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10 Characteristics of Sublime Projects


There is literally no upper limit on what you can spend on a building, but architectural projects of the highest quality have certain things in common.

  1. There is very little correlation between the construction budget and the market value of the finished building. “Return on Investment” is simply not a consideration on projects of this type, and clients who invest in excess of €5,000/m² on new building do so with the goal of achieving a sublime lifestyle and a magnificent piece of architecture for their own use. There is hardly ever a valid commercial rationale for construction at this price level.
  2. The client will be interested in art and design. They will understand and respect the craft and art of building, and will invest a lot of time in the creative process with their architect.
  3. A high proportion of skilled work such as glazing, cladding, roofing and plastering will be carried out by specialist sub- contractors. Quality will be the highest priority, at the expense of cost and construction time if necessary. This will be taken for granted by all involved in the project, and the goal of the team is to realise an expressive and abstract architectural goal for the client.
  4. The construction team will be able to realise any conceivable finish or technical solution, and the goal is to select the details of construction which reflect the sculptural message of the building as a whole.
  5. The specification will include rare materials, often procured at great expense to achieve a unique effect.
  6. Sub- contractors at this level will have a high degree of expertise, and will be chosen by the architect on the basis of special skills or experience.
  7. The main contractor will have absolute respect for the contract documents, and will endeavour to understand the clients (abstract) design intentions.
  8. The main contractor will have excellent administrative ability, to leverage the skills of the expert sub- contractors, and coordinate the activities of many separate companies onsite.
  9. Where such administration is required, there is often a point of diminishing returns where the cost of administering and managing the project accounts for a disproportionately high share of the budget. This is a necessary expense in order to achieve architecture at the most rarefied level.
  10. To guarantee that the high material cost results in the desired artistic value, it is crucial for all materials and components to be used to their ultimate sculptural potential. The architect must coordinate the creative input of many other expert designers, artists and craftspeople, so that the expensive elements become far more than the sum of their parts.

It is not unusual for such projects to cost in excess of €5,000/ m² excluding VAT. Every detail and every building component should be a unique piece of sculpture or craftsmanship. I would estimate that fewer than ten projects of this type are built in Ireland each year.

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