Architect Job Description - Skills, Responsibilities and Career
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What Does an Architect Do?
An architect conceives and designs buildings and oversees their construction. The profession of architect is one that combines aspects of both a practical and artistic nature, as the buildings and spaces an architect designs are required to fulfill both functional and aesthetic criteria. Architects may work on projects of any dimension, from small jobs - like redesigning a room for example - right through to major undertakings, such as the construction of homes, office blocks, theatres, bridges, stadiums, skyscrapers, or even entire neighbourhoods.
In conceptualizing and designing a project and assessing its feasibility, an architect uses a range of tools, including modern computer-based tools.
Architect: what do they do?
An architect’s job is to turn their clients’ needs into reality, so the first step is to understand what those needs are and to translate them into a viable creative solution that complies with all the applicable building, safety, planning and environmental standards.
This is followed by a documentation phase in which the architect develops the design details, making drawings on paper and using Computer Aided Design (CAD) tools, carrying out simulations to verify the project’s feasibility, and creating architectural renderings. During this phase, the construction costs and time frame of the project are determined, based on the client’s specifications, and the design may often be re-worked a number of times. Subsequently, the construction documents are issued, which translate the design into technical specifications for use by the builders and contractors.
At this point, the third phase, or construction phase, starts. The building work is overseen by the architect, who carries out site visits to ensure the project is being implemented according to plan and may intervene to resolve any unforeseen issues. The architect interfaces during this phase with the engineers, site managers, technicians and construction workers responsible for the building work.
The projects undertaken by an architect may involve the design of new buildings or the remodeling of existing ones and can generally be divided into industrial projects and civil projects (private homes, hospitals, universities, railway stations etc). Architects also perform regional planning and urban landscaping services and may choose to obtain specialist qualifications in the restoration of historic buildings or interior design.
Architects may work for architectural firms, construction companies, public bodies, or on a self-employed basis, and may be commissioned by businesses, organizations or private clients, or else participate in public procurement procedures and competitions. In this latter case, participating architects (or architectural firms) submit proposals that aim to persuade the jury to award them the contract.
On construction sites, the role of site manager or construction director may be performed by a professional architect.
An architect’s working hours may be flexible and tend to be increasingly demanding as project deadlines approach.
Architect: Duties, Responsibilities and Tasks
The main tasks and responsibilities of an architect include:
- Conceptualizing and designing buildings and urban landscapes
- Studying the surrounding environment and assessing the impact of a project
- Estimating project costs and time frame
- Presenting projects to clients
- Submitting projects for public and private procurement procedures and competitions
- Overseeing site construction work
- Performing structural integrity assessments for building renovation projects
How to Become an Architect: Education, Qualifications and Requirements
To become an architect, you need a degree in Architecture. An architecture degree course includes design and planning, history of architecture, construction, urban design, restoration, technical drawing and urban planning components.
Given the nature of the job, architects need a good knowledge of building materials and the ability to assess the natural and constructed environment in which the new structure will be situated. This will allow them to produce a design that is functional, structurally stable and that blends harmoniously with the surrounding environment.
It is also important for an architect to have the IT skills needed to use 2D and 3D design software (such as AutoCAD and SolidWorks) and BIM (Building Information Modeling) applications. But technical knowledge alone is not enough - an architect also needs the versatility and creativity that multidisciplinary training (e.g. computer science, design, philosophy) can provide.
In some countries, architects are required by law to go through a licensing process before they can practice architecture as a profession.
Skills and Qualities
The skills and qualities most frequently specified in job offers for architects include:
- Design and planning skills
- CAD technical drawing skills
- Modelling and rendering skills
- Ability to perform cost/time estimates and feasibility assessments
- Knowledge of building codes and best practices
- A flair for design
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
Career Path and What to Expect
What's the career goal of an Architect?
Architecture offers a variety of possible career paths, including becoming an interior designer (i.e. a creator of internal spaces), focusing on the management aspects of the construction process as a project manager or supervising construction work as a site manager.
But architects who choose to work for an architectural firm have their own career paths, too. To begin with, new hires may be assigned just a single phase of a project, but with experience, may move on to looking after a project from start to finish and handling increasingly important assignments, including international projects, that enhance both the firm’s prestige as well as the architect’s own personal reputation.
At a certain point, an experienced architect working as an employee or associate of a firm may decide to open their own firm, so that they can win and carry out projects independently.
Top Reasons to Work as an Architect
One reason to become an architect is the possibility to express yourself creatively - to leave a personal mark on buildings and spaces and have a direct impact on the lives of the people that inhabit them. Another reason is the significant professional and personal prestige that may accrue to an architect whose work receives public recognition for its aesthetic or functional value.
The profession of architect is a particularly versatile one, featuring a strong element of innovation. For instance, construction materials, technologies, methods and styles are all continually evolving. While this, on the one hand, means architects are obliged to keep their knowledge up-to-date, it also means that new design possibilities that previously were unheard of are constantly emerging.