The Salk Institute in La Jolla, California is arguably one of the greatest buildings of the last century. And Lou Khan should only get about half the credit. Jonas Salk, discoverer of the polio vaccine, famously said "make me a place worthy of a visit by Picasso."
That is how great buildings are made.
Great buildings come from an idea, not a spreadsheet. Salk wanted a building where the researchers interacted: with nature (every office has a view of the sea), but most importantly with each other. He valued cross pollination, and believed stagnation can happen in the sterile environment of the laboratory.
A well less known collaboration between architect and owner was the series of buildings done by Eric Owen Moss for developers Frederick and Laurie Samitaur Smith. The buildings, built in a dilapidated area of Culver City, allowed Eric Owen Moss the room to explore his artistic (and highly academic) process. The owners in turn probably got more hours for his fee than they would have otherwise. The project becomes the designer's baby - and the project is better for it.
In many ways both of these projects are brutalist, a reflection of the architect and will certainly not appeal to all. But there is no mistaking both the hand of the owner, and the architect in these works.
Architects are generally poor business people, because they simply can not help themselves. The easiest way to get an architect, or any other designer for that matter, to deliver a great project, is to let them own the design. The easiest way to get a bad project, is to give them a spreadsheet and tell them what color it should be. Owners should use this to their advantage. We don't mind, really. We welcome a great idea - a great idea is something we can work with.