Credits can be a source of contention, and it is more than wise to clarify them from the beginning. But even then there are problems. When Margaret Helfand, FAIA , a New York–based architect with her own office took on the role as the design architect for the Unified Science Center at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, Einhorn Yaffee Prescott (EYP), a Boston-based a/e firm, had already been contracted to do the programming, and because of its expertise in lab design, had embarked on some early planning for the center. The college, for which Helfand had already designed a building, wanted Helfand to be brought in on the design for the center. In her discussions with Cahal Stephens, AIA, principal in charge of the project for EYP, Helfand turned down the role of “design consultant,” since she felt her firm should be involved equally all through construction documents and construction administration, to fully implement its concept and details. At the outset, she agreed to the credit line, “Einhorn Yaffee Prescott and Helfand Architecture, architects in association.” Soon Helfand realized this was a mistake: “When our name comes second to EYP on the credits, there is confusion about who deserves credit for the design. We have already experienced disbelief at interviews when we present the science center to selection committee members who have seen the project published with EYP’s name first. Obviously they assumed EYP was the lead designer.”
Helfand enjoyed working with EYP and notes that the firm “was always very respectful of us during the design process.” But she confesses, “I was more concerned with building a strong working relationship with EYP than with the marketing consequences of the project credits.” A recent promotional postcard sent out by EYP touted the building’s publications and awards, but EYP got the large type while Helfand Architecture is mentioned only in a credit line in six-point type at the bottom right-hand corner of the elongated card. It isn’t just about ego, says Helfand. “For design firms, this is about earning access to opportunities to design more buildings.” Cahal Stephens replies that EYP was “prime in terms of the agreement with the client.” Although prime architect does not mean design architect, he feels the two firms had worked out the wording very carefully. Meanwhile, EYP has agreed to collaborate with Studio Daniel Libeskind for an arts center project in Boston. This time, it is a joint venture, and EYP has second billing. “Libeskind won the competition and it was his idea to do the joint venture,” Stephens explains.