What do architects do?

This may sound rhetorical, but believe it or not most people don’t know what architects do. The common answer would go something like this, “oh you’re an architect…you draw buildings right?” Well, I suppose we “draw” buildings but it is a tad more complicated than that. We have to understand how systems work such as: structural systems, MEP systems (Mechanical Electrical Plumbing)…we have to understand a bunch of miscellaneous information such as: site restraints, geotechnical information, varied types of analyses, etc. Ultimately we are here to create a building, but in order to do that we must have a firm grasp on how all the components come together to form a unified whole. compassBuildings are extremely complicated things that have many moving parts and if they don’t all come together in the right way bad things can happen. It’s funny because when someone asks me, “So what do you do exactly?” and I respond to them by telling them I’m an architect and as such my number one priority is life-safety issues, they always get a puzzled look on their face. They were under the impression that I just draw “pretty pictures” all day when in fact the one thing that takes most of my time is figuring out how to make my buildings safe. Everyone understands that if a surgeon messes up, the patient dies. Well guess what? If an architect messes up THOUSANDS of people can die! Imagine what would happen if an architect created a building where the lines of fire egress failed and the people were stuck in a burning inferno? Imagine what would happen if there was a faulty connection in a major structural component in a stadium? The entire roof could fall in! The purpose of this article isn’t to scare anyone but merely to educate. For a better explanation of the credentials an architect must have please click here.

On top of all this we have to actually make plans that make sense and buildings that are aesthetically pleasing. Most people would say that the measure of how good an architect is depends on how good their buildings look. Granted, architecture is largely an art form so I would definitely agree with that on some level…but I would never underscore the importance of a safe building.