Types of architect

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Introduction

The type of architect you are or want to be is generally a personal chose and one that is 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 within a firm can be very divers and quite often very specialist.

This has led to a number of abbreviations (or types) to the title of the architect and opened up the profession to specialist roles and tasks.

In this post we discuss what these different types of architect are, and provide an insight into what they do and what is required from each role, looking at:

  • Types of architectural roles

  • Job type specific roles

  • Architecture type specific roles

Types of architectural roles

Architectural interns & assistants

Although strictly not a type of architect, interns and assistants form an important part of any architectural firm and we cover their roles and responsibilities in our detailed guide here.

Newly qualified architects 

Being a newly qualified architect is for most the end of a very long road, having completed architecture school, an internship, and then the final exams. Amongst the pay and increased responsibility benefits they should start to receive, they can now finally call themselves an architect, which to be honest is one of the best bits!

As an intern / assistant transitions into a newly qualified professional, their roles within their firm are unlikely to change instantly and most will simply carry on doing what they were doing before. However with the professional title of ‘architect’ comes a professional responsibility and liability for the work they now produce, and with this should come a gradual increase in accountability.

…working towards being a project architect

Project architects

As the name suggests, a project architect is responsible for running a project or series of projects within their firm, either independently or with a team, and overseen by a senior architect and/or practice associate / director.

They may also have a small team of interns / assistants and/or a newly qualified architect working with them to help with the day to day running of the projects and their outputs.

Depending on the size of the practice, a project architect may also be responsible for practice admin elements such as resourcing and invoicing for their particular projects, alongside their day to day project duties.

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Senior architects 

A senior architect is the next step above a project architect, and is predominantly a reflection on experience rather than age, however within the architecture profession; experience often does tend to come with time. 

Senior architects tend to have more of a quality control and overseeing role when compared to a project architect, and as a result can be responsible for a number of different projects at various work stages.

Although their knowledge in the later stages of a projects development is often crucial, they can be found overseeing a projects inception through to its construction.  

Associate architects

An associate position unless agreed prior to starting a new employment position, is usually gained via experience and time working within a firm. There isn’t a set time scale that can be followed however, as it varies greatly from firm to firm and experience level.

Although the type of work you specialize in can contribute and accelerate the process.

For example; a residential firm that has a growing housing portfolio, will need good housing architects and an associate to manage them. So if an architect is already establishing themselves in this area within their firm, then this puts them in a good position.

Once reached, an associate is expected to represent the company on all levels and perform client and staff management duties, often in return for a share of the company profits (firm size dependant). It also often symbolises the first step onto the firm’s management structure.

Associate directors

Next are associate directors, who whilst still take an active role in the firms outputs and quite often oversee a number of live projects, they also play a large part in the management and administration of the company. With frequent managerial meetings, they are responsible for ensuring that what is discussed will be actioned, and passed down to the other members of the team.

A common and key role they take on is the resourcing of the firm, to make sure that there is not too much or too little work for its employees.

This is important, as it ensures that the firms current work load will be completed on time to meet deadlines, and most importantly that it can be invoiced to maintain cash flow.

Associate directors are also more involved with staff management and welfare, and will often be the buffer between the director/s and employees.

Partners

Partners are shareholders of a firm and depending on its size, will oversee a large percentage of its employees and projects. They can often be associated as being one of the public faces of the company and be responsible for managing its high end clients and commissions.

On the other hand however, and when associated to large and long standing firms, some partners may not be direct employees and therefore can be retired and/or investors that provide an advisory role.

Directors

The director or directors in a lot cases are the founders and owners of the firm, and where all responsibility and liability stops.

If a firm is relatively young and/or growing then long standing and worthy employees may be asked to join the board of directors. This often happens by way of a buy in into the firm’s shares, and therefore adopting the same risk and reward associated to profits and losses that the existing directors will have.

As it is often the director/s name/s that are associated to the firm, this is also who new and potential clients will want to meet, and so one of their key duties is ensure that the firm wins new and continual work. As without this, it will not survive. 

Job type specific roles

Architect

As described here and here the architect requires a vast array of skills and general knowledge about building procurement at all levels. They can find themselves working on any part of the building process, as and when required.

Technical architect

A technical architect is predominately concerned with the inner and outer workings of a building, and will focus on its construction details and mechanics. This ensures that air and water tightness, thermal efficiency, and structural stability meet local and regional standards of construction.

Site architect

A site architect is tasked with managing construction projects on site, and this maybe via regular site meetings or on very large projects a permanent placement located on the actual site until its completion.

Tasked with delivering what is commonly the most stressful and high pressured stage of procurement, the site architect must administer the construction contract, issue instructions, assess and maintain quality and answers queries throughout the build.

Design architect

A design architect oversees and develops the design of the building, and ensures that together with the rest of design team that the concept and vision are maintained. They will develop a project from its initial sketches through to its final material choses.

Planning architect

A planning architect brings with them additional planning expertise and experience, and will have a knowledge of local and national legislation and restrictions.

As the name suggests, they will advise on and be involved in the submission of a project to its local authority. This may be at the beginning of a projects development to outline site and legal restrictions, or to simply ensure that the planning deliverables are met.

This if often taught separately to the architecture qualification, and requires regular updating.

BIM architect

A building information modelling (BIM) architect will have experience in procuring design and construction packages using the now very common BIM method of production information. They will be responsible for maintaining the BIM protocols and standards, and teaching new staff members.

Architecture type specific roles (Different branches of architecture)

Residential Architect

A residential architect specializes in the design and procurement of bespoke one off homes and/or extensions for private clients. They provide a complete architectural service starting with the development of the design brief through to managing the construction.

Due to the size of the projects, there tends to be quite a high turnover of commissions (architecturally speaking), however there is also a lot of time invested in managing client expectations due their inexperience with such projects.

There also tends to be a lot more creative freedom than say the below commercial sector, that often has to meet and satisfy far more rules and regulations.

Restoration Architect

Restoration architects specialize in repairing, maintaining, restoring and extending protected and historic properties. They require the relative planning and legislation knowledge to negotiate the planning system as well as understanding the historic architectural merits of a project and its construction.

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

Commercial Architect

A commercial architect specializes in non-residential buildings and may be involved in designing and working on anything from a shopping mall to a museum.

But like any architectural type this is completely dependent of the architectural firm’s style and chose of projects.

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 delivering residential schemes of two or more houses, and are required to provide a master plan of the site as a whole, as well as individual plans of each house.

To do this they must consider access, infrastructure, public space, mix of housing types and often present at public consultations.

Research Architect

Research architects are often architects who have entered back into education and either alongside their research teach, or have taken a sabbatical from their current employment.

This may be to follow an individual interest, sponsored topic or subject, or even to write a book

Interior Architect

An interior architect is a licensed architect that specializes in the interior design and procurement of a firms projects. Due to the specialist nature (that is often outsourced), this role is predominately found in large firms with large high end buildings.

Do not confuse an interior architect with an interior designer, a designer does not hold a license.

Green / sustainable design architect

This type of architect specializes in delivering and consulting on sustainable design and building methods.

They will have an in depth knowledge of sustainable products and how they can be integrated into a building to meet the necessary qualifying criteria.

Landscape Architect

A landscape architect is a common title for a landscape designer and does not require the person working under the title to be a licensed architect (in a professional sense). Many licensed architects do however have a keen interest in landscape design and will therefore often take on and/or oversee this process regardless of any formal qualification.

For this reason it is not uncommon for architects to deviate from architecture into landscape design and/or take on a supplementary course to explore it in more detail.

Urban Designer
Urban designers tend to be architects who have a keen interest in town and city planning, and are concerned with the greater workings of a place, rather than its individual parts. For this reason, the design process often requires other specialists such as building and landscape architects.

They can focus on improving existing towns and cities or develop completely new ones, looking at scales of commercial and residential sectors, infrastructure, public spaces, and are often dealing with economic, political and cultural forces.

Industrial Architect

Industrial architecture is dependent on functionality and process, and for this the architect must have a deep understanding of exactly what the buildings inputs and outputs are. That’s not to say that this is a systematic driven genre of architecture to work within, just look at BIG's power station below for an excellent example of how creative it can be.