It probably seems obvious that the architect should be engaged at the beginning of the project. However, the first priority after a major earthquake will be emergency repairs to protect people and assets, and emergency repairs are normally be designed by an engineer, with structural safety as the primary driver.
Emergency repairs need to happen quickly, before strategic decisions have been made about the future of existing buildings, and they will often involve a significant investment of effort and money. This investment can be a factor in deciding to repair a building rather than demolish it, and the freshly completed emergency repairs may become a permanent fixture of brownfields projects, potentially constraining the architect’s design options when it comes to form and function. In one of our projects, engineer-designed structural strengthening reduced available floor space and ceiling heights in some areas.
Ideally, architect and engineer would be engaged at the same time and would bring complementary perspectives to the design process. This is not always possible during disaster recovery, and safety will always be a particular concern at this time. But, be aware that design decisions made before the architect is appointed may influence the finished building.