"Form, heard exactly what we needed and the design met our needs perfectly."

– A Bay Area Client


About Form

We collaborate with Clients to create the kind of Architecture that they would design if they were Architects.  

A Firm Belief: Collaboration, Creativity, and Cost effectiveness

Our firm’s founding concept has two key dimensions.  The first is that successful residential architecture derives from a genuine collaboration between the client and the design team.  We talk with our clients, not at them, and we listen carefully.  Second, we believe in no way that it’s a given that livable, interesting, even delightful architecture has to be unreasonably costly.

Our combined 20 years of experience in both architecture and construction has convinced us over time that the single greatest contributing factor to an uneasy, even adversarial, architect-client-contractor relationship is the traditional design-then bid and budget approach to building.  If the design and the budget do not correspond at the point of conception, it is almost inevitable that an enormous amount of lost time and energy go into redesign—which can only lead to frustration for all concerned.  The Design Build approach helps to alleviate this unfortunate circumstance by allowing a degree of synergy between the client, designer and builder from the very beginning of the project and throughout the design process that produces far more realistic budgets than would result otherwise. General budgets can be started as soon as the designing begins and they can be continually modified to reflect changes as the design progresses. The end result is a design/budget package that can help Clients avoid having made an emotional investment in a project they can’t afford.

Building a home, of course, does not end with the schematic design. During construction itself almost daily there are countless decisions to be made, adjustments required and design opportunities that open up. When the Contractor is a partner with the Designer, the heightened degree of cooperation greatly smoothes out this process. In an earlier era, architects used to provide complete services and worked with builders from the beginning of a project. Frank Lloyd Wright and the Greene and Greene brothers were famous for producing inspired buildings because of the intricate nature of their involvement in the actual construction of their buildings.

In the end, the design build process offers several ways to save Clients money on the overall project, as well as produce a more pleasing result.   To take only one example, if a set of drawings is to be bid by three different general contractors, then the construction documents produced by the Architect need to offer considerably more detail to define the scope of work for each Contractor, particularly since these Contractors were not intimately involved in the development of the design. This is both costly and inefficient.  It’s also the case that over the years of our collaboration we’ve discovered many building techniques that reduce costs while maximizing design.

Meet Us

Chris Dorman, AIA, Design Principal, from his earliest interest in architecture has coupled a fascination for the aesthetic of buildings with a penchant for solving the practical problems of how they go together.  If you can’t actually build something in which a client can take pleasure, and do it within the client’s budget, an impressive design is suitable only for paper. As a result, he has always related to clients and contractors as full building partners in the belief that this is the best way to achieve the best results.  He has also sought out the widest possible range of experience, and on the residential side has designed everything from small-scale remodels and starter homes to numerous multi-million dollar custom homes for individual clients as well as custom home communities.  His collaboration with Mike Slater began in 2002 shortly after Dorman opened his own firm.

Dorman  received a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley and a Masters in Architecture from the University of Oregon, and he is a licensed California architect and member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).  He began his career in 1996, when he joined the San Rafael firm of Chris Lamen and Associates because of its focus on affordable housing, and he achieved Associate status three years later. Since starting his own firm in 2001, among other assignments, he has served as Architect and Construction Manager on a residential community with 18 custom homes, as well as acting as the builder for a 3,000 square foot custom home in Mill Valley, Ca.

Mike Slater, Licensed Contractor, was born in San Diego, and grew up under his father’s tutelage, a third generation contractor. Working alongside his brother and his father, Slater built custom homes before moving on to commercial work, building gymnasiums, schools and a 72-bedroom mountain lodge. But the creativity involved building projects for others wasn’t the same as the unique design experience of undertaking his own ventures. So, in 1996 Mike moved to El Dorado Hills to rekindle this interest in design and building. After completing a few speculative houses he teamed up with Chris Dorman to collaborate in the design and construction of a contemporary interpretation of a Prairie Style house. This collaboration led to several others, which finally drew Slater to the Bay Area and resulted in the formation of this company, Form Design Build.

    © 2009 FORM Design + Build Inc. All Rights Reserved.
A division of Dorman Associates Inc.