What we do
Working as an architect means that you now and then get the opportunity to play an active part in creating a better society. Utopia was started with the simple aim of maximising the number of such opportunities.
The basic premise for our work is a simple and well established truth – high quality architecture is more or less always a good long-term investment. One single building can lift a whole area and, in some cases, an entire town. In the best of cases, a bad building goes unnoticed. In the worst of cases it runs the risk of destroying existing values and limiting the opportunities for a positive future development.
The same goes for urban planning. A badly carried-out urban plan can never develop the full potential of an area and provide it with the improvements that are possible with a job well done. Nor can an inadequate plan be made up for by good architecture, no matter how lavish the buildings one has chosen to build. The good plan, in both large and small details, is the basis for the urban environments we create.
The care and thought we choose to devote to the environmental urban environments are decisive factors for what we can create. Equally important are the type and scope of these values.
By good investments we mean, not only the aesthetic qualities for the purchasers and tenants or a better economic profit for the contractor. Naturally both of these things are important, but this is far too narrow a view of what good architecture can and should achieve. This is what happens if you reduce architecture to just one commodity amongst others in a transaction. Seen from a broader, deeper and long-term perspective, high-quality architecture is a good investment in many other ways as well. It can help to create the positive values by which we want the society in which we live to be characterised.
Quality is naturally a broad concept. Exactly how it is defined is a constant subject of ongoing discussion both within and outside of the architectural profession. But we don’t much care about meta-discussions. Instead we focus on what our experience tells us is important and clearly contributes to creating positive values. Applying this to buildings, smart construction plans, good materials, optimal adaptation to the site, sustainability, variety in shape, originality and beauty are all aspects of quality that each play a part in creating large, permanent values.
Originality, innovation and modernity are rarely incorporated in the commission specification, but we value them all extremely highly. Not as aims in themselves but because they are excellent points of departure in our aim for constantly improved solutions.
Architectural quality is the most important single factor when it comes to maximising the value of what you build. And this isn't just about the design of individual buildings. It applies equally to the interior design, the landscaping and the urban planning.
We know that architecture provides enormous opportunities to develop values that can affect our lives positively. Unfortunately these opportunities are quite often wasted. Utopia’s business concept is a direct consequence of this. We want to create the best possible values in the projects we are involved in through high-quality architecture and good planning. Values that extend far beyond the short-term economic ones and the superficial cosmetic ones.
How we work
We take on every new assignment with the aim of creating the best possible solution rather than minimising costs. Accordingly, we disregard whatever constraints are imposed on the project in question as far as economic resources and creative scope are concerned. For those who know how to create opportunities for a fruitful creative process, this might sound like the obvious approach. And in the past, it probably more often was. But today it is very far from being so.
In our experience you get far better results by scaling down your dream solution to fit your budget rather than starting off by compromising from the very beginning. If you aim high from the start you are far more likely to end up with a better solution. Aim low from the word go and you’ll have little chance of ending up with something exceeding your own or anyone else’s expectations.
No, we are neither naive nor oblivious to costs. The fact is that we are in business today largely because we are able to create cost-efficient projects. But we still don’t think a project should start off with a one-eyed focus on how to cut costs. That way of working will cripple your creative process and rarely result in anything beyond the most predictable and mundane. If you want to create anything that people will actually want, let alone love, you have to aim higher. That goes for both houses and urban planning.
The cost of the architect’s work is usually a very small part of the total cost of more or less any kind of project. For a block of flats it typically stops at two to three per cent of the total spend.
A few extra hours spent freely developing ideas at the drawing board at the very beginning of a project will often be a very good starting point for a higher quality outcome as well as pushing down costs during planning and/or construction. A fundamental problem today is that very few architects are asked to develop ideas and concepts that can actually do this.
Today our job is valued according to how successful we are at cutting costs. But why not instead focus on the values we can add? Like more long-term sustainable solutions that also add improved functionality and well-being. The foundation for those values is laid at the drawing board. And if the time and effort aren’t spent there, they won’t be anywhere else either.
As a client you shouldn’t expect anything beyond mediocrity if you make cost cutting the number one priority for your architects. If you limit our time for developing ideas to a bare minimum, we won’t be able to come up with anything inspiring or innovative. Nor come up with ground-breaking solutions for design and construction. Limiting our assignments to cost cutting is a great business risk, because you will most likely end up with projects that don’t deliver the values which can help you increase prices and, more importantly, profit margins.