Claire L Cardwell en The Naked Architect, beBee in English Architectural Designer (@Blue Designs), Writer & Artist • The Naked Architect 17/4/2018 · 10 min de lectura · +400

Out and About Part Four - Handbags at Dawn!

Out and About Part Four - Handbags at Dawn!

The last three years or so have been tough, really tough.  On many days I have questioned my entire existence as an Architectural Designer.  On top of 3 staff members dying I have had 4 separate legal battles to fight and am still paying off a mountain of legal bills.

So this is why I am trying so hard to establish myself as an Architectural Journalist (The Naked Artist), promote my art and other artists (Blue Indigo Art) and start selling some of my house plans online (Houseplanssa).  Unfortunately due to distractions and intense periods of stress that have been largely beyond my control I've had to drop the ball with Blue Indigo Art and Houseplanssa.  

I haven't had the courage to add up all the monies I have spent in legal fees (I think it's around R70K) and lost business (around R200K and counting), not to mention how many of my clients have been waiting a very long time for their plans or the approvals process to be completed...

So here's the sorry tale starting with the infamous Keegan Reddy and his fragrant wife.

They got in touch with me in June 2015 to draw up a set of plans for a new house in Kyalami Glen Estate in Midrand.  After some to'ing and fro'ing we finally started the ball rolling in August.

They loved a previous plan of mine 'House Nobu', but as they only had the budget to build up to 456m2 I had quite a bit of trimming to do.

Here's House Nobu :-

Here's one of the concepts I came up with for them:-

Keegan was v. pleased with my concept, but he was adamant that I had to shave off about 8m2 for them as they did not have the budget to build a bigger house.

I was then quite horrified when I got this email from him a few hours later :-

"Hi Claire,

The wife and I spent a lot of time fine tuning the design, we want to stick to the first sketch, as much as possible. We want the following as per the drawings attached.
  • Third garage space - We want to use the Servants Quarters as the space for a third vehicle , (length 5.5m). We also want the water inlets & sewage outlets to be put in, just in case we wish to convert to a Servants Quarters area. We do not want to compromise the kitchen space, so please assist to make it fit. We are willing to go down to 5m per vehicle length.
  • We want the Study on the ground floor, as per the Plan A you have done. The size is ok.
  • We want to push the patio to the building line and increase the inside space of the house. The patio will have an awning cover. See pic attached.
  • We want 1 full bathroom to service the guest bedroom.
  • We do not want stairs in the passage ways, please minimize on the stairs (not too small though)
  • We want the upstairs "Dressing Room" to be enclosed and the bathroom fittings to be moved around as indicated on the pic attached.
  • We do not want large balconies , small balconies on the master and 3rd bedroom will be adequate.
  • We want a pitched roof over the double garage area.
  • We want 1 full bathroom upstairs to service bedrooms 1 to 3, as per the attached pic.
  • Please don't forget the fireplace , see pic attached.
  • Please include the area of each room in the sketch
  • Does the total area include the Balconies/Patio ?
Please see the pics attached and assist to meet this design/requirement. Please also use our initial square meter outline to ensure that all the rooms are large enough, We want a feeling of space inside each room/area. Thanks! Please give me a call if you need more clarity."

In the space of a few hours (whilst he and his fragrant wife were still at work and yup you've guessed it - they were SUPPOSED to be working...) they had totally obliterated my design and replaced with one that would be truly ugly to behold.

Not to mention that they had added on over 110m2 to the total area!!

After lying down in a darkened room and sniffing my sal volatale I composed this email :-

"Once you go over a 9m span it gets really expensive... Rather than twice as expensive which is what you would expect - it is going to be 4x as expensive....  This is because instead of the standard 114 x 38 roof trusses you will need 50 x228 trusses which the Engineer might insist are laminated.  There will be 2x50 x 228 trusses bolted together and 3 or 4 50 x 228 trusses bolted together at the jack beams (where the roof bends inwards).

Then you will require additional structural support in the house, outside walls will have to be 330 walls rather than 220mm walls, the foundations will have to be deeper and have a lot more reinforcing steel.  In addition, inside all the walls upstairs will have to be 220 walls rather than 110 walls and extra structural support in terms of columns will have to be added.  
The roof will be a lot higher - around 4-4.5m...  As there is a height restriction in the Kyalami Estate of 8.5m you will only be able to build a single storey house and the roof will be well out of proportion to the house.  In my opinion the house will look like a mushroom!
You have indicated that you only have the budget to build 456m2...  This means that we will have to make a few compromises - such as the main Study going upstairs and the Guest Bedroom being used as a Study downstairs in the event that you have clients coming to the house.  There are excellent sofa beds available which you can use when you have elderly/pregnant relatives staying with you.  There will be a walkway down the side of the house and sliding doors allowing access to the Guest Bedroom/Study.
One of the Bedrooms will have to go over the SQ/Double Garage.  However with insulation and sound proofing this will not be a problem for light sleepers...
The Bedroom arrangement you have upstairs will not really work.  You can not fit a double or even a queen size bed in either of the rooms, perhaps a 3/4 bed would work (1200mm wide).  This will affect the resale value of the house.  In addition we will not be able to put a window in the Bedroom on the side as it overlooks the neighbours...  There will have to be some sort of skylight and this will skew the Energy Efficiency Calculations and cost again as special glass from Germany will have to be ordered.
I am meeting one of my engineering and architectural consultants tomorrow afternoon to discuss things further and my architectural collegue - Nicky Rennie on Monday to make sure that we are maximising the use of space.
5m is not long enough for a car.  My car is small and is 4.5m long.  A standard sedan car is 5m long and the new 4x4s which everyone seems to love are around 7m long...  You will need a minimum of an extra 500mm in order to be able to shut the garage door safely."

This was the response I got :-

"We note and understand the constraints you have explained below. However, we believe it is your job to work within these constraints while still meeting our requirements. 
We feel you are not taking our requirements into consideration, specifically the design we have sent you, and are moving things around to make this process simple and easy. Our design was based primarily on a design you had sent us so we cannot reconcile the issues that you are experiencing now. This layout is what we want and it is your responsibility to make it happen, even if we have to compromise on size 
We are under time constraints and already a week has passed with no progress and no further designs to review. 
If you cannot meet our requirements and timelines please refund our deposit and we will find an architect more willing to listen to us."

Two days later I got an email from their lawyer demanding all their money back (and compensation for lost time and emotional distress!).

The first lawyer I went to see (who was a family friend) was totally useless.  He took my money, made all sorts of promises and did fuck all.  I was in touch with him and he promised me that he was handling things and not to worry, he would 'make it all go away'.

Imagine my surprise when at the beginning of February 2016 this popped up :-

Entitled Claire Cardwell A THIEF!!!!

Beware of Claire Cardwell & Blue Designs! She is an unqualified architect who operates unscrupulously, is dishonest & a *****! We engaged her services to design a house. During our first discussion with her she made it clear she wanted a 50% deposit upfront & we reluctantly agreed.
We met Claire at site, explained our requirements and sent her our sketches. After some time she produced a basic layout (different to our sketches). We provided detailed feedback to her, after which she responded with excuses regarding the impossibility of our requirements. It felt like she was designing a house for herself. We told her if she felt she could not meet our requirements, to refund our deposit and we would move on. The next time we heard from her, she sent us an invoice that included dubious charges for consultation fees & other costs we were unaware of. She ensured that she covered the amount of the deposit with these dubious charges. We tried to contact her with no success. She replied to our letter of demand, sent by our attorneys but refused to return our deposit. She has successfully evaded the sheriff & other tracking agents over the past 3 months. Avoid Claire Cardwell & Blue Designs

There were also posts on ALL my Social Media pages, both the personal and Blue Designs ones.  I had already spent well over R2K on a lawyer and he hadn't even bothered to phone the Reddy's or their Lawyer!  Most of the posts only turned up on the Reddy's feed as I had blocked both of them months ago.

I had to return all the fees (about R9K) I had received from another job which I had completed, and got served a summons by a Sheriff from Randburg Magistrates Court.  To say I was freaked out was an understatement!

The fall out continued.  I went to see John Simpson (who was a close friend of Uncle Bob's and JS is one of SA's top litigating attorneys).

During the Settlement Negotiations I also received a Summary Judgement (this racked up another R5K or so in legal bills for me).

Finally a Settlement was reached, the Reddys would receive their deposit back in full and I would pay their legal fees and in return :-

All posts regarding Blue Designs and myself down from all Social Media and the infamous Hello Peter post to be removed immediately.

 SACAP (the South African Council for the Architectural Profession) was not to be contacted and no complaints would be made.

No further legal action (Criminal or Civil) would take place.

After I had paid back nearly half the money I discovered that the Reddy's had not removed their defamatory posts about me on Social Media and the Hello Peter post was still there.

More calls, correspondence and legal bills ensued.  Was there any way out of this nightmare I asked myself?

I decided the only thing I could do was to put my head down and carry on.

At the end of July 2015 I was about to fly back to the UK to visit family.  I toyed with the idea of paying the Reddy's penultimate installment early, then changed my mind.  "Let them wait," I thought to myself, "it's the 30th July and the money is only due on the 1st August"

Thank God I waited.  SACAP got in touch.  I was under disciplinary action.  The Reddys HAD made a complaint to SACAP and had not withdrawn it according to the Court Mandated Settlement Agreement we had made back at the end of March 2015...

The complaint to SACAP was basically a re-hash of the Hello Peter post and they added this :- 

"During our investigations it was uncovered that her company and physical address does not exist and she is not a qualified architect which she portrays herself to be. She evaded the Sheriff for 3 months until a successfully orchestrated operation where she was finally handed her summons to appear in court. We are now in the process of pursuing a criminal case against her. She is unethical, unscrupulous, immoral and does not behave with any professional conduct."

They also alleged that I gave them basic layouts after a long time (it was less than a week after our site meeting and I gave them 2 different carefully thought out options to consider). “After some time, a basic layout was produced – this layout did not include any measurements and was very different to the sketches we provided”

As you can see from the layouts I posted at the beginning of this piece (or rant rather!) this was not the case.  In addition I was briefly connected to the Reddys on LinkedIn and as you can see from my LI and beBee profile I have been totally honest about my lack of formal qualifications in Architecture.  I have been registered with SACAP as a Professional Designer (and so has Blue Designs) since June 2006...

Anyway it all ended up OK in the end, OK that is until you consider that the 'legal eagles' at SACAP loved crossing swords with a top litigating attorney.  They ran up over R7K in legal bills.  I also got a R1.4K fine as SACAP were not happy with my Contract with the Reddys...

At the same time I was fighting a legal battle with Noel Kennedy - my ex business partner.  I saw off two sets of lawyers before I got John involved.

Noel had developed a serious drinking problem.  He would start the day by cracking a beer, by about 11am his first 6 pack of the day was history.  Fast forward to around 3pm (and two further 6-packs) Noel would be incoherent..

He simply failed to understand why I had a problem with this.  Why I thought it wasn't a good idea to get in his car and go to building sites to meet clients, or indeed actually work on their plans...

He became increasingly unstable and physically threatening.  Eventually in August 2015 I had had enough and fired his ass.  I know that you can't fire a 'business partner' but I did.  Not only from Blue Designs, but from my life as well.

The upshot is that we finally came to a Court Mandated Settlement Agreement, I would give Noel R15K and in return he would return all paperwork, publications and intellectual property belonging to Blue Designs and not pursue a CCMA Action or civil action against me.

Well the deadline came and went.  I extended the Deadline by 48 hours for Noel to comply.  He did not.  His lawyers were literally tearing their hair out.  Can you believe that a) they refused to accept that 'intellectual property' also extends to CAD files and 'soft copies' of plans and documents? and b) they repeatedly LIED - in writing - saying that Noel was not aware of the terms of the Settlement Agreement?

I refused to pay until I received the Intellectual Property.  To this date I have not received anything.

Noel has repeatedly slandered and defamed me, he rang a whole bunch of clients and contacts alleging that I am an alcoholic (I only drink 3 or 4 times a month - and that's 3 or 4 drinks single shots a month), drug addict (the occasional spliff doesn't make you a junkie does it?) and was having an affair with a 'coloured' man.  I lost a lot of business and some people that I thought of as close friends are no longer speaking to me.

I believe that Noel is using my SACAP License to practice Architecture and submit plans to Council.  He is still not registered with SACAP - either under his own name or company name.  Legally I will be held responsible for any errors or omissions he makes during the commission of a project.  His company CTA Design Studios showcases my work as his own.

I am going to draw a veil over the other two legal actions I had to deal with last year.  The upshot was the same, the client got to keep all the plans and paperwork and got their fees paid back in full!

Still, I've got to carry on, got Clients dreams and planning nightmares to sort out.

Call Claire - 011 025 4458 

 I love Architecture. I think it's vital to talk about all aspects of Architecture - whether it be planning, construction, design or green building. I have written 3 E-Books & over 110 articles. Please feel free to let me know if you have any queries regarding architecture, planning & construction & I will assist you.

I am originally from the UK and moved to South Africa in 1999.  I started Blue Designs in 2004 after working as a driver for Avalon Construction on a luxury home in the Featherbrook Estate.  In my spare time I am an artist and writer.

I've started two new Hives - please feel free to join!

Other Articles I have written include :-

Building Green?  Here are some tips.

Common Mistakes People make when Designing a House

The Advantages of Sustainable Building

Considering Buying or Renovating a Heritage Home?  Pros and Cons

Renovation vs New Construction - which is Greener and Better for the Environment?

Bizarre Buildings Part Two - Space Age Fantasy

Weird and Wonderful Buildings Part Three - Three Buildings that make Music

Please follow me on :-

Here's a link to House Nobu -

House Nobu

#ClaireCardwell  #ClaireLCardwell  #BlueDesigns  #Architecture  #TheNakedArchitect  #Architect #NakedArchitect #SAArchitect  #SAArchitecture  #JoburgArchitect  #JoburgArchitecture  @Joburg  #JohannesburgArchitecture  #JohannesburgArchitect

#BlueValley  #BlueValleyGolfEstate  #GolfEstate  #Tuscan  #TuscanArchitecture  #Tuscanstylehouses  #ModernTuscan

Jerry Fletcher 23/4/2018 · #9

Claire, Sometimes adversity strengthens you but weakens your resolve. Stick to it. Don't let the bastards wear you down.

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Claire L Cardwell 18/4/2018 · #8

#6 Thank you @Graham🐝 Edwards I will! As @Ken Boddie just said - I've come too far to quit now.

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Claire L Cardwell 18/4/2018 · #7

#5 Thanks @Ken Boddie - you are absolutely right! It's the encouragement I get from all the lovely testimonials (mainly unsolicited off LI that I've put on the website now) and from my beeBee friends that have helped me keep going through the dark times. I've also invested 14 years of my life into Blue Designs and have worked with a lot of lovely people and I had clients relying on me to finish their work or who were referring me to other people that needed my help or designs work done.

I do feel that my life is moving in a different direction and a big architecture firm has just approached me to ask me to write a blog and their marketing materials for them. I think I will end up combining two of my biggest loves Architectural Design and Storytelling and just do the odd project on the side.

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Graham🐝 Edwards 18/4/2018 · #6

Keep fighting the good fight @Claire L Cardwell

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Ken Boddie 18/4/2018 · #5

Seems to me, Claire, you’ve come too far to quit. It’s not about how nany times you get knocked down. Its about how many times you get up again.

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Claire L Cardwell 17/4/2018 · #4

#3 @Chris 🐝 Guest Cert.Prof.Acc.SA - thank you for the kind words. Yes it was hectic, fortunately this year (so at least!) has been quite a bit quieter. I agree with you, that formal qualifications mean very little out in the real world. What counts is can you do the job and can you do it properly?

It has been tough though, from making rather a lot of money in 2014, I went on to make spectacular losses in 2015, 2016 and 2017! Fortunately my family (both here in SA and the UK) gave me a lot of support during this time - financial, physical, emotional and spiritual and without them I don't know where I would be today! It also had quite a major toll on my health, in the first 2.5 months of last year I lost over 20kgs in weight (which I needed to - just not so fast!) and ended up spending the best part of a month in hospital in June/July.

It's at times like these that you realise two things, who your true friends are and also how resilient you are.

The lies perpetuated by people like the Reddys have really got me down (can you believe that they actually paid Hello Peter in June 2016 (whilst I was still paying them my deposit back - and straight after yet another expensive legal exchange) to 'promote' their post, it doesn't matter what I do, if you type 'Blue Designs' into a search engine that nasty Hello Peter post is normally #3 in the feed.... On several occasions I have seriously considered leaving architecture all together.

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Chris 🐝R Guest 17/4/2018 · #3

You're a survivor dear Claire ...all strength to you and just sorry you had to go through all this s..t from some messed up people!

Your integrity and expertise in your field shines through your "warts n all"writing very clearly.I thave every confidence on you (well except maybe not a long plane flight ! 😁) just on the strength of online interactions and my bs detector is very strong believe me ! God Bless doors opening soon..hang in there.@Claire L Cardwell

PS Formal qualifications mean very little!

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