What do Architects do? / by Maker d+a

In today’s rapidly changing world, professions are constantly being redefined and it can be difficult to understand what different specialists and practitioners actually do. This can be no truer than in the profession of the ‘architect’. With titles like ‘systems architect’ and ‘application architect’ thrown around in the IT world, it’s no wonder that people can sometimes become confused about what architects actually do.

Besides the question of what architects do, these are some other questions that one might ask:

  • When do I need to hire an architect? We wrote about some more about this here.

  • How do I choose an architect?

  • How much does an architect charge?

  • What process does an architect follow when designing my building?

Hiring an architect is a personal and important step in the process of initiating a building project, but it can be a daunting one. Perhaps you’ve used an architect before and have been burnt by their processes or by their attitude. They may have failed to capture your vision, or perhaps they loaded you with unforeseen charges and you ended up footing a pricy bill. Whatever you’ve experienced in the past, the truth is that a good architect should be able to assist and guide you effortlessly through the full process of your building project.

Welcome to the first of a 3 part article series that aims to keep you informed and to help you make good decisions when tackling your building project. The goal is to set you up for a smooth and enjoyable journey towards the realization of your dream building!

Don’t architects essentially all do the same thing?

You might already have an idea of what architects do and the services that they offer. You may know this from past experience or from what your friends and colleagues have told you. You might think that architects essentially all do the same thing - you’re not alone in this. It’s common knowledge that architects produce drawings and plans and provide a contractor with instructions on how to construct a building. At face value, it may appear that this is the main thing that they do, but there is actually a lot more to it than that.

Drawing Plans

It’s a common misconception that architects just ‘draw plans’. Most people understand that in order to construct a building, drawings - otherwise known as ‘plans’ - are needed. But what exactly is a plan? Is it just a drawing? Is it a configuration? Is it a space layout? Well, it’s a little bit of all of these things. A plan is a representation of something; it’s like a horizontal slice through your building – a snap shot of the story of a structure.

Picture a large tree. Now imagine that you’re taking a chainsaw to that tree and cutting directly through the trunk. You cut through, anticipate the tree falling over and you quickly step aside to avoid getting crushed! You’re left looking down at a stump. What do you see? Most likely rings on the inside, and bark on the outside. These marks are telling you a story…

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Plans are like tree trunks

Rings are what tell us part of a tree’s story; its age, the seasonal difficulties that it went through and the growth spurts that it experienced.

Building Plans

Drawn instructions for contractors to aid them in constructing a building correctly.

Much like a cut through a tree trunk, a plan tells a small part of a building’s story. But there’s also a lot that a trunk or a plan is not telling you. It’s not telling you about the tree's roots and its canopy above. It not telling you that this tree is in a forest full of other trees, or that it's on the edge of a steep cliff, clinging on for its life! A building is like this tree in many ways. It has structure below and above, and it sits amongst other buildings in its own forest or 'built environment’. An architect understands this, and it’s his job to shape a building to suit all of these surrounding factors.

Forest of trees

Each tree is affected by other trees surrounding it.

There’s a distinct difference between a ‘plan’ and a ‘design’. Many people can ‘plan’ or arrange rooms, doors and furniture, but it takes a great deal more care and skill to produce a pleasing and holistic design that responds to its inhabitants and to its environment; what architects like to term ‘context’.

Forest of buildings

Buildings sit in their own kind of ‘forest’, otherwise known as ‘context’. They affect and are affected by the environment surrounding them.

how architects understand and interpret the world in order to create great designs

Architects are creative professionals who look at the bigger picture of a building. They consider the urban jungle that a building sits in (future or current) and all of the factors that might impact it. They consider how people will experience a building and how it will be put together. Beyond this, they look ahead and plan for the life cycle of a building and how it will be maintained in the years to come.

People centered spaces

Architects consider how people will experience a building.

Architects go through rigorous and lengthly training in order to learn how to do this. In their processes, they will visualize and consider every part of your building from the smallest screw, to the largest banquet hall. Their end goal is for a building to satisfy all of the desires of its occupants and to exude delight! A good design is complex, well thought out and carefully put together. It is also beautiful to look at.


Good Design

…is complex, well thought out and carefully put together. It is also beautiful to look at.

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The role of your architect…

Your architect will be the guide who will assist you with conceiving, visualizing and realizing your end design. They will be there to bounce your ideas off of, to help define the theme of the project and to explore creative aspects of your building through sketches and 3Ds. And finally, they will prepare all of the technical drawings and details to ensure that the builder puts it together properly!

Designing a building is a complex process and you are going to want to feel comfortable that you’re in safe hands on the journey. You’ll want a navigator and a guide - someone who will walk with you from the time that your project is just an idea, to the moment that you’re popping champagne on your new entertainment deck!

Coming up next… Part 2 - The process of dreaming, planning and executing a building project

Need some assistance with the design of a building project?


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