Architecture and design
The role of an architect encompasses many aspects of construction projects, and is a unique and rewarding role requiring both exceptional creativity and accuracy.
Architects fundamentally design structures that need to be built, modified or restored, but that is just part of the broader role which they normally fulfil within the design team; which often comprises at least one architect, project managers, architectural technicians/ technologists, structural engineers, building services engineers, facilities managers and planners. They are usually hired once the initial concept has been decided upon and stay involved right through to completion. They may liaise with the client’s representatives or those of future tenants and will maintain close contact with the contractors once construction begins.
Architectural technicians and architectural technologists give technical support to the architect and the design team. Architectural technicians play an important role in the design process through researching and organising technical information such as user needs, surveys and building regulations; preparing design proposals and specifications for construction work; and sometimes contributing to contract management.
Unlike technicians, qualified architectural technologists are recognised within the construction industry as being able to manage all aspects of the project from the initial designs to contract management
and the post-completion phases.
Qualifications required to work in architecture
Degree courses in architecture take five years of full-time study, usually including a year working in the profession. This is followed by two years of approved practical experience, and an examination in professional practice. To qualify as an architectural technician/technologist, you need an accredited recognised degree course (generally taking three years of full-time study), followed by two years of approved practical experience. See the RIAI website (www.riai.ie) and the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists website (www.ciat.org.uk) for information on professional qualifications and membership.
Skills and specialist areas
Architects, technicians and technologists can specialise in a certain type of building such as commercial or residential developments or choose to focus on a specific aspect of architecture such as conservation, project management, technology or design. There are also some academic positions available. Some general skills needed include:
- Strong communication, teamworking and negotiating skills
- Spatial sense and dexterity
- Numeracy and IT skills, especially the ability to use computer-aided design systems
- Problem-solving skills
- Attention to detail.
Graduate opportunities in architecture
Many graduates find work in architectural practices; there are also some opportunities in big industry corporations (such as the property departments of retailers) and large construction employers. The public sector also has architecture-related vacancies, though these are harder to find. Although largely office-based, architects, technicians and technologists spend considerable time on site viewing progress and working with the contractors to solve any design-related problems that arise.