The Mother of all Arts and Father of all Sciences, Interview with Miles Hartog

An architect is a design professional and bound by a set of laws, a code of ethics, and of course his own sense of the way things should be. He is there to take the client’s desire, and turn it into a reality–by way of design.

Design (like in the word “designate”), means deciding the way something should be. How big, from what material, how much it’ll cost, etc. The architect’s job is to take what the client wants and turn it into a buildable, sustainable, viable design, and then to see that through to construction. The architect knows what the client wants on the one hand, and what the authorities will permit on the other. He coordinates what the consultants need in order to make sure the building will stand up, have running water, stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and (hopefully) he still manages to make it look nice too.

We had the pleasure to speak with one such architect, Miles Hartog, to acquaint us a bit more with the ins and outs of the field.

What inspired you to enter the field of architecture? 

I’ve always loved to think out of the box, create things, and make various and complex elements come together. I also love engaging with people and helping them get things done. I am a “type A personality”– as a result, I am always concerned, reliable, on the ball and looking to bring the best result out of any challenge. Architecture gives me the opportunity to do all of that every day.

What types of projects do you do? 

My experience ranges from small scale renovations, residences and interiors, to large scale institutions, offices, commercial centers and industrial buildings. I also deal a lot with Town Plans (TABA) and Master Plans, which has given me a broader view of the design process.

Right now, we’re developing several projects: small extensions to private apartments and houses in Efrat, a commercial center at Tzomet Gush Etzion, high end renovation and interiors in David’s Village in Jerusalem, finishing up two hotels in downtown Jerusalem and doing several master plans.

The bottom line is, no project is too big or too small. We bring the same expertise, care and go-getter attitude to each.

What are your favorite projects? 

Every project has its challenges and rewards. My favorite is one where the clients get just what they wanted, plus a little extra they never dreamed they could have.

Why would someone use an architect to add a room or two to the house or enclose a porch?

Firstly, it’s the law. Certain changes–including changes to structure, exteriors and areas, require a professional to plan and obtain permits. Otherwise, your addition will be illegal, will be harder to sell later or have lower resale value, and might be dangerous.

Secondly, you want someone who sees the big picture, who’s able to coordinate all the players (city council, supervisor, electrical consultant, etc.), and who’s been trained to look at design in a holistic fashion.

As an example, a family came to me recently, frustrated after three years (!!!) of trying to make changes to their house. It was instantly clear to me that only a change in Town Plan (TABA) could help. Although this takes time, it will accord them the house they want and need. No one except an architect could have done that for them–not an engineer, not an interior designer and not a contractor.

Can an interior designer replace an architect? 

There’s a very big difference between an interior designer and an architect. You can see, from the answer to your previous question that an interior designer wouldn’t succeed. Secondly, an interior designer isn’t licensed to deal with permitting and doesn’t have the level of training of an architect.

However, while there are many projects where I do the interior design as well as the architecture, in order to have full control over the outcome, there have been instances where an interior designer has been just the bridge required between the client’s aesthetic and the interior space.

What should you ask an architect before hiring him/her? 

First, I recommend meeting face to face or at least by phone/Skype if you’re overseas. This is someone you’re going to be working with for a while and the interpersonal relationship is critical. Many times I’ve been asked to act as the client’s “eyes in Israel” or “eyes on site.” The architect is the primary point of contact and you should feel you’re in capable and (most importantly) trustworthy hands.

You could ask: Can I see some of your previous projects? Can I speak to some previous and current clients? What kind of work do you do?

That should give you a good place to start making decisions.

Is there a noticeable difference in architecture in Israel and abroad? 

I think there’s a noticeable difference between everything in Israel and abroad! In architecture, there are different building codes, materials and methods; different permitting laws and, primarily, different cultures! I’m from Australia and I’ve been here 25 years. Ian Dorn, who works in my office, is a recent oleh from the US (New York and other locales) who’s been here four years. He has a very strong background in interior design as well as architecture. We certainly have what it takes to bridge the culture and language gaps that often make dealing with construction in Israel intimidating to olim and foreign residents looking to build or invest.

How important is it for an architect to be artistic? 

Architecture is made up of many disciplines (in university they called it the “mother of all arts and father of all sciences”). There are all kinds of architects with strengths in different fields. Some are very artistic, but less concerned with technical details. Some are super focused on making sure nothing slips through the cracks in the process, but their artistic tendencies are less pronounced. I think an architect needs to aim for the Golden Mean between those extremes.

How important are architectural renderings and how accurately do they predict the final product?

We mostly work in 3D. It helps clients visualize the project. Of course this depends on the project’s scope and the client’s ability to read plans. Basically, any tool that helps us understand each other is great. Do you make hand sketches? . There’s no other way to start a job! I was taught in my first year of studies to buy the cheapest sketch paper available so I wouldn’t be tempted to skimp on initial brainstorming and sketching stage of the process, which can be so critical to the outcome. Extra time at sketch stage saves a lot of heartache at the later stages of design.

What are the main determinants in the design process for you? 

The client’s wish list (which becomes a program), the site, the budget and the schedule. Beyond that, the design can take off from a springboard of inspiration, an interesting problem solving standpoint or a lot of hard work.

What inspires you? 

My wife. 22 years of marriage and seven kids leave me in awe of what a person can accomplish, day by day, year by year.

What do you think is the strongest skill that comes across in your work? 

I think it’s more a trait than a skill–but that would have to be reliability.

Do any specific projects that you really enjoyed stand out in your mind? 

I’ll give three examples from different fields: A 60 sqm apartment in Sha’arei Chessed, built for an LA resident while they were overseas. We made it look easy to fit 3 bedrooms, 11 beds, a living, dining and kitchen area and entry hall into that space. Space saving abilities, communication with the client and constructive work with an interior designer made it a great project.

A 350 sqm architectural and interior renovation in David’s Village. We designed the entire project in 3D from start to finish before we started construction. Working with the top tradesmen in each field, using cutting edge technologies, high end finishes, doing interiors in house and fully controlling the project, made sure everything went great for the client while they were in Toronto.

Four flight simulator buildings for the IAF. Hi-tech mixed with low tech, specific programming, set budget, working with a great contractor and doing something that helps our country. Very rewarding.

Is there a need to visit the actual worksite? Can it inspire your design? 

There’s no way to design, or properly understand a space, without going there first. I won’t o er a quote for work until I’ve seen the space with my own eyes. And yes, the site is one of the cornerstones of design and the inspiration that drives it. If you’re designing a house opposite a view and turn your back on it, you’ve achieved nothing. If you can make an entry more accessible by utilizing the slope of the site, you’ve done something great.

What advice would you give someone who is looking to go into the field? 

Only do it if you love it! Architecture (starting from the studies) is incredibly demanding. Like any art or design, it requires that you reach deep inside yourself and pull something out of thin air. Like any science, everything you do must be able to stand the test of real life–gravity, weather, budget, timetable… And, like any management job, it requires you to bring together experts from various fields and make the whole thing work.

So, if it’s not burning in your soul, maybe try out engineering?

But if it is, don’t let anyone stop you.

And if you’re studying architecture right now, get a job in the fi eld–part time to start–as soon as you can. Get a foot in the door, see how it works in the real world and place yourself in a position to hit the ground running!

Miles Hartog was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, with a short spell in the UK. He started his architecture degree in Sydney and completed it in Israel at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Miles has been working in the field of architecture in Israel and overseas since 1992. His 25 years of experience has provided Miles with an extremely broad palette for design and problem solving, which he now applies to every project–large or small.

Miles can be reached at 054-436-4492 or through his website www.mileshartog.com.

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