Writings

Looking Forward to Monday Mornings
A series of essays on business, architecture, and the business of architecture.
by Daniel Frisch
Posted June 1st, 2018

When we started the firm in 1991, the unwritten business plan was simple and straightforward. Meet clients, design their homes, and celebrate our success. I recall innumerable struggles and difficult decisions, but they were mostly reactive to circumstances, not the product of our planning, or more aptly, our lack of planning. For many years, I would start the week, by writing – in longhand on a yellow pad – a to-do list of everything to be done. ... Continue

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by Daniel Frisch
Posted December 14th, 2018

The effect of 'scope creep' on budget. At DFA, the successful navigation of budgets and schedules is a cornerstone of successful relationships.  ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted December 6th, 2018

Recently, a particularly wise client was interviewing a potential contractor, and midway through the conversation, asked the question, “What qualities would make us good clients?” After listening for a bit, I interrupted with a simple thought; that one word could singularly describe the best clients: “attitude”. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted November 27th, 2018

Regardless of the size or price of an apartment, I’ve rarely walked a space with a potential buyer that was not one room too small, and for which necessary renovations would not exceed the desired budget. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted November 14th, 2018

“Wite-Out” remains an indispensable tool in my creative process. It’s not easy to use. It needs time to dry, pen strokes bleed on top of it and everything smears. For me, this very low-tech process is how I approach the challenge of designing a home. Patiently waiting for a composition to dry, my mind sees the problem before me more clearly, and fixing a smudged drawing usually results in meaningful refinement. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted November 14th, 2018

I often use sports metaphors like ‘playing extra holes’ to demonstrate a particular idea such as scope creep. In explaining our STUDIO Program, DFA uses the terms “a la carte” and "prix fixe," two clear descriptors lifted straight from restaurant menus. Most often, I use movies – favorite blockbusters, usually – when calling upon cultural references to illustrate a theme. Below are some of my most frequently quoted movies. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted November 1st, 2018

“Critical Romance” has been a guiding principal throughout my career. Architects and designers are often driven into polarized camps. Either we believe all decisions relate to function, OR, we believe an academic or aesthetic priority should dictate design. I am certain that for design to succeed, the simultaneous satisfaction of both criteria is essential. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted November 1st, 2018

A good friend and former client asked a probing question. “Why had DFA felt such confidence as to double its size, and why were we experiencing such growth?” I answered in a flip manner, but have reflected on this question a great deal. Those who have been a part of our endeavor over the last twenty-five-plus years would probably answer the question citing our accomplishments, yet I feel a more accurate explanation would attribute our success to perseverance. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted November 1st, 2018

Project costs can vary greatly based on locale. Zip-coding, however, goes one step further, inflating pricing solely based on the perception of what a client can afford and the specific cost of a particular residence. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted October 24th, 2018

Working hard to satisfy complex and competing needs results in a depth and refinement that might be missed if we were given unlimited resources (space, time, and funds). Demanding a space satisfy more than one programmatic function presents opportunities. In our experience, project success rarely, if ever, stems from what someone can afford to build, but rather, from what someone chooses to build. Successful design solutions are the product of the resolution of complicated, challenging, and often conflicting considerations. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted October 23rd, 2018

In 2003, Barry Schwartz wrote a book titled the Paradox of Choice, and one Monday morning, we watched him deliver a Ted Talk on the subject. Mr. Schwartz addresses the depression that often develops from the first-world abundance of choices in everyday life, in everything from salad dressing to blue jeans. We’ve discovered the same dilemma presents itself in residential design. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted July 25th, 2018

As our practice has grown, we’ve come up with a few of our own guiding principles.  One of these is “We keep our own report cards.” As designers and project managers, we receive near constant and wide-ranging feedback from our clients. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted June 6th, 2018

During the past twenty-five years, DFA has built a business, brick-by-brick, or more precisely in our case, bubble-by-bubble. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted June 5th, 2018

Residential design and construction is an industry founded on urgency.  We have not met the owner who has commissioned a new home and said, “no rush; whenever the house is finished is fine with me.”  When someone decides to invest in and build their dream home, yesterday is not soon enough. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted June 4th, 2018

Politicians, business owners, and anyone working in hospitality or retail understand success stems directly from ‘connecting’ with their audience.   Children are taught to say please and thank you, to look people in the eye, and to smile.  Most of us at DFA are effective communicators, having honed our social skills before working here. In addition to these natural skills, we have worked hard to capitalize on technology-aided communication, especially email. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted June 3rd, 2018

Sometimes (oftentimes), our most important ideas are borrowed wholesale.  A number of years ago, I heard Tina Fey speaking about a comedic improvisation concept titled “Yes, And…”.  To paraphrase the insanely smart crew from Second City in Chicago, an improv sketch dies as soon as someone says ‘no’. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted June 2nd, 2018

I sometimes lay awake at night, worrying about the day’s schedule, or more productively, imagining a solution to a particularly vexing architectural or project management problem. Recently, I found myself trying to form a great first sentence, just one. ... Continue

by Daniel Frisch
Posted June 1st, 2018

When we started the firm in 1991, the unwritten business plan was simple and straightforward. Meet clients, design their homes, and celebrate our success. I recall innumerable struggles and difficult decisions, but they were mostly reactive to circumstances, not the product of our planning, or more aptly, our lack of planning. For many years, I would start the week, by writing – in longhand on a yellow pad – a to-do list of everything to be done. ... Continue