4 Tips to Selecting the Right Facility Architect

Can’t Anyone Design a Gym?

Many qualified and respectable architecture firms feature a sports facility or two in their portfolio. Choosing the architect for your facility goes beyond just the license and technical proficiency. Here are 4 tips to find the right facility architect for your project.

1. Decide your preferred process

Design-Bid-Build: This is the traditional workflow. You select an architect, take the construction portion of the project to bid, and then select your construction firm. This might be the best option for you if you have a complicated or customized design which may require a specialty architect. The downside of this process is that tension may arise between the architect and general contractor.

Design-Build: A newer approach, this workflow means you select your architect and construction company in one step – therefore skipping the bidding process. This one-stop-shop approach is advantageous for sports complexes with typical pre-built walls or steel-frame construction.

2. Check out their portfolio

Do their projects inspire awe? Have they worked with variety of budgets? How relevant is their work experience to your project? By taking a close look at your prospective architect’s existing work, you will be able to get a feel for their design aesthetic and relatable projects. A talented architect with experience designing beautiful hospitals may not be the best choice because of the tendency to over build and over gild when transitioning to sports centers.

3. Understand their process

Like any creative design process, architecture requires input from the client to create a tailored result. How does your prospective architect solicit this information? Do they hold a one-time design charrette and disappear to design independently? Or do they hold a series of check-ins and opportunities for feedback along the way? Ask yourself which kind of process works best for you and your committee and ask for a process overview to see if the approaches are aligned.

4. Review references

It’s easy to show beautiful high resolution of facilities on a website – the end results speak for themselves. But what did it take to get there? What was the experience like for the client? By reviewing your architect’s references and making a few phone calls, you may find the process was smooth sailing…or not. Did they meet deadlines? Were they collaborative and easy to talk to? Get your firsthand account from a few past clients to understand what it really takes to be the next gorgeous picture in their portfolio.


At SFA, we’ve worked with a number of highly qualified architects like Perkins & Will, Moody Nolan, and Ratio. Take a moment to get inspired with the Athletic Business Facilities of Merit – award winning sports facility designs.