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ICONIC HOUSE OF THE MONTH | March 2018 | Villa Tugendhat

A sedate exterior belies the acclaim and turmoil of Villa Tugendhat in Brno, Czech Republic. Architect Mies van der Rohe, known for his “less is more” approach, designed the villa for newly-wed and industrial heirs Grete and Fritz Tugendhat.

View from the garden.

Completed in 1930, its steel-framed, glass and concrete construction expressed the budding Modern Movement through the intersection of its materials, including ebony and onyx, and textures. The interior offered the space and light that were seen as essential to modern living, and a panoramic view of the city.

The Glass Room featured walls that could retract into the floor like a car window, opening onto the gardens. Excitement over the house was short-lived, though; the Tugendhats fled the country just eight years later, shortly before the German occupation.

View toward Brno from living area with vertically retracted glass walls.

Sadly, as one of the most influential houses of the 20th century, it was not spared the ravages of war. The villa was used as a Gestapo military quarters and offices and was later damaged during combat.

In 1967, Grete Tugendhat returned to the villa with experts, aiming to renovate it; however, the Communist era intervened, and the new occupants subdivided the villa with pasteboard walls and used the garage as a stable.

View of entrance and terrace roof beyond.

The Czech Government eventually restored the building which, in the early 1990s, was the site of the signing of the document that divided the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Onyx feature wall in living area.


Today, Villa Tugendhat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site open for tours. To see more images of this iconic house visit Villa Tugendhat’s photo gallery here.

Are you Cost Wise And Value Foolish?

cost wise value foolish

Are you planning on building in the near future? Have you been thinking about where to get a design and what it’ll cost you? Are you concerned about the cost of designing your new home?

Well, I can appreciate respecting your budget, but what most people don’t understand is that by hiring an architect, you’re actually investing in your new home in a way that can add significant returns.

The real estate industry readily acknowledges that having your home designed by an architect results in up to a 50% higher value than similar homes with designs by builders, draftsmen, or catalogue home plans.

Yep, 50% more value.

Architects’ fees are typically anywhere from 8 – 15% of construction costs, depending on the level of service provided. The value added to your project that exceeds the architect’s fee is a financial benefit to you, the homeowner.

But, remember, value is not measured only in money. Long-term enjoyment of a home, high functionality, greater beauty, durability, and comfort is also considered value.

Most people don’t think twice about the commission the pay on the sale of a property. Three percent commission is typical for both selling and buyer agents. That equals a 6% sales commission. What does this have to do with hiring an architect?

Think about it this way, if you’re selling your home, you’ll easily hand over 6% for whatever the house sells. That sales commission adds no real value to the property. None. It’s purely a transaction fee.

On the other hand, how much you invest in planning and designing has a tremendous impact on adding real value, both financial and experiential, to your new home.

Too many people think that cutting corners on the design will mean significant savings. Actually the reverse is true. You run the risk of not exploring all your options, running into project delays and budget overruns, and ending up with an asset that could have be worth up to 50% more!

Recently, I designed a 3,500 SF spec home for a developer. At the end of the project, the home sold for more than 60% of what they spent building it. Not bad.

Real estate agents, without a doubt, provide a valuable service, and so too does working with an architect. You can actually increase the value of your home, and that’s something your real estate agent will also thank you for should you decide to sell one day.

By the time you factor in all the other costs including the cost to build, landscaping and paving, closing costs, interest on a 30-year mortgage, annual taxes and insurance premiums, the architect’s fee may account for as little as 3% of the costs. If you include the offset in the added value of the home, you’re looking at an even lesser percentage.

So, how does this added value translate in your experience working with an architect? There’s basically 4 areas where an architect can add value to your project: Providing Options, Developing the Solution, Documenting the Project, and Administering the Construction Contract.

Providing Options

An architect will provide you with options you might not have considered. This means you get a solution that is tailored to your specific needs, both now and into the future.

Developing the Solution

The solution to your design project involves many complex elements. Your architect’s role in developing your project is one of simplifying and coordinating these elements into an elegant solution.

Documenting the Project

If there is missing information and details, your builder will have to do a lot of guessing, which could have significant implications on the quality of your project. By carefully documenting the project, your architect ensures that things are not missed or left out.

Administering the Construction Contract

Architects provides an important service after all the design work has been done, namely ensuring that the project is built according to the construction documents. This is done by helping you find a qualified builder, visiting the site, responding to your builder’s questions, rejecting unacceptable work, and reviewing and approving pay requests.


Being cost wise at the risk of value foolish can have a tremendous impact on the outcome of your project. The added value of working with an architect far exceeds the cost of doing so, so why wouldn’t you?

You can call me right now (843-276-2074) for an initial conversation about your project. I’d  be happy to give you feedback and guidance. So what are you waiting for? Adding value to my clients’ projects is one of my primary goals, so give me a call today.

Never Ask An Architect To Draw Your Plans

So, what should I ask my architect to do?

Ask them to design a house that takes your breath away!

No, I’m serious. That is the value of working with an architect, not a set of plans to get your project through the building department.

More city Block, 2007.

More City Block. Graphite, colored pencil on parcel paper. 2007.

Architects still draw by hand. Most of that takes place in the early stages of your project. It continues throughout the project as a quick way to sketch out ideas and details as things develop.

However, the tools of our profession have evolved along with technology. When I embarked on my architectural training and education, I did so in part for a very simple, and in hindsight, naive reason. I liked to draw by hand.

Twenty years later, a lot has changed. Most architects now use computer aided design software. In my first job, both computer and hand drawing were used to produce plans for high-end custom homes on Kiawah Island.

Now, in my own practice, nearly every drawing, if not all, is generated with the computer. In fact, the drawings are actually a by-product of a virtual three-dimensional model (I’ll be elaborating on the added value of this for you, the client, in an upcoming post, so stay tuned).

I still sketch to develop ideas in the early stages of the project and to work out construction details, but even these I sometimes find easier to develop and visualize with the use of the computer.

It wasn’t long into my training as an architect that I realized it wasn’t drawing itself that held the most value. It was the ideas that drawing could express. There has to be a concept, a big idea, that is communicated through the architect’s tools, regardless of what they are, into a building. That is architecture.

You don’t expect a musician to just give you notes. You expect a song.

So, instead of asking your architect for a plan, ask them for the big idea. Ask them for architecture.