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What Is an Architect?


Architect Sou Fujimoto stands inside his Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, London, 2013

Architect Sou Fujimoto stands inside his Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, London, 2013

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images ©2013 Getty Images

An architect is a licensed professional who organizes space. Architects design houses, office buildings, skyscrapers, landscapes, ships, and even entire cities. The services of a licensed architect depend on the type of project; fees may range from 10% to 15% of the total construction costs.

What Do Architects Do?

Learn More: What does an Architect do? by Enoch Sears >>>

Professional Architects:

Architects are trained in many areas, from historic preservation to structural engineering and from computer programming to environmental biology. This training can lead to a wide variety of careers. See:

Architect Credentials:

Architecture was not always a licensed profession. Any educated person could take on the role. Today's architects have completed university programs and lengthy internships. Like doctors and lawyers, architects must pass a series of rigorous exams in order be licensed. In North America, the initials RA designate a registered, or licensed, architect. See:

Plan a Career in Architecture:

What Is an Information Architect?

An information architect is a person who plans the flow of information on Web pages. This use of the word architect is not related to building design.

Also Known As:

Architects design buildings, but a "Building Designer" is not usually a licensed architect.

Common Misspellings:

arcitect, arkitect, artitect, archatect, architeck, arcitech


Since the dawn of time, humans have constructed dwellings and created new environments. The word comes from the Greek word architekton meaning "chief" (archi-) "carpenter" (tekton). We often use the word "architect" to describe the artists and engineers who designed historic buildings like the Taj Mahal. However, it was only in the twentieth century that architects were required to pass tests and be licensed. Today, the word "architect" refers to a licensed professional.

Other Definitions:

"Architects are licensed professionals trained in the art and science of the design and construction of buildings and structures that primarily provide shelter. Additionally, architects may be involved with designing the total built environment—from how a building integrates with its surrounding landscape to architectural or construction details that involve the interior of the building to designing and creating furniture to be used in a specific space."—Becoming an Architect, National Council of Architectural Registration Boards [accessed September 24, 2013]

"The most basic definition of an architect is a professional who is qualified to design and provide advice - both aesthetic and technical - on built objects in our public and private landscapes. But this definition barely scratches the surface of an architect's role. Architects serve as trusted advisors, their role is holistic, blending diverse requirements and disciplines in a creative process, while serving the public interest and addressing health and safety matters."—What is an Architect, Architecture & Architects, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) [accessed September 25, 2013]

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