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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An architect at work, 1893.
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Civil engineering
Project management
Urban planning
Interior design
Visual arts
CompetenciesEngineering, technical knowledge, building design, planning and management skills
Education required
See professional requirements

An architect is a person who plans, designs and reviews the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings that have human occupancy or use as their principal purpose.[1] Etymologically, architect derives from the Latin architectus, which derives from the Greek (arkhi-, chief + tekton, builder), i.e., chief builder.[2]

Professionally, an architect's decisions affect public safety, and thus an architect must undergo specialized training consisting of advanced education and a practicum (or internship) for practical experience to earn a license to practice architecture. Practical, technical, and academic requirements for becoming an architect vary by jurisdiction.

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I must have been about 12 years old when my dad took me to an exhibition on space, not far from here, in Brussels. And the year was about -- I think it was 1988, so it was the end of the Cold War. There was a bit of an upmanship going on between the Americans and the Russians bringing bits to that exhibition. NASA brought a big blow-up space shuttle, but the Russians, they brought a Mir space station. It was actually the training module, and you could go inside and check it all out. It was the real thing -- where the buttons were, where the wires were, where the astronauts were eating, where they were working. And when I came home, the first thing I did, I started drawing spaceships. Now, these weren't science fiction spaceships, no. They were actually technical drawings. They were cutaway sections of what kind of structure would be made out of, where the wires were, where the screws were. So fortunately, I didn't become a space engineer, but I did become an architect. These are some of the projects that I've been involved with over the last decade and a half. All these projects are quite different, quite different shapes, and it is because they are built for different environments. They have different constraints. And I think design becomes really interesting when you get really harsh constraints. Now, these projects have been all over the world. A few years ago, this map wasn't good enough. It was too small. We had to add this one, because we were going to do a project on the Moon for the European Space Agency; they asked us to design a Moon habitat -- and one on Mars with NASA, a competition to look at a habitation on Mars. Whenever you go to another place, as an architect and try to design something, you look at the local architecture, the precedents that are there. Now, on the Moon, it's kind of difficult, of course, because there's only this. There's only the Apollo missions. So last that we went there, I wasn't even born yet, and we only spent about three days there. So for me, that's kind of a long camping trip, isn't it, but a rather expensive one. Now, the tricky thing, when you're going to build on another planet or a moon, is how to get it there, how to get it there. So first of all, to get a kilogram, for example, to the Moon's surface, it will cost about 200,000 dollars, very expensive. So you want to keep it very light. Second, space. Space is limited. Right? This is the Ariane 5 rocket. The space you have there is about four and a half meters by seven meters, not that much. So it needs to be an architectural system that is both compact, or compactable, and light, and I think I've got one right here. It's very compact, and it's very light. And actually, this is one I made earlier. Now, there's one problem with it, that inflatables are quite fragile. They need to be protected, specifically, when you go to a very harsh environment like the Moon. Look at it like this. The temperature difference on a Moon base could be anything up to 200 degrees. On one side of the base, it could be 100 degrees Celsius and on the other side, it could be minus 100 degrees. We need to protect ourselves from that. The Moon also does not have any magnetic fields, which means that any radiation -- solar radiation, cosmic radiation -- will hit the surface. We need to protect ourselves from that as well, protect the astronauts from that. And then third, but definitely not last, the Moon does not have any atmosphere, which means any meteorites coming into it will not get burned up, and they'll hit the surface. That's why the Moon is full of craters. Again, we need to protect the astronauts from that. So what kind of structure do we need? Well, the best thing is really a cave, because a cave has a lot of mass, and we need mass. We need mass to protect ourselves from the temperatures, from the radiation and from the meteorites. So this is how we solved it. We have indeed the blue part, as you can see. That's an inflatable for our Moon base. It gives a lot of living space and a lot of lab space, and attached to it you have a cylinder, and that has all the support structures in, all the life support and also the airlock. And on top of that, we have a structure, that domed structure, that protects ourselves, has a lot of mass in it. Where are we going to get this material from? Are we going to bring concrete and cement from Earth to the Moon? Well, of course not, because it's way too heavy. It's too expensive. So we're going to go and use local materials. Now, local materials are something we deal with on Earth as well. Wherever we build or whatever country we build in, we always look at, what are the local materials here? The problem with the Moon is, what are the local materials? Well, there's not that many. Actually, we have one. It's moondust, or, fancier scientific name, regolith, Moon regolith. Great thing is, it's everywhere, right? The surface is covered with it. It's about 20 centimeters up to a few meters everywhere. But how are we going to build with it? Well, we're going to use a 3D printer. Whenever I ask any of you what a 3D printer is, you're probably all thinking, well, probably something about this size and it would print things that are about this size. So of course I'm not going to bring a massive 3D printer to the Moon to print my Moon base. I'm going to use a much smaller device, something like this one here. So this is a small device, a small robot rover, that has a little scoop, and it brings the regolith to the dome and then it lays down a thin layer of regolith, and then you would have the robot that will solidify it, layer by layer, until it creates, after a few months, the full base. You might have noticed that it's quite a particular structure that we're printing, and I've got a little example here. What we call this is a closed-cell foam structure. Looks quite natural. The reason why we're using this as part of that shell structure is that we only need to solidify certain parts, which means we have to bring less binder from Earth, and it becomes much lighter. Now -- that approach of designing something and then covering it with a protective dome we also did for our Mars project. You can see it here, three domes. And you see the printers printing these dome structures. There's a big difference between Mars and the Moon, and let me explain it. This diagram shows you to scale the size of Earth and the Moon and the real distance, about 400,000 kilometers. If we then go to Mars, the distance from Mars to Earth -- and this picture here is taken by the rover on Mars, Curiosity, looking back at Earth. You kind of see the little speckle there, that's Earth, 400 million kilometers away. The problem with that distance is that it's a thousand times the distance of the Earth to the Moon, pretty far away, but there's no direct radio contact with, for example, the Curiosity rover. So I cannot teleoperate it from Earth. I can't say, "Oh, Mars rover, go left," because that signal would take 20 minutes to get to Mars. Then the rover might go left, and then it will take another 20 minutes before it can tell me, "Oh yeah, I went left." So the distance, so rovers and robots and going to have to work autonomously. The only issue with it is that missions to Mars are highly risky. We've only seen it a few weeks ago. So what if half the mission doesn't arrive at Mars. What do we do? Well, instead of building just one or two rovers like we did on the Moon, we're going to build hundreds of them. And it's a bit like a termite's mound, you know? Termites, I would take half of the colony of the termites away, they would still be able to build the mound. It might take a little bit longer. Same here. If half of our rovers or robots don't arrive, well, it will take a bit longer, but you will still be able to do it. So here we even have three different rovers. In the back, you see the digger. It's really good at digging regolith. Then we have the transporter, great at taking regolith and bringing it to the structure. And the last ones, the little ones with the little legs, they don't need to move a lot. What they do is they go and sit on a layer of regolith and then microwave it together, and layer by layer create that dome structure. Now -- we also want to try that out, so we went out on a road trip, and we created our own swarm of robots. There you go. So we built 10 of those. It's a small swarm. And we took six tons of sand, and we tried out how these little robots would actually be able to move sand around, Earth sand in this case. And they were not teleoperated. Right? Nobody was telling them go left, go right, or giving them a predescribed path. No. They were given a task: move sand from this area to that area. And if they came across an obstacle, like a rock, they had to sort it out themselves. Or they came across another robot, they had to be able to make decisions. Or even if half of them fell out, their batteries died, they still had to be able to finish that task. Now, I've talked about redundancy. But that was not only with the robots. It was also with the habitats. On the Mars project, we decided to do three domes, because if one didn't arrive, the other two could still form a base, and that was mainly because each of the domes actually have a life support system built in the floor, so they can work independently. So in a way, you might think, well, this is pretty crazy. Why would you, as an architect, get involved in space? Because it's such a technical field. Well, I'm actually really convinced that from a creative view or a design view, you are able to solve really hard and really constrained problems. And I really feel that there is a place for design and architecture in projects like interplanetary habitation. Thank you. (Applause)



Throughout ancient and medieval history, most of the architectural design and construction was carried out by artisans—such as stone masons and carpenters, rising to the role of master builder. Until modern times, there was no clear distinction between architect and engineer. In Europe, the titles architect and engineer were primarily geographical variations that referred to the same person, often used interchangeably.[3][4]

Filippo Brunelleschi is revered as one of the most inventive and gifted architects in history.[5]
Filippo Brunelleschi is revered as one of the most inventive and gifted architects in history.[5]

It is suggested that various developments in technology and mathematics allowed the development of the professional 'gentleman' architect, separate from the hands-on craftsman. Paper was not used in Europe for drawing until the 15th century but became increasingly available after 1500. Pencils were used more often for drawing by 1600. The availability of both allowed pre-construction drawings to be made by professionals.[6] Concurrently, the introduction of linear perspective and innovations such as the use of different projections to describe a three-dimensional building in two dimensions, together with an increased understanding of dimensional accuracy, helped building designers communicate their ideas.[6] However, the development was gradual. Until the 18th-century, buildings continued to be designed and set out by craftsmen with the exception of high-status projects.[6][7]


In most developed countries, only those qualified with an appropriate license, certification or registration with a relevant body (often governmental) may legally practice architecture. Such licensure usually requires a university degree, successful completion of exams, as well as a training period. Representation of oneself as an architect through the use of terms and titles is restricted to licensed individuals by law, although in general, derivatives such as architectural designer are often not legally protected.

To practice architecture implies the ability to practice independently of supervision. The term building design professional (or Design professional), by contrast, is a much broader term that includes professionals who practice independently under an alternate profession, such as engineering professionals, or those who assist in the practice architecture under the supervision of a licensed architect, such as architectural technologists and intern architects. In many places, independent, non-licensed individuals may perform design services outside the professional restrictions, such design houses and other smaller structures.


In the architectural profession, technical and environmental knowledge, design and construction management, and an understanding of business are as important as design. However, the design is the driving force throughout the project and beyond. An architect accepts a commission from a client. The commission might involve preparing feasibility reports, building audits, the design of a building or of several buildings, structures, and the spaces among them. The architect participates in developing the requirements the client wants in the building. Throughout the project (planning to occupancy), the architect co-ordinates a design team. Structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers and other specialists, are hired by the client or the architect, who must ensure that the work is co-ordinated to construct the design.

Design role

The architect, once hired by a client, is responsible for creating a design concept that both meets the requirements of that client and provides a facility suitable to the required use. The architect must meet with, and question, the client in order to ascertain all the requirements (and nuances) of the planned project.

Often the full brief is not entirely clear at the beginning: entailing a degree of risk in the design undertaking. The architect may make early proposals to the client, which may rework the very terms of the brief. The "program" (or brief) is essential to producing a project that meets all the needs of the owner. This then is a guide for the architect in creating the design concept.

Design proposal(s) are generally expected to be both imaginative and pragmatic. Depending on the place, time, finance, culture, and available crafts and technology in which the design takes place, the precise extent and nature of these expectations will vary.

F oresight is a prerequisite as designing buildings is a very complex and demanding undertaking.

Any design concept must at a very early stage in its generation take into account a great number of issues and variables which include qualities of space(s),[8] the end-use and life-cycle of these proposed spaces, connections, relations, and aspects between spaces including how they are put together as well as the impact of proposals on the immediate and wider locality. Selection of appropriate materials and technology must be considered, tested and reviewed at an early stage in the design to ensure there are no setbacks (such as higher-than-expected costs) which may occur later. The site and its environs, as well as the culture and history of the place, will also influence the design. The design must also countenance increasing concerns with environmental sustainability. The architect may introduce (intentionally or not), to greater or lesser degrees, aspects of mathematics and architecture, new or current architectural theory, or references to architectural history.

A key part of the design is that the architect often consults with engineers, surveyors and other specialists throughout the design, ensuring that aspects such as the structural supports and air conditioning elements are coordinated in the scheme as a whole. The control and planning of construction costs are also a part of these consultations. Coordination of the different aspects involves a high degree of specialized communication, including advanced computer technology such as BIM (Building Information Management), CAD, and cloud-based technologies.

At all times in the design, the architect reports back to the client who may have reservations or recommendations, introducing a further variable into the design.

Architects deal with local and federal jurisdictions about regulations and building codes. The architect might need to comply with local planning and zoning laws, such as required setbacks, height limitations, parking requirements, transparency requirements (windows), and land use. Some established jurisdictions require adherence to design and historic preservation guidelines. Health and safety risks form a vital part of the current design, and in many jurisdictions, design reports and records are required which include ongoing considerations such as materials and contaminants, waste management and recycling, traffic control and fire safety.

Means of design

Previously, architects employed drawings[6] to illustrate and generate design proposals. While conceptual sketches are still widely used by architects,[9] computer technology has now become the industry standard.[10] However, design may include the use of photos, collages, prints, linocuts, and other media in design production. Increasingly, computer software such as BIM is shaping how architects work. BIM technology allows for the creation of a virtual building that serves as an information database for the sharing of design and building information throughout the life-cycle of the building's design, construction and maintenance.[11]

Environmental role

As current buildings are now known to be high emitters of carbon into the atmosphere, increasing controls are being placed on buildings and associated technology to reduce emissions, increase energy efficiency, and make use of renewable energy sources. Renewable energy sources may be developed within the proposed building or via local or national renewable energy providers. As a result, the architect is required to remain abreast of current regulations which are continually tightening. Some new developments exhibit extremely low energy use.[12] However, the architect is also increasingly required to provide initiatives in a wider environmental sense, such as making provision for low-energy transport, natural daylighting instead of artificial lighting, natural ventilation instead of air conditioning, pollution, and waste management, use of recycled materials and employment of materials which can be easily recycled in the future.

Construction role

As the design becomes more advanced and detailed, specifications and detail designs are made of all the elements and components of the building. Techniques in the production of a building are continually advancing which places a demand on the architect to ensure that he or she remains up to date with these advances.

Depending on the client's needs and the jurisdiction's requirements, the spectrum of the architect's services during construction stages may be extensive (detailed document preparation and construction review) or less involved (such as allowing a contractor to exercise considerable design-build functions).

Architects typically put projects to tender on behalf of their clients, advise on the award of the project to a general contractor, facilitate and then administer a contract of agreement which is often between the client and the contractor. This contract is legally binding and covers a very wide range of aspects including the insurances and commitments of all stakeholders, the status of the design documents, provisions for the architect's access, and procedures for the control of the works as they proceed. Depending on the type of contract utilized, provisions for further sub-contract tenders may be required. The architect may require that some elements are covered by a warranty which specifies the expected life and other aspects of the material, product or work.

In most jurisdictions, prior notification to the relevant local authority must be given before commencement on site, thus giving the local authority notice to carry out independent inspections. The architect will then review and inspect the progress of the work in coordination with the local authority.

The architect will typically review contractor shop drawings and other submittals, prepare and issue site instructions, and provide Certificates for Payment to the contractor (see also Design-bid-build) which is based on the work done to date as well as any materials and other goods purchased or hired. In the United Kingdom and other countries, a quantity surveyor is often part of the team to provide cost consulting. With very large, complex projects, an independent construction manager is sometimes hired to assist in the design and to manage construction.

In many jurisdictions, mandatory certification or assurance of the completed work or part of works is required. This demand for certification entails a high degree of risk - therefore, regular inspections of the work as it progresses on site is required to ensure that is in compliance with the design itself as well as with all relevant statutes and permissions.

Alternate practice and specializations

Recent decades have seen the rise of specializations within the profession. Many architects and architectural firms focus on certain project types (for example, healthcare, retail, public housing, event management), technological expertise or project delivery methods. Some architects specialize as building code, building envelope, sustainable design, technical writing, historic preservation(US) or conservation (UK), accessibility and other forms of specialist consultants.

Many architects elect to move into real estate (property) development, corporate facilities planning, project management, construction management, interior design, city planning, or other related fields.

Professional requirements

Although there are variations from place to place, most of the world's architects are required to register with the appropriate jurisdiction. To do so, architects are typically required to meet three common requirements: education, experience, and examination.

Educational requirements generally consist of a university degree in architecture. The experience requirement for degree candidates is usually satisfied by a practicum or internship (usually two to three years, depending on jurisdiction). Finally, a Registration Examination or a series of exams is required prior to licensure.

Professionals engaged in the design and supervision of construction projects prior to the late 19th century were not necessarily trained in a separate architecture program in an academic setting. Instead, they often trained under established architects. Prior to modern times, there was no distinction between architects, engineers and often artists,[citation needed] and the title used varied depending on geographical location. They often carried the title of master builder or surveyor[citation needed] after serving a number of years as an apprentice (such as Sir Christopher Wren). The formal study of architecture in academic institutions played a pivotal role in the development of the profession as a whole, serving as a focal point for advances in architectural technology and theory.


Architects' fee structures are typically based on a percentage of construction value, as a rate per unit area of the proposed construction, hourly rates or a fixed lump sum fee. Combinations of these structures are also common. Fixed fees are usually based on a project's allocated construction cost and can range between 4 and 12% of new construction cost, for commercial and institutional projects, depending on a project's size and complexity. Residential projects range from 12 to 20%. Renovation projects typically command higher percentages, as high as 15-20%.

Overall billings for architectural firms range widely, depending on location and economic climate. Billings have traditionally been dependent on the local economic conditions but, with rapid globalization, this is becoming less of a factor for larger international firms. Salaries also vary, depending on experience, position within the firm (staff architect, partner, or shareholder, etc.), and the size and location of the firm.

Professional organizations

A number of national professional organizations exist to promote career and business development in architecture.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) USA

Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) UK

Architects Registration Board (ARB) UK

The Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) Australia

Association of Licensed Architects (ALA) USA

Prizes, awards, and titles

Zaha Hadid, winner of the 2004 Pritzker Prize.
Zaha Hadid, winner of the 2004 Pritzker Prize.

A wide variety of prizes is awarded by national professional associations and other bodies, recognizing accomplished architects, their buildings, structures, and professional careers.

The most lucrative award an architect can receive is the Pritzker Prize, sometimes termed the "Nobel Prize for architecture." Other prestigious architectural awards are the Royal Gold Medal, the AIA Gold Medal (USA), AIA Gold Medal (Australia), and the Praemium Imperiale.

Architects in the UK, who have made contributions to the profession through design excellence or architectural education, or have in some other way advanced the profession, might until 1971 be elected Fellows of the Royal Institute of British Architects and can write FRIBA after their name if they feel so inclined. Those elected to chartered membership of the RIBA after 1971 may use the initials RIBA but cannot use the old ARIBA and FRIBA. An Honorary Fellow may use the initials Hon. FRIBA. and an International Fellow may use the initials Int. FRIBA. Architects in the US, who have made contributions to the profession through design excellence or architectural education, or have in some other way advanced the profession, are elected Fellows of the American Institute of Architects and can write FAIA after their name. Architects in Canada, who have made outstanding contributions to the profession through contribution to research, scholarship, public service, or professional standing to the good of architecture in Canada, or elsewhere, may be recognized as a Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and can write FRAIC after their name. In Hong Kong, those elected to chartered membership may use the initial HKIA, and those who have made a special contribution after nomination and election by The Hong Kong Institute of Architects (HKIA), may be elected as fellow members of HKIA and may use FHKIA after their name.

Architects in the Philippines and Filipino communities overseas (whether they are Filipinos or not), especially those who also profess other jobs at the same time, are addressed and introduced as Architect, rather than Sir/Madam in speech or Mr./Mrs./Ms. (G./Gng./Bb. in Filipino) before surnames. That word is used either in itself or before the given name or surname.

See also


  1. ^ "The Nova Scotia Legislature". Office of the Legislative Counsel. Nova Scotia House of Assembly. 2006. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  2. ^ Harper, Douglas. "architect". Online Etymology Dictionary. Archived from the original on 24 April 2011. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  3. ^ Murray, Peter (1986). Burckhardt, Jacob, ed. The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 242. ISBN 0-8052-1082-2.
  4. ^ "Civil Engineering Defined - Civil Engineering Definitions and History". Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Filippo Brunelleschi". Totally History. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d Pacey, Arnold (2007). Medieval Architectural Drawing: English Craftsmen's Methods and Their Later Persistence (c.1200-1700). Stroud: Tempus Publishing. pp. 225–227. ISBN 978-0-7524-4404-8.
  7. ^ Vardhan, Harsh. "Different types of work by architects". Archibuddy. Archived from the original on 17 March 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  8. ^ Üngür, Erdem. "Space: The undefinable space of architecture": 12. Archived from the original on 19 December 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2019 – via
  9. ^ Rosenfield, Karissa (5 June 2015). "17 Napkin Sketches by Famous Architects". ArchDaily. ISSN 0719-8884. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  10. ^ Rybczynski, Witold (30 March 2011). "Think Before You Build". The Slate Group. Graham Holdings Company. Archived from the original on 14 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions About the National BIM Standard-United States". National BIM Standard. National Institute of Building Sciences. Archived from the original on 16 October 2014. Retrieved 17 October 2014.
  12. ^ "What is a Passive House? [  ]".
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