The meaning & definition of an architect

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Introduction

Particularly when considering a career path in architecture it’s important to be able to define and understand exactly what the term and title ‘architect’ means. So in this post we discuss the various meanings and definitions behind of the professional title, and investigate what is required to practice under it.

Looking at:

  • What is an architect?

  • Dictionary definitions and meanings of an architect

  • Using ‘Architect’ in a sentence

  • Architect pronunciation

  • Architect synonyms

  • What does an architect do?

  • Who can be an architect?

  • How to become an architect?

  • How is the architectural profession regulated?

  • Why someone would use an architect?

What is an architect?

In defining the term and meaning of what an architect is, the simplest explanation; is a; trained, accredited and registered (this is very important) professional, who is qualified to design, plan, advise and aide in the procurement of both the private and public built environments.

This covers both the aesthetic and technical fields, and is carried out through impartial and creative thinking no matter how small of large the project is.

The actual word “Architect” was derived from the Latin word architectus, which originates from the Greek word arkhitektn, where arkhi means chief, and tecketn means builder.

So the architect is defined as the Chief Builder.

This term “chief builder” has moved and adapted through time, but is still extremely accurate in describing the architects holistic role during a construction project from inception through to completion.

The architect is required to play many roles and characters during this process, and at any one time can be called upon to be a designer, manager, businessmen, maker, adviser and a mediator to name a few.

They represent and are the one constant and consistent part of a project.

There are many different ways to define and use the term ‘architect’, some of which are used outside of the built environment to describe a person who designs and/or guides a plan or undertaking, and/or is responsible for its success for example.

However here we are just focusing on the architect as a professional, and who can be defined under the following definitions:

Dictionary definitions and meanings of an architect:

  • A person who designs buildings and in many cases also supervises their construction. The Oxford dictionary

  • A person whose job is to design new buildings and make certain that they are built correctly. The Cambridge dictionary

  • A person skilled in the art of building, one who plans and designs buildings and supervises their construction. The Etymology dictionary

  • 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 as their principal purpose human occupancy or use Wikipedia

  • A person who engages in the profession of architecture. Dictionary.com

  • Someone who creates plans to be used in making something (such as buildings.) vocabulary.com

  • The definition of an architect is a professional who creates designs for buildings, bridges and other structures. Your dictionary

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) architect definition is:

  • "Licensed professionals trained in the art and science of the design and construction of buildings and structures that primarily provide shelter. An architect will create the overall aesthetic and look of buildings and structures, but the design of a building involves far more than its appearance. Buildings also must be functional, safe, and economical and must suit the specific needs of the people who use them. Most importantly, they must be built with the public’s health, safety and welfare in mind."

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Using ‘Architect’ in a sentence

‘Frank Lloyd Wright was the architect of Falling Water House.’

‘The great Norman architect of Durham Cathedral’

‘The same architect designed the superb aqueduct by which the city is supplied with water from Monte Francoa, some nine miles off.’

Architect pronunciation

Architect synonyms

  • Artist

  • Builder

  • Creator

  • Designer

  • Engineer

  • Originator

  • Inventor

  • Planner

  • Drafts person

  • Maker

  • Originator

  • Master builder

What does an architect do?

We cover this in greater detail here, and it can and will of course vary from firm to firm, as some will be more design focused and others more technical but:

They can work on a variety of buildings; whether it is a new build, an extension, refurbishment (or both), or even the restoration and conservation of an old and/or grade I, II and II* listed buildings, there will always be an interest and speciality. 

They can bring value to a project, by helping to define what is important and key in generating a successful outcome ...maximising the impact, functionality or marketability of a building and/or structure.

They can serve as a trusted adviser; with a creative understanding of materials, aesthetics, cultural and physical contexts, the clients design brief requirements are translated into an effective and affordable design solution that works with the practical considerations of the site.

They can develop solutions and propose ways that can reduce construction costs whilst maintaining design integrity and property value.  

They can oversee a project from inception to completion, and will advise and work with the necessary additional construction professionals and consultants such as engineers to ensure a successful delivery.

They can work with a diverse range of collaborators who can cover a variety of areas of expertise including engineers, landscape architects, sustainable energy consultants and contractors/builders.

They can project manage; as a project develops the team required to procure it will grow, and an architect will need to become part of and overlook a larger team of people in order to complete a project. Communication and collaboration are important skills every architect must have.

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Why someone would use an architect

As licensed professionals, architects are required to be competent in their work and maintain a high level of understanding. This is maintained by keeping up to date with everything in and around the industry through continuing professional development (CPD).

CPD learning often comes in the form of lectures, seminars and workshops that are delivered by other construction professionals and bodies. This ensures that an architect is kept up to date with all of the latest legislation, construction techniques, and materials to name a few …maintaining their knowledge and skill sets that are relevant to their professional work.

Another key benefit is that all registered architects must hold and maintain the adequate and appropriate professional indemnity insurance (PII). The level of insurance is dependent on the type of work the architect carries out, but they are expected to always have the cover for the highest size and nature of the projects they undertake.

How is the architectural profession regulated?

While it is not a statutory requirement for all buildings to be designed and procured by a registered architect, when they are, the process is strictly regulated by the Architects governing body for their country and/or state (US). This ensures that high standards and quality of work are maintained. 

In the US the title is protected under individual state law and nationally over scene by the National Council of Architectural registration Boards (NCARB), In the UK, it is under statutory law ‘the Architects Act 1997’ that protects the title from unqualified persons using it, which led to the establishment of the Architects Registration Board (ARB) who are in place to protect and regulate the title.

What this means, is that with the few exceptions of a landscape architect, golf course architect and naval architect, only a licensed architect can practice under the title. This gives the client, reassurance that the services offered will be carried out to a high and professionally regulated standard.

How to be an architect in the United States

Becoming a licensed architect in the US requires a combination of education, practical experience, and examination. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) is responsible for outlining and maintaining the education and examination requirements.

To become a licensed architect, you will need to make sure that you meet your jurisdiction’s education requirements. For most students, this means earning a professional degree in architecture through a program accredited by NCARB, via architecture school. You can learn more about the NAAB-accreditation here.

In most cases the academic studying is combined into a 5 year B.Arch or M.Arch program that covers and develops the skill sets and knowledge required to progress onto an internship with a practice.

This internship will be with a licenced practice and typically lasts for a minimum of three years before the professional exam (ARE) can be taken. Be mindful however that each jurisdiction has slightly different requirements, and so always consult the NCARB licensing requirements tool here.

Then finally the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) for your specific state or the state you plan to practice in must be taken and passed.

It is the general assumption that once completed; the student is then ready to enter back into the profession as a licensed professional with the capability of running and managing their own projects and small practice.

Only after this point, can you call yourself an architect.

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How to be an architect in the UK

In the UK, the traditional route is via an honours degree in architecture. This is a ‘normal’ three year degree that develops a broad range of skills and architectural understanding, comprising of design skills, construction methods, theory and architectural history.

Following successful completion, the next step is to take the first of the required (minimum) two years out in practice. This is carried out under the guidance of a registered architect in line with the RIBA requirements, and enables the student to experience a more hands-on approach to architecture.

Part II, is a Masters, Diploma or BArch degree normally taught over a two year period, where it aims to enhance and build upon the students aesthetic and technical knowledge whilst obtaining a deeper understanding of complex projects.

This is then followed by the student’s second (again minimum) one year experience within an architecture practice, under the supervision of a register architect. Here they will start to take on more responsibility, and gain greater exposure to live projects in preparation for the final portion of studying, Part III.

It is worth noting that it is quite uncommon for a student to go straight into a Part III course within just one year of completing Part II, unless they have already gained sufficient experience.

Part III is the final part of the UK based architectural student’s processional training, and is the professional examination that must be completed and passed in order to be legally registered as an architect.

Often running part time for 9 months to a year, the course covers project management, English law, regulations, contracts and methods of procurement's, rounding off all of the previous years’ experience.

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