Most people outside the real estate industry identify architects as artists who design beautiful buildings – houses in their neighborhood, the skyscrapers in the city they work in, and the magnificent structures they saw during vacations away from home.
For the most part, they are correct. But architects do way more than that.
When you see the built environment’s diversity, there are so many types of structures – each of a different nature and purpose and requires specialized skills to construct.
Inevitably, you are looking at a few different types of architects who created them.
These are the types of architects you can hire (if you are on the lookout for an architect for your new construction) or the areas of specialization that exist within architecture (if you are a prospective student trying to decide):
#1 Residential Architect
Residential projects are the bread and butter in architecture.
Residential architects commonly design houses for two types of projects – singly built privately-owned residences and housing estates made up of multiple homes constructed simultaneously.
In the design of private residences, the architect communicates with the Owner directly throughout the design and construction process. The close contact that the architect enjoys with the Owner builds trust.
With the architect being the primary point of contact, it is common for the Owner to rely on the architect to recommend other design professionals and the general contractor’s engagement. The architect may also provide interior design services if they are within the firm’s capability.
Architects commissioned by real estate developers for housing estates deal with the design of houses at a larger scale, including the design of infrastructures and amenities.
A licensed architect who contracts a new-construction housing estate can make more money due to its scale. There may only be a few standard designs, but they repeat, thus contributing to higher professional fees.
At the other end of the spectrum, residential architects designing singly-built houses may make less as all the work completed is for only one house.
However, the design of large houses can be extremely lucrative due to wealthier owners and the opportunity to include interior design services.
#2 Commercial Architect
Commercial buildings are often large contracts that may involve the design of a collection of interconnected buildings or a mixed development of commercial uses, one stacked on top of another.
These can include office towers, shopping malls, and hotels.
It is typical that such buildings – whether new or refurbished – are located in a busy city area, thus requiring the observation of pedestrians’ additional safety requirements around the job site.
A commercial architect’s design scope includes the external building façade and how it relates to its immediate surroundings and structures, the flow of foot traffic throughout the building, the provision and flow of service areas, and the building interiors. The design must comply with more stringent fire safety requirements.
#3 Industrial Architect
As the name suggests, this type of architect specializes in designing and building industrial buildings such as factories and warehouses.
Within this segment of buildings are many industries’ needs, each with a specific list of requirements. These are highly specialized facilities that focus on crucial areas such as safety standards for the operators and their products and high efficiency in production flow and output.
Architects who carved a name for themselves in this segment can often net more similar projects, ensuring a good stream of projects and steady income.
#4 Urban Design Architect
Urban design architects formulate and manage development plans and land use in consultation with public officials and developers.
Their work must consider many factors affecting land use – the economy, environment, and market need – in line with government policies.
The land can be for a single purpose – residential, commercial, or industrial – or a combination of them.
The design scope focuses on urban planning, and it typically encompasses a series of buildings, structures, public infrastructures, amenities, waterways, landscapes, and green or open spaces.
Putting them together to maximize land-use efficiency without sacrificing each component’s quality is an urban designer’s main challenge. It is about planning an efficient yet sustainable ecosystem rather than the detailed design of individual buildings.
#5 Interior Design Architect
There are two routes to an interior design career – one through the direct path of a diploma or degree in interior design; the other via the traditional architecture route of a bachelor’s degree.
It is worth noting that architecture is a profession regulated by a statutory body, while interior design isn’t.
Consequently, architects can venture into interior design and do so quite successfully considering the skills they already possess – while interior designers cannot legally practice as an architect.
The scope includes interior spaces’ design and the selection of finishing materials, fittings, and furniture. An interior architect’s job also requires basic knowledge of structural and MEP provisions (source) but without designing them.
The money that an interior design architect makes based on time spent on the job could be more than that of an architect, taking into account the relative length of a project which is significantly shorter in interior design commissions.
#6 Sustainable/Green Design Architect
Green and sustainable architecture is increasingly relevant today against the environmental damage caused by global warming.
It is no longer a question of reversing ‘global warming’ but about what we can do to slow down the impact of the more-accurately-termed ‘global heating’ (source).
Given that, green design architects and the architecture profession play a critical role in creating more buildings that leave a smaller carbon footprint.
Architects can achieve green and sustainable architecture by implementing renewable energy systems, recyclable building materials, and new construction methods that reduce the amount of energy consumed.
With the inherent cost benefits, revenue opportunities, and the increase in recognition of green ratings in buildings, this is one avenue that aspiring architects can build a career – lucrative and professionally rewarding.
Architects should consider becoming LEED accredited for added competitive advantage.
#7 Public Infrastructure Architect
Design projects for architects can come from either one of these two sources – the private and public sectors.
While most types of architects discussed thus far pertain to privately-owned commissions, the public sector can be a very lucrative source of income. Governments worldwide are probably the biggest employers of architects considering the size of developments and the professional fees awarded.
Large construction undertakings can include airports, schools, seaports, bridges, stadiums, and various other sports facilities. They may lose to the private sector in numbers but stand out in size and prestige, providing the architect with valuable recognition.
It is worth its weight in gold when you consider the opportunities to win commissions for equally distinguished work in the future.
#8 Restoration Architect
The built environment is a blend of the old and new. Most building design professionals specialize in different types of new constructions, while others are passionate about a career spent rejuvenating old structures.
Particularly in cities and places steeped in history, there are plenty of buildings with deep cultural and historical roots in need of a restoration architect’s expert knowledge and services.
These architects could work with private owners or local governments as part of a broader conservation initiative or tourism drive.
Detailed studies and understanding of the history of the building, place, people, and culture are the necessary scopes of a restoration architect’s job.
#9 Developer Architect
Real estate developers are the largest employers of architects in the private sector. In the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors, architects are engaged to lead a team of technical consultants to provide design services and subsequently administer the construction stage with the general contractor.
But not all architects enjoy working in this traditional client-architect relationship. Working with the developer represents an opportunity to participate in the real estate development industry but adopt a different role.
The qualification may still be that of an architect, but the position is switched. The architect is now under the direct employ of the real estate development company and would oversee the Consultant Architect’s performance.
However, this is not the only way to be a developer architect. Licensed architects who have the financial means or support can choose to become real estate developers independently.
Real estate development is one avenue architects can transition into, besides other industry-related fields.
It is one of the alternative career paths for an architect that is only possible after amassing a reasonable amount of wealth over a long career as an architect. Successful architect-turned-real estate developers have excellent business skills and in-depth knowledge of the local market.
#10 City Council Architect
These architects provide architectural services and advice internally within the City Council that employs them.
The scope of services includes preparing the development brief, urban planning, procurement of works and services by city contractors, public building maintenance and refurbishment, and conservation and restoration.
They also review and approve building plans submitted by the building professionals such as architects and engineers in conformance to the local building codes and regulations.
The salary that a city council architect can make depends on the position and years of service provided in line with the pay structure established within the government.
It may be puzzling to you that the 11th type of architect deserves a special mention – last (but not least) – in the post.
For an employer, this matters not – you choose the right type of architect to suit the project.
However, prospective architecture students should note that landscape architecture is an entirely separate study route to take.
The preceding ten types of architects may have distinct areas of expertise. Still, they all come from the same qualification of a professional degree in architecture – most commonly a Bachelor of Architecture.
#11 Landscape Architect
Similar to architecture, landscape architecture is also a statutory board-regulated profession.
It is a profession distinctly separate from architecture, and a professional degree in landscape architecture is mandatory for licensure.
The job description includes the design, selection, and maintenance of greenery, hardscapes and pavements, water elements, and outdoor structures. In short – anything between the building’s external skin and the land’s boundary within which the building sits.
As distinct as it is from architecture, the landscape design needs to blend in with the building’s primary design concept.
Recreational parks and golf courses are some of the significant landscaping projects that landscape architects design.
What Kind of Architect Do You Want to Be?
The architecture niche you choose to specialize in depends on the type of artist in you.
Every individual is different but ask yourself these questions, and hopefully, you get a step closer to understanding the type of architect you want to be:
- Do you like the idea of creating the homes of the future, enhancing how people live their lives?
- Does using architecture to convey branding in the commercial world appeal to you?
- Is resolving interior detailing and creating space ambiance a more fulfilling endeavor?
- Do you value the better job security that comes from working in the city council?
- Do you believe that green architecture is the future and you want to devote your professional life to advancing it?
- Are you skilled in urban planning and design at the macro level how cities can operate more efficiently?
You are trying to discover the type of structure you are passionate about creating and, ultimately, which path would provide personal fulfillment and job satisfaction.
When in doubt, you can always work in a few firms specializing in different types of architecture after graduation before deciding your career path.
Most architects listed in this post graduate with a Bachelor of Architecture, the only exception being a landscape architect who undertakes an entirely different professional degree with its own accreditation.
You may also be interested in reading what a workday is like for an architect – design is not the only thing architects do.