What is an architect? Why do I need one? What’s the difference between an architect, an engineer, a supervisor and a technician? Some ruminations from a practicing professional.
Well, let’s start from the basics.
An architect gets to call himself that after several years in university (usually a minimum of five), followed by a licensing procedure.
He is a design professional and bound by a set of laws, a code of ethics, and of course his own sense of the way things should be.
He is there to take the client’s desire (call it a brief, a program, or whatever you will), and turn it into a reality – by way of design.
Design (like in the word “designate”), means deciding the way something should be. How big, from what material, how much it’ll cost etc.
The architect’s job (among others) is to take what the client wants and turn it into a build-able, sustainable, viable design, and then to see that through to construction.
The architect knows what the client wants on the one hand, and what the authorities will permit on the other. He coordinates what the consultants need in order to make sure the building will stand up, have running water, stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and (hopefully) he still manages to make it look nice too.
Hold on, make it look nice? Isn’t that what architecture is really about? Isn’t that the architect’s primary function? Doesn’t it start from there?
Well, it could for some, but most often the aesthetics of the project are intertwined with everything else involved, and so they should be. A good architect shouldn’t start of with a picture in his head and then try to force everything else to fit, he concerns himself more with the process of design and allows the form to develop under his nurturing guidance along with considerations of function, budget, materials, sustainability and so on.
Sound difficult? Well, it’s not easy, that’s for sure. When I went to university they called architecture “the mother of the arts and the father of the sciences”. Why? Well, the building you build should be a piece of art, but it’s an art that you live in, move through and use. And as for sciences – all of the engineering knowledge from structural to electrical, mechanical, lighting, heating, soils, drainage, parking and much more has to be incorporated into the design to allow it to be a real building. Nowadays you can include electronics, comupters and communications on that list, too.
So during the design phase, the architect coordinates this three ring circus to arrive at an appropriate design. After that, the thing has to get built, and here pop up contractors, project managers, supervisors and more, all of whom need to be in an amicable and well defined interaction with the architect responsible for the design, to ensure that it gets built the way it was designed (otherwise why did you bother designing it in the first place)?
So what about you? Need an architect? Planning on building something soon? Need some advice?
Drop me a line