that Patrick would be a perfect choice. Once again we have gone through a wonderful design process with Patrick. But now it feels like we are doing it with an old friend! – Homeowner

Common Bonds

Talking openly about one’s personal space and living needs requires a level of trust and confidence, which we often establish by finding a common bond with our clients. Whether it’s a shared interest (cars, marketing) or history (growing up in New York, living on Martha’s Vineyard), learning about our clients and finding commonality helps develop an important level of trust – which ultimately allows us to design a house that meets and exceeds their private needs.

Patrick with his first client on the Vineyard turned long-time friend on a recent photoshoot.

Research and Prepare

On an architecture tour of Edgartown, Patrick and the homeowner discuss their shared vision when designing the home.

Once we start a client’s project, our goal is to create a collaborative story together. We often refer to this as “scripting the novel of their home.” Creating a home is an emotional, personal journey, and we want to make the process as rewarding and as seamless as possible. To do so, we incorporate our design philosophy – the greater good theory – into the practice.

While we always strive to give our clients the home of their dreams, we also believe the house should fit the scale and enhance the tone of its surrounding community – thereby contributing to the greater good. That means, as the architect, we understand not only the neighborhood aesthetic but also its zoning regulations and historical parameters. Being mindful of the greater good means overly preparing for a project, building consensus with the client (and their neighbors) and ensuring the novel of their home unfolds smoothly.

Patrick and I have been friends now for almost 20 years and he has done several projects for my wife and me. We continue to work with him because he brings a timeless sense of New England style to all of his work. – Homeowner

In residential architecture, it is crucial to cultivate relationships with a strong level of trust and communication. The wonderful bonus in those relationships is that many clients become lifelong friends. We appreciate and take those friendships very seriously – and remain passionate about creating architecture and relationships that reflect and define our brand.

Patrick celebrating the launch of his first book, Timeless, with friends and clients as well as his team.