The Different Types of Architects and What They Do

The type of architect you are or want to be is generally a personal chose and one that...

The field of architecture is inherently experimental, as our unique personalities, life experiences, and the specific demands of the built environment necessitate specialized approaches.

The type of architect you are or want to be is generally a personal chose and one that along with the above, is also largely dependent on the type of architecture firm you choose to work for and the type of work they specialize in. 

As a profession, the roles and responsibilities of an architect can be very diverse and quite often very specialist, which has led to a number of abbreviations (or types) to the title of architect and opened up the profession to a evolving list of specialist roles and tasks.

In this article we discuss what these different types of architect are, and provide an insight into what they do and what is required from each of the roles – under the below headings:

For a more rounded and general explanation of what an architect does, we have a dedicated article on what does an architect do here.

The different types of architects and what they do

While many people believe that architects only design houses and buildings, this is just one aspect of the profession. In reality, architecture offers a range of specialization options, with topics falling under different categories depending on the type of firm you work for.

Architects can handle projects ranging from designing a small room in a house to planning an entire city. They are responsible for developing, designing, and supervising a variety of projects. Their design skills, knowledge, and artistic sense can also lead them down alternative paths, such as product design, graphic design, and even game design.

To help you better understand this, the following list highlights the ten types of architects ordered by architectural specialization.

Types of architect

Residential architect

A residential architect is an expert in creating custom-designed homes or extensions for private clients, offering a comprehensive architectural service from the development of the design brief to the construction management.

These projects are usually smaller in scale, resulting in a high turnover of commissions, but also requiring more attention to managing client expectations, as they may lack experience in such projects.

Compared to commercial architecture (discussed below), there tends to be more creative freedom for residential architects, as they don’t have to meet as many regulations and rules. However, residential architects must still consider building codes and safety standards, as well as functionality and aesthetics.

Moreover, a residential architect’s role may also include collaborating with interior designers, engineers, and landscape architects to ensure that the entire project, both indoors and outdoors, works seamlessly. This can involve developing concepts for outdoor spaces, such as gardens, patios, and swimming pools, that complement the design of the house.

Residential architects must have strong communication skills to understand and interpret the clients’ needs and desires, and to effectively communicate the design vision to contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers. They must also have knowledge of local zoning laws, building codes, and permitting processes to ensure that the project is legally compliant.

Restoration architect

Restoration architects specialize in repairing, maintaining, restoring, and extending protected and historic properties. They have extensive knowledge and expertise in historic preservation, which allows them to assess the significance of a building and determine the appropriate level of intervention required to restore it to its original state.

Restoration architects typically work on a variety of projects, including private residences, public buildings, monuments, and cultural landmarks. They conduct site surveys, evaluate the building’s physical condition, and prepare a detailed report outlining the work required for restoration.

Working closely with the clients, historians, and conservators to ensure that the restoration process maintains the building’s historic authenticity, restoration architects understand the significance of the building’s architectural style, materials, and techniques used in its original construction.

Their aim is to preserve and put back, rather than enhance (which can be very subjective).

Commercial architect

Commercial architects specialize in designing large-scale projects for businesses and government entities, including public buildings such as hotels, schools, medical centers, museums, shopping malls, and more. Their role involves balancing creativity with practical considerations to ensure that the buildings they design are both visually appealing and functional for their intended purposes.

In particular, commercial architects must have expertise in designing spaces that encourage customer traffic in retail environments. To be successful in this field, architects should possess a deep understanding of building codes and possess some knowledge of engineering principles.

Commercial architecture is far more focused on the general public, with its success determined by how they use and interact with it. The projects are often large and involve teams of designers and consultants.

Housing architect

Housing architects specialize in designing and constructing multi unit residential properties such as apartments and housing developments. Unlike architects who focus on individual buildings, housing architects focus on creating plans for multiple homes, typically two or more, and presenting them as a cohesive unit.

In this regard, housing architects are required to provide a master plan of the site as a whole, in addition to individual plans for each house.

They must take into account various factors such as access, infrastructure, public space, and the mix of housing types required. This is particularly important in multi-unit housing developments, where architects must consider factors like parking and common areas for residents.

Furthermore, housing architects also play an essential role in public consultations, where they present their plans and designs to local communities and stakeholders. They must be able to communicate their ideas effectively and respond to feedback in a way that satisfies local concerns and regulatory requirements.

different types of architects

Research architect

Research architects are professionals who have a strong interest in exploring new ideas and developing innovative solutions to architectural challenges – which is essentially how the late Zaha Hadid started her career.

They typically engage in a wide range of research activities, such as conducting studies on the latest building materials and technologies, investigating sustainable and environmentally-friendly design practices, or analyzing the social and cultural implications of architectural design.

Many research architects pursue advanced degrees, such as a Master’s or PhD, to gain a deeper understanding of their chosen area of focus. They may also engage in collaborative research projects with other architects, academics, or professionals from related fields, and share their findings through publications, presentations, and workshops.

Some research architects are employed by universities or research institutions, where they may teach, mentor students, or oversee research programs. Others may take a sabbatical from their current job to focus on a particular area of interest or to write a book.

In general, research architects are passionate about pushing the boundaries of traditional architecture and exploring new frontiers in design. They are constantly seeking to expand their knowledge and skills, and to make meaningful contributions to the field of architecture.

Interior architect

An interior architect is a professional who is specifically trained and licensed to focus on the design and procurement of the interior spaces of buildings. This requires a deep understanding of both the functional and aesthetic needs of a space and the ability to transform those needs into a cohesive and visually appealing design.

Unlike interior designers, interior architects hold a license, which signifies that they have met the professional standards required to provide specialized services in this area.

Interior architects typically work on large projects, particularly high-end buildings and commercial spaces, and are often found in large architecture firms where they can collaborate with other professionals, such as structural engineers and landscape architects, to create integrated designs.

Their responsibilities may include selecting materials, finishes, and fixtures, as well as developing furniture plans, lighting design, and custom millwork. They may also oversee the procurement and installation of all furnishings and equipment for the space.

It is important to note that interior architects should not be confused with interior designers. Although both professionals work on the design of interior spaces, interior designers are not licensed and do not have the same level of training and professional standards as interior architects. Interior designers typically work on smaller-scale residential and commercial projects and may not have the same technical expertise as interior architects.

We have a full article on interior design vs. interior architecture here

Green / sustainable design architect

An architect who specializes in sustainable design and building methods plays a crucial role in promoting environmentally conscious and responsible architecture. These professionals possess an in-depth knowledge of sustainable products and materials and how they can be effectively integrated into a building to meet necessary qualifying criteria.

In addition to their expertise in green building practices, sustainable architects often work with clients to develop plans and strategies that help to reduce energy consumption and minimize environmental impact. They may consult on issues such as energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, and air quality.

Green and sustainable architects must stay up-to-date with the latest developments in sustainable design and construction materials, as well as local and national regulations related to green building practices. They may also work with other professionals, such as engineers and contractors, to ensure that their sustainable designs are properly implemented and executed.

Landscape architect

A landscape architect is a professional who specializes in the design of outdoor spaces, parks, gardens, and other natural areas. It’s important to note that while the term “landscape architect” is often used interchangeably with “landscape designer”, the former typically refers to a licensed professional with advanced training and qualifications in the field.

While not all landscape architects are licensed architects, many of them do have a strong background in architecture and building design. In fact, some architects may choose to specialize in landscape design as a way to expand their skill set and offer more comprehensive design services to their clients.

Landscape architects are responsible for designing and planning outdoor spaces, taking into account factors like site conditions, topography, climate, and the needs of the people who will use the space.

They may work on projects ranging from small private gardens to large public parks, and may collaborate with other professionals like engineers, urban planners, and environmental consultants to ensure that their designs are sustainable, functional, and aesthetically pleasing.

different types of architects

Urban designer

Urban designers specialize in the planning and design of towns and cities. While they may have a background in architecture, they are concerned with the bigger picture of how a environment works as a whole, rather than just designing individual buildings. For this reason, urban design often requires collaboration with other specialists, such as the above housing and landscape architects.

The work of urban designers involves a wide range of activities, from analyzing existing urban spaces to identifying opportunities for improvement, and designing plans for new developments. They are responsible for considering a variety of factors, such as the commercial and residential sectors, transportation infrastructure, public spaces, and cultural and political forces that influence the growth and development of a place.

Urban designers work on projects at varying scales, from neighborhood revitalization to citywide planning. They may be involved in creating pedestrian-friendly public spaces, developing transportation systems, or designing new commercial or residential developments.

They often work in collaboration with government agencies, real estate developers, and community groups to ensure that their plans are feasible, sustainable, and responsive to the needs of the people who live and work in the places they design.

Industrial architect

Industrial architecture is a type of architecture that focuses on the design of buildings and structures that are primarily used for industrial purposes. This could include factories, warehouses, power plants, and other similar structures. The focus of this type of architecture is on functionality and process, and as such, architects who work in this field must have a deep understanding of the inputs and outputs of the building.

However, industrial architecture is not necessarily a rigid, systematic genre of architecture. There is still room for creativity and innovation within the constraints of functionality. An excellent example of this is the power station designed by BIG, a prominent architecture firm, which demonstrates how industrial architecture can be both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Industrial architects often work closely with engineers and other specialists to ensure that the building is designed to meet the specific needs of the industry it serves. They must consider factors such as the flow of materials and people, the equipment and machinery that will be used, and the safety and environmental requirements of the facility.

Overall, the goal of industrial architecture is to create a functional, efficient, and safe space for industrial processes to take place.

FAQ’s about the different types of architects

What are the 7 types of architects?

There is no one definitive answer to this question, as the types of architects may vary depending on the context and the specific requirements of the industry. However, here are seven types of architects that are commonly recognized within the field:

  1. Residential Architects: These architects specialize in the design and construction of residential homes and may work on both new constructions and renovations.
  2. Commercial Architects: These architects specialize in the design and construction of commercial buildings such as offices, retail spaces, and hotels.
  3. Interior Architects: These architects focus on the design of the interior spaces of buildings and may work on both residential and commercial projects.
  4. Landscape Architects: These architects specialize in the design and construction of outdoor spaces, such as parks, gardens, and public spaces.
  5. Restoration Architects: These architects focus on the restoration and preservation of historical buildings and structures.
  6. Urban Designers: These architects are involved in the planning and development of cities and urban spaces, focusing on the layout, design, and function of public spaces and buildings.
  7. Technical Architects: These architects focus on the technical and structural aspects of building design, such as ensuring that the building meets local and national building codes and standards.

It is important to note that these are not the only types of architects that exist, and there are many other specializations and sub-fields within the architecture industry.

What is the best type of architect?

It is not appropriate to say that any one type of architect is “the best,” as each type of architect has its own unique role and function within the architecture industry. The best type of architect depends on the specific needs of the project and the requirements of the client.

For example, a residential architect would be the best choice for a client looking to build a custom home, while a commercial architect would be better suited for a client looking to construct a large office building or a shopping center. Similarly, a landscape architect would be the best choice for a client looking to design an outdoor space, while an interior architect would be better suited for a client looking to design the interior of a building.

Ultimately, the best type of architect is one who has the necessary skills, experience, and expertise to meet the specific needs of the project and the client. It is important for clients to carefully research and choose an architect who is the best fit for their specific project and goals.

Which architect get paid the most?

The salaries of architects can vary widely depending on a number of factors including their level of experience, the region they work in, the size and profitability of their employer, and their area of specialization within architecture. Here are some of the factors that can influence an architect’s salary:

Experience and Position:

  • Senior Architects/Partners: Those who have been in the industry for many years and have climbed up the ranks to become senior architects or partners in a firm tend to earn the most.
  • Project Managers: Architects who take on project management roles often earn higher salaries due to the additional responsibilities.

Geographic Location:

  • High Cost of Living Areas: Architects working in cities with a high cost of living, such as New York or San Francisco, tend to earn higher salaries.
  • Developed vs. Developing Countries: Salaries are generally higher in developed countries compared to developing countries.

Type of Employer:

  • Large, Prestigious Firms: Working for a large, prestigious architectural firm or a well-known architect can command a higher salary.
  • Specialized Firms: Firms that specialize in high-end or niche markets may offer higher salaries.

Area of Specialization:

  • Specialized Architects: Architects with expertise in areas such as sustainability, historic preservation, or healthcare design might earn more due to the specialized nature of their work.
  • Technology Skills: Architects with strong skills in certain software programs or technologies might command higher salaries.

Education and Credentials:

  • Advanced Degrees: Architects with advanced degrees or additional certifications might earn higher salaries.

Negotiation and Business Skills:

  • Entrepreneurial Architects: Those who run their own firms successfully can potentially earn the most, though this comes with the risk of business ownership.

Reputation and Portfolio:

  • Award-Winning and Recognized Architects: Architects who have won awards or have a strong portfolio of high-profile projects can command higher fees.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly which type of architect gets paid the most as it can vary so widely, but partners or senior architects at large, prestigious firms in high cost of living cities tend to be among the highest earners in the profession. Additionally, those who run their own successful firms have the potential to earn a significant income.

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