How does the architecture process work?
The architecture industry has been around for a long time. As far as we've heard, only one industry has been around longer and answering questions about that process may become a little R rated, so we'll stick to the architecture.
It is a Process
Because the industry has been around so long, there are some standards for how we practice. Although technology and the law lead to occasional changes, the general principles stay the same. The most important thing to understand is that getting a project designed and built is a process, it takes time. Decisions are not made all at once, but throughout the course of a project.
The architecture process is broken down into six standard phases. Each phase has a purpose and a level of expectation that you as the owner can expect to see from your architect and other consultants. In general the phases are sequential and you as the owner will sign off on the completion of each phase, permitting the project to move forward based on the decisions you made up to that point. The time frame to complete each phase varies depending on the complexity of your project.
Architect as Agent
Your architect will act as your agent throughout this process from early design through the completion of construction. Your architect is not there to just design your project, but to also coordinate with other technical consultants (engineers, etc.), city officials (planners, building department officials, etc.), and your contractor. This process is most likely new to you. Let your architect be your guide.
We could go on, but there is much detail to this answer. That's why we developed a free Architecture Process Guide available for download. This handy PDF file goes into depth on this topic.