Essentially, an architect is a designer, trained and licensed to work on the planning and design of buildings. The facets of an architect's role are as varied and fascinating as their work; these are professionals who lead the process of creating functional spaces, from concept and design to a full realization of those designs.
Architecture is an art that works hand in hand with science to design places where people can live, eat, work and play. As a leader of various projects, from something as small as an addition to someone's home to something as large as a hospital, college campus, or an entire neighbourhood, the role of an architect is to bring together the creative ideas and visions of the client and keep in mind the needs of those that will be using the new space.
Architects are not just involved in the design of a building. As a licensed professional they are also responsible for public safety and overseeing of projects. Their role is important in every stage of the building's construction, from the initial concept to the opening ceremony when the building is complete. Beyond completion they often remain involved in a project as buildings evolve to incorporate new surroundings and ideas.
The aspects of work can be split into three main roles or phases- the Design, Documentation and Construction roles.
In the Design role an architect is hired by a client to produce detailed designs of a concept or idea that the client wants to bring to reality. As well as needing creative design ideas, this part of the role involves a great deal of technical knowledge and responsibility. There is a need to comply with building and safety regulations, local planning regulations and restrictions. Depending on the project there may be laws surrounding the preservation of the local environment or any historic parts of a building. Regular client meetings are important to establish requirements and discuss detailed design proposals. Also important is heading up the team of professionals who will work on this stage of the project including engineers, designers and financiers.
During the Documentation phase the responsibilities are to capture the design on paper, producing detailed drawings and using technology such as CAD to test the feasibility of the design. This stage can involve continual revision and redrawing to incorporate changes based on the client's requirements, budget and regulations. Once the design documents are complete, there are then a second set of documents that need to be produced.
These are the Construction documents which translate the design into instructions and technical specifications for contractors and construction experts. Once the project reaches the construction stage, the architect will be involved in site visits and meetings, overseeing the construction and signing off on various pieces of work, negotiating with contractors and dealing with and resolving any problems that arise.
The practical and technical requirements vary from one country to another, but you will need to be qualified from a recognized institution, have a good eye for design and details, and a creative approach to problem solving and an interest in building and architecture. The American Institute of Architecture focuses on the three Es: Education, Experience and Examination. It is a career that needs a strong academic background combined with an interest in art and drawing. In addition, a large part of the training involves becoming proficient with computer aided design programmes and understanding the technology involved in building design and construction. You should be inventive, creative and imaginative, do some research and develop a passion for appreciating variety in architecture and built environments, read widely and generally take an interest in the world around you.
Most states in the U.S. require architects to be trained in a program approved by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB). The programs offered are a Bachelor of Architecture, Master of Architecture or Doctor of Architecture. The majority of Architects in Canada complete a bachelor's or master's degree in architecture from a university program approved by the Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB). Another way to become an architect in Canada is through the apprenticeship offered through the RAIC Syllabus Program.
Good architects are leaders of projects, so good team working, communication and leadership skills are all essential to success.
The variety of roles means that there are also a variety of workplaces. Most of the design work will be done from an office, but there will also be visits to clients' offices, meetings with planning offices and local government, and of course site visits. Depending on whether they are freelance or employed by a company, an architect may work from their own office, sometimes from home, or from a number of company offices. The role can involve travel and international conferences, placements or meetings.