Becoming an Architect
Architecture is the art, the science and the business of building.
Architects create homes, office towers, schools and churches. They are talented people with a flair for design, an awareness of social trends, keen business sense, solid engineering skills and an understanding of the law. The word “versatile” may have been invented to describe Architects!
Today’s Architect may practise alone or be part of a small, medium or large firm. Some Architects are self-employed. Others may be on salary, as employees of government, real estate developers or large corporations.
“Clients” are the people who use the services of Architects. A client may be a family, a school board, a company, a housing authority, a government department or a building contractor.
There’s no place like home
The design or re-design of a home is one of the most fascinating and important things an Architect can do. Homes house the daily activities of families and individuals. Sometimes they offer privacy and shelter. On festive occasions, they are places of open hospitality. Rural or urban, row house or apartment, the home may be used year-round or only for vacations. Beyond our homes, the community takes shape.
Keeping the past alive
Old buildings add variety to city streets and remind us of our links to the past. Public interest in restoring old buildings is as strong as the economic pressure to re-use them. The result ? Architects are using modern techniques and ideas to renew historic buildings across Canada.
Inside the home and office
Respected Architects have designed chairs, tables, cabinets and fabrics--objects that lend comfort and pleasure to people’s homes and work spaces. When the desire to create something “organic” or whole, is strong, Architects design not only a building and the space around a building, they will also shape the space inside the building.
Mirrors of time
Great civilizations leave behind great architecture. Think of the pyramids of Egypt, the columns of Greece and Rome, the great Gothic cathedrals. Architecture reflects the religious, political and social values of the day. Today’s buildings express our society’s common purposes and will tell our story long after we are gone.
Big and sleek
In giant cities, the voices of commerce, finance, business and government call out for giant buildings. Big buildings can cause big problems, such as increased traffic flow. They also create a need for parking, water, sewer and fire-fighting access. Putting large buildings into a city involves balancing the technical, planning and aesthetic problems posed by size. Architects with special design skills are needed to tackle these big jobs.
Designing the city
Cities are where the action is. The social and economic character of a city is often expressed in urban design. Many Architects serve on planning boards or help people who live in urban neighbourhoods shape the city around them. Sometimes Architects get involved in restoring parts of a city, developing housing projects or industrial parks, or designing shopping centres.
It all starts with a commission--or contract--from a client. The commission may involve the design of a single building or a group of buildings and the spaces between them. The client may be a person, a board of directors, a government department or a business.
Usually, the Architect leads a team of specialists including structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, as well as others. The Architect must also understand and deal with building codes and bylaws set out by municipal, provincial and federal governments.
The Architect keeps everyone on time and on budget. Technical knowledge, good people skills and no-nonsense business sense are all important to this task.
What’s the bottom line? Architecture is a business. Being creative and designing something beautiful are only the first steps in making a vision come to life.
Such a thing may not exist. But on any given day, an Architect may have to:
It can be a real challenge to juggle all the aspects of this demanding job.
What do Architects do?
They Take Responsibility
Ask yourself these questions:
Spend some time in an Architect’s office. Ask questions. Read all you can about architecture. (Your local library can help you find books on the subject). Look at professional magazines. Visit the Schools of Architecture.
To be a licensed Architect, you will need
Architects are professionals. The public must be sure that people who call themselves Architects are qualified to practice in their field. So, all across Canada, Architects are licensed by provincial or territorial associations of architects. The goals of the associations are:
Like other professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, Architects are legally responsible for the decisions they make. In some provinces, all licensed Architects must have professional liability insurance if they wish to practice architecture. This insurance protects both the public and the Architect. As well, each province and territory has an “Architects Act” which regulates the practice of architecture. It is against the law for anyone who is not licensed to use the title “Architect”.
It’s hard to say which courses are best, because Schools of Architecture vary greatly in what they offer students at the university level. It is a good idea to find out now what is required for admittance to a university you would like to attend.
Mature students (people who are not recent high school graduates) are also welcomed by most Schools of Architecture.
As well, there is an important place in architecture for people who do not wish to pursue a university degree. You could take courses at a technical school, community college or university to become:
Here are some job titles that tell you the kind of work Architects can do :