Architect Definition: What Does An Architect Do?

Sara Mandeed
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Where do architects work?

You’ll find an architect working for themselves, working for a large design or architecture firm, or working as part of an architectural team for a company that is creating a specific project, such as the design of a hotel or office building.

You’ll also find many architects working in the construction and development industries. They work as part of the construction team, conducting building inspections and making sure that all the specifications of the design are being followed.

Even if architects and engineers move in slightly different circles, they often do work together. An architect can help an engineer to design the building framework and its structure.

Engineers will rely on the architect to do the detail planning that is needed for something as complicated as a structure.

Architecture is a very technical career, and it’s very necessary to have a good understanding of the science behind building design.

As one of the most versatile professions, architects can work in different fields of architecture such as residential design, urban design, interior design, and building design. Each of those different fields has its own unique set of challenges, and being an architect in one of those areas is a very different career track from being an architect in another.

What software do architects use?

If you want an architect to help you finalize a design for your home, they’ll probably use AutoCAD or some other architectural design software. As mentioned before, the architecture field did not exist as a field when most of the popular software programs were being created. As a result, the field had to develop its own software that would allow architects to create designs, communicate with clients, and detail building design plans.


Or Sketchup?

While both AutoCAD and Sketchup arrange their interface to look very similar, their real strengths and weaknesses lie on the differences between them. You will likely be designing with one over the other, and knowing which one to use for your projects will prevent a lot of stress down the road.

To better grasp the differences, let’s first look at the similarities between both programs. Both AutoCAD and Sketchup are easy to use and come with an array of features, ranging from drafting and design to rendering and documentation. They both allow you to conceptualize your ideas before you commit to them. They also allow you to export and share your designs with other team members via a variety of means.

From a technical perspective, they are both designed to use the same computer languages (Unified Modeling Language, or UML), making for easy translations from one program to the other. They also both use a software program from Autodesk, allowing you to transfer data between programs and share projects.

Next, we will focus on the differences between AutoCAD and Sketchup.

Revit (BIM)

What is Architectural Desktop (ADT)?

The Architectural Desktop (ADT) is an essential tool in the ArchiCAD software. Unlike many other tools in the software, it is not technically a part of any module. It is what draws the model in ArchiCAD. Without it, ArchiCAD would be a drawing program.

When you choose a 3D view in ArchiCAD, it opens a new Autodesk® Revit® model. But before it can be seen, it must be drawn. That is what the Architectural Desktop does. The Architectural Desktop runs on AutoCAD (the large-scale drafting software most architects use everyday, and is freely available). It is a 3D view of the model you are working on, drawn in 2D.

The ARCHICAD – Architectural Desktop (ADT) is integrated into the software, but is very different from the standard AutoCAD DWG files, because of the geometric transformations implemented in the program.

While in ArchiCAD you are drawing in plan, but in the Architectural Desktop you are technically drawing in elevation. That is why when you draw in the Architectural Desktop, the cursor changes its behavior. It becomes a crosshair, as in an elevation, as opposed to a cursor in AutoCAD, which becomes a single-headed hand.

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop has become one of the most popular and, in my opinion, best programs for home design and architecture visualization. I’ve recently purchased a new laptop for home use and I configured it specifically for this purpose. I’ve written an article about choosing a graphics card for architectural and interior design and I will also tell you how to run Adobe Photoshop on a Windows PC for free in a few simple steps if you’re on a tight budget. In addition to that, I have written an article on how to use Adobe Photoshop as a free home design tool for small outdoor projects.

Having a powerful program like Adobe Photoshop at your disposal is an invaluable tool. It allows you to quickly visualize any project ideas you have, and the results can be eye opening.

Adobe InDesign

Tips & Tricks

So, I was doing a bit of work as a paid writer for a tech blog. This included writing a series of daily tutorials on how to use Adobe InDesign, the industry-leading desktop publishing program. I had to explain it to a very broad audience, from seasoned professionals to first-time users. So I needed to figure out a way to distill how InDesign works into something simple, easy to understand, and bite-sized.

I came up with a "Tips & Tricks" article, which guide you through a series of small, bite-sized "tips." Each one is a little lesson in itself, and the series of these little lessons adds up to a complete understanding of the topic at hand.

Over time and with practice, you'll discover that finding this balance in your articles doesn't take as much planning as it might seem. In my experience, it's more of an organic process of discovery as you start to understand the topic at hand.

By the same token, there's only so much you can fit into one article if you're trying to introduce a broad audience to a new topic.


When he was just a kid, the man who would eventually become famous as Frank Lloyd Wright began building a model out of an old cigar box. Then, after staring at and thinking about the aging wooden house in his family’s backyard for a while, Wright decided to create a new design for it using another cigar box.

3DS Max

Before a single brick is laid, here are some of the very basic steps in designing a house. Once you've gone through the process, whether on your own or with an architect, architect-to-be, or construction manager, you'll have a better understanding of how your house will be built.

Programming and Planning

The first step is to understand the program and how it fits into the context of the community. What will it look like? What does the program say about the audience?

All of this must be researched.

Generally, the program will imply a number of key components, such as:

  • Number of Storeys
  • Glazing Percentages
  • Structure Type
  • Facades
  • Stairs
  • Courtyards
  • Roof Structure

All of this must be researched, understood and put into the initial design idea.


Sustainability is incredibly important when creating a new model community. The way you design the building, its structure and the materials that are used can make all the difference when creating a new model that can have an incredible impact.

Educate yourself on the technology and methods that will make the program sustainable. Consider the following questions:

  • What is the passive-solar orientation?
  • What is the passive-lighting strategy?

The Five Building Design Phases

An architectural blueprint illustrates the design of a structure and how it will be built. It is developed in five phases: 1) conceptual design; 2) schematic design; 3) design development; 4) working drawings; and 5) physical construction.

The conceptual design phase involves deciding what kind of building you want. You might want a country-style home, for example, or an extreme modernist building in glass and steel. Whatever you decide, you must make sure that the building will meet your needs and fit into your landscape and neighborhood.

During the schematic design phase the architect works out general layouts and plans. The architect also develops drawings of the exterior and interior spaces.

During the design development phase, the architect further elaborates on the drawings. The architect continues to work on the plan and the design until he or she reaches a satisfactory conclusion.

The working drawings phase is one of the most detailed phases of the architectural project. During this phase, the architect transfers all the design work from the conceptual design phase into orderly and detailed drawings. The architect takes all the earlier designs and sketches and layers them together so that they speak in a single voice.

When the architect is done, he or she reviews the drawings with the client. If they both agree, the architect passes the working drawings to the contractor, who will build the structure.

The final phase is the physical construction of the building.

Schematic Design

Schematic design is the starting point for most projects. It’s the first stage in achieving the concept, realistic, practical and finally, a drawing that could be built.

With this phase, you get to really tickle the imagination by being able to fully develop your ideas, using your creative skills.

In schematic design, you just immerse yourself in the design process. You get a feeling for how your design works in practice.

You can also decide if you like the design. If not, start modifying it by testing out plans and angles.

The schematic design is where the basics are defined. The idea works well as long as there’s no more than one idea.

After the schematic design is complete, you now get to the project blueprint. The blueprint is where you define all the aspects in a proper manner.

With the lines, an architect is able to specify exactly what is being planned, and it can be easily drawn up on paper.

The blueprint is where the scale of the creation stands out.

You can now sketch out more than one of your ideas, and then you can finally decide which one you’ll proceed with.

Design Development

The brief, or the brief document mentions the overall philosophy in terms of architecture and therefore informs the design of the building or project.

The design development phase describes the ongoing process of working drawings, which are then followed up with the models and eventually constructed.

This is where decisions are made about a client’s project. The designer is required to make a decision about what has been discussed in the brief and what the client wants to achieve. The designer must communicate the understanding of the brief and the objective of the project to all other design professionals.

These professionals may include structural engineers, cost consultants, landscape architects, local government planners and sustainability designers.

The design development stage does not only address the requirements of the clients, but also the needs of the users. The design must be able to provide the users with a comfortable, healthy and flowing space which is also interesting and enjoyable.

The building must be in accordance with the building code and any appropriate legislation. The detailed design will include consideration about the cost and sustainability of the project.

The design will usually be translated into building regulations drawings and then into working drawings. Once these are approved by the client, the project can move to the construction phase.

Construction Documents

Once the architect’s plan has been approved, it most likely will need to be modified to work for the individual building. The architect will draw up plans for constructing the building. He will also go through the plans with the client so that there is mutual understanding of the goals of this part of the construction process. These plans are called construction documents.

Construction documents indicate the scale of the building, the materials to be used, and how the building will be assembled. This is information that the contractor will be going over with you. So it is a good idea to glance at the plans when you receive them.

The building code has been developed by your local government’s department of building and safety. One or more of its official will be reviewing the plans you present for meeting the requirements of the code.

To be safe, take a look at your state’s building code and make sure the plans you’ve drawn up meet these requirements. If there are variances, be sure to inform the architect before he has drawn up the construction documents.

A good architect will also take an actual walk around the building site with you to discuss whether or not any of the plans might need to be modified to take the terrain into account.

Bid or Negotiation

This is the time an architect will spend with you during an open house, getting a feel for what you might have in mind for the design. They will ask questions, take a series of measurements, and walk you through the design and estimate. In this period you can discuss price, the general storyboard for the home, the layout, and any other concerns you might have. During this time, you can think about what the house will mean to you, and why you want it. This architectural design process helps establish your vision and save money in the long run.

Construction Administration

When the construction of your own project is complete, you need to finish up a final document known as a certificate of occupancy.

This document is required by the municipality before you can issue a certificate of occupancy. This document certifies that the building you have constructed meets all the requirements of your permit. It also says that the facilities are safe and ready for occupation.

The common issues that you need to take care are :-

  • Potable Water
  • One-Hour Fire Wall
  • Lot lines demarcation
  • Registered plan
  • Site Improvement
  • Final electrical connection is done
  • Final plumbing connection is done
  • Final grading is done

It is a must to have the certificate of occupancy before you can issue the certificate of completion. This certificate is provided by the architect.

Architect Specializations

An architect’s job is to create projects that support the site’s purpose. A performance theatre needs to have a specific number of seats and fire exits to accommodate performances. An office building needs to have efficient space planning to fit the number of workers and computers.

The architect’s job is just to design the building. They manage design details such as:

  • How the building will be used
  • The size of the building
  • The materials that it will be made out of
  • Security systems
  • Security systems
  • Temperature and climate control
  • Electrical systems
  • Mechanical systems (such as plumbing)

Once the design is finalized, it is turned over to a construction crew to build it out. The architect’s job is finished. This is much different from the design process of a product. An object design has a designer who comes up with a style, makes final decisions at each stage, and sees the product all the way through to production. In contrast, an architect is not as invested in the end product.

An architect only has to be consulted at the very beginning of a project. If a project is new and innovative then they are consulted throughout the creation. Once the project is complete they are not necessarily involved.

Design Architect

The design architect is responsible for creating a design for a project. They may draw out these designs themselves or they may rely on a team of other architects to help out. This can all depend on the size and complexity of the project.

The design architect is in charge of making sure that the project stays within budget and making sure that the design comes out the way that it should. Often, the design architect will also be working with the builder and will help them to make sure that the project is built correctly.

The design architect is usually the person that the client will speak to most directly. This is done through face-to-face meetings, phone conversations, and emails. The design architect is responsible for keeping the client informed of the overall project and ensuring that they are happy with how things are going.

Technical Architect

If you work as a Technical Architect, you will be involved in the information technology area of the business. You will make decisions about the systems that you will need to define how your company will exchange information.

You will meet with the people within your company to understand what their information needs are, help them to identify the systems that will meet those needs, and then create a detailed system design.

You will often work with software engineers to develop the technical architecture information systems. Once the design is created, you will translate it into information resource requirements and then develop the technical system requirements. You will also write the technical design documents that support your decisions.

You will often be responsible for developing technical standards, procedural manuals, and technical documents that support the information systems within your company. You may also be responsible for developing support processes, designing network systems, and developing data acquisition systems. Another important role of the Technical Architect is to conduct the system software life-cycle activities for your company.

Project Manager

Project management is an activity that is highly dependent on communication. Some PMs may work together with a team, while others may end up working alone.

To be successful in project management, you need to learn how to communicate with the people involved in your projects, whether they are clients, team members, or subcontractors.

The ability to communicate with people from different backgrounds and from different levels is one of the most important talents of an architect.

If you are planning to become a project manager, here are some of the ways you can communicate:

A. Communication via paper

Keep a File of Critical Documents

A project manager’s job is to oversee the complete project from the start to the end. So a project manager needs to be aware of the whole project, from the beginning to the end. In order to remember everything that is happening, a project manager can keep a detailed and organized file.

Keep a Cloned Copy of the Project Plan

In addition to the project plan, a project manager keeps a cloned copy of the plan. For a cloned copy, the order of the pages may be slightly different, but the overall formatting and the content are set the same.

BIM Manager

BIM (Building Information Modeling) is software that lets architects, designers and engineers design any project in 3D “ including the interiors. It involves capturing and using all of the information, functions and specifications of all the different building components “ not just their size and shape, but also their appearance, desired functionality and contextual factors.

A BIM manager is the person who determines what information is needed by the BIM software, and then guides the architect in gathering the data. The data will be stored in BIM models, which will be considered the single source of all information about a building project.

The BIM manager will also coordinate BIM efforts among all stakeholders of a project, including the sub-consultants in the construction process. Besides key information about the building, the BIM model will also contain a plethora of information about the surrounding area and the transportation and utility connections to it.

Specifications (Spec) Writer

This is the most fun part – coming up with the differences between the two. I'll create the spec, and you vote on which cake is more desirable. This is based on the extent of customization available to the client, so we’ll take a rather liberal interpretation of the parameters to build these scenarios.

First, let's look at the specifications for Cake-A.

Interior Designer

Whether you are building a new structure or updating/renovating an existing structure, you will probably want to hire a designer. As a customer, you should understand the difference between a designer and an architect.

Most designers are not architects. In most cases, someone with the title of designer does not necessarily possess the education or expertise to be an architect. As a consumer, you should be aware that a designer is not legally allowed to call him/herself an architect, even if he/she has an architecture degree.

The title of architect can only legally be used by someone who has spent years studying to be an architect, passed all of the necessary exams, and has received full licensure. In contrast, a designer is not required to have any licensure or formal training at all. The title of designer can be used by anyone.

Although most of the designers who work in residential design are not working with the architectural title, make sure that you meet your designers qualifications. A designer with a degree in architecture or some kind of formal training in architecture is a designer that you can rely on.

Workplace Consultancy


Sustainability refers to the end result of designing a building which considers aspects such as environmental factors, life cycle cost of the materials used, and the effects of occupants on the built environment. Sustainability comes from the understanding that change is inevitable, and therefore optimal design should consider how the building will function throughout its life.

Urban Designer

You may have seen the term “urban designer” prior to, although it probably didn’t ring a bell. These are professionals who look at a city or community as a whole and try to envision what would be the best use of the land at any given time in history.

Urban designers tend to look at the layout of the city streets and ensure they are laid out with ease. They also look at how the layout needs to be adjusted over time to accommodate the city’s ever-growing population. Finally, they may also look at adding more green spaces for recreational or industrial uses within the town.

Urban designers also use different tools and software to help them complete their designs. One of their main tools is geographic mapping, which deems them as land surveyors. Other tools and uses include 3D virtual reality software, animation programs, and walk-through simulators.

Sole Proprietor

It might be that nothing is in your way to start on the right path. Then you are on the right track. But before you begin to do anything just give it a thought whether you are capable of doing it or not.

If you are not sure; you can always consult an architect for design services or you can draft a sketch of your dream home.

Don’t forget to give credit to the architect in your house.

Director / Partner

The person who tends to be at the top of the architect role is the Director or Partner. Their focus tends to be more on the business side and recruiting.