Learning Center for Architects

533a0d34c07a80d51900002d-sap-releases-rare-images-of-architecture-selfies-louis-kahn-.jpgArchitectural Registration and Certification

 Steps to registration:  If you want to become an architect, you will eventually seek registration in one or more states.  Each state determines its own requirements for registration, however a national organization, NCARB, coordinates and assists individuals in attainiing registration in their state and reciprocity thereafter in other states.  There are three steps usually required: 1) a first professional degree (typically a 5 year program) in architecture at an accredited university, 2) a period of internship or apprenticeship in the office of a registered architect(s), and 3) passing the ARE (Architect Registration Exam), which is administered on a national basis.  Each step has its own prerequistes.  Admission to an architectural degree program often requires presentation of a portfolio, demonstrating proficiency if not a talent for graphics, drawing, and design.    Internship is usually a paid position on the staff of an architect, and the intern must have working skills in CAD used in that office from day one.  Each state has a process of verification of requirements before an applicant is able to take the ARE.  It is a multipart exam testing skills, knowledge, and judgment. 


Sustainable Architecture  

Certification: In addition to the basic license to practice architecture there are additional certifications such as in sustainable architecture (LEED).  It is an area of specialization with political ramifications, and most architects cannot afford to ignore it.  Any architect who wants to remain on the upward path of promotion is well-advised to attain some form of LEED certification.

Design attitude: Environmental sympathy is an essential element in any building project, and encompasses all aspects of design and construction.  It has both theoretical and technical aspects as much of what we think would work, doesn't. And, some things which we think would not work, do.


Building Information Modeling:  No one draws anymore, and hardly anyone still used 2D CAD.  3D parametric modelers are common.  Tolerance and interference checking among the architects and engineers make sure pipes don't pass through ducts and steel beams...unless they're supposed to.  The BIM process assembles and coordinates all information related to the building comprehending materials and process, space and time.  Cost estimation, scheduling, analysis, construction, and even usage are combined in a single model to be shared and interacted with by the entire gamut of disciplines involved in the building project.

Built-in analysis:  Finite element analysis is a common add-on and stress testing occurs at an early stage of design.  Similarly CFD calculations regarding ventilation, smoke migration, etc. simulate a variety of environmental conditions that were previously impossible to model reasonably.

Presentation: CAD has become the basis of final presentation realistic rendering, which extend to motion, incremental aging, and appearance under all sorts of light and weather conditions.  While virtual reality does often leave something to be desired, it can give clients some idea of spatial possibility beyond the 2D plan (which many clients do not really understand). 


  Presentation to sell: From quick pen sketches on napkins to elaborately rendered CAD drawings, the method and manner of presentation of architectural ideas and formal conceptions is the way designers communicate with their clients and audience.  Expressing the look and feel of architecture sometimes requires as much creative effort as the design itself, and does not always take expected forms.

Presentation to communicate: Presentation techniques are as important in communicating construction information to the trades as well as to the client.  Incomplete or incomprehensible construction documents result in mistakes and inevitably liability.  There is a large selection of books on detailing, construction documentation, and print reading.

structural-engineering.jpgBuilding Engineering

 Language of engineering: The usual engineering trades associated with building construction - geotechnical, civil, structural, mechanical-electrical-plumbing, and sometimes acoustical and lighting - each speak their own language.  It behooves the architect to learn at least the pigeon varieties of each engineering language.  

 Analytical tools for architects: It boosts the credibility of the architect to submit a preliminary design that does not grossly under-estimate the depth of beams and other structural members.   Although statics in included in the education of the architect, it is quickly if not disdainfully forgotten.  This applies equally to all the engineering specialties.  The architect's skill is enhanced by not considering engineering a black box.

 igloo1.jpgBuilding Types

  Building type as comfort zone: Each type of building from chicken coop to skyscraper implies a discreet set of design and construction problems and opportunities.  Architects tend to settle into a comfortable niche where their skills complement their ability to get work:  houses, office bldgs, schools, strip centers, malls, industrial warehouses, etc.

 Dual nature of building type: The idea of building type implies both functional use and/or method and material of construction.  Building types, as the picture suggests, may have local significance because of their suitability to the environment, culture, and availability of materials and building skills.  

vermeer.jpgInterior Design

Interior design is more than skin-deep:  Non-interior designers tend to think interior design is limited to the surface application of paint and fabric and the disposition of furniture and accessories.   However, the selection of colors and the lighting thereof can make or break an otherwise good architectural design.

The sources of comfort and charm: The best interiors manifest both comfort and charm.  And, it's not easy to point to their sources.  When it's good, it's like a well-dressed person whose grace and charm seem to come from some hidden place inside.  

Energizing space:  Louis Kahn's Kimble Art Museum could be empty and its spatial energy would be palpable. Most spaces, however, need to be finished and furnished to be fully energized and useful.  Subtle or blatant, quiet and classy or loud and vulgar, whatever the manner, whatever the style, the interior designer is expected to turn on the space.


8f2c0df6c135f51a9a91d358e6341fd1.jpgArchitectural Practice

Good behavior:  Architecture is a profession and, like medicine or law, has particular codes of behavior and propriety. An architectural principal is reminded to obey to simple but inviolable rules: don't sleep with the help, and don't punch out the client.  

The business of architecture:  Architecture is a business, a very competitive business.  The practical aspects of running a business include the schedule of fees and services, compensation of employees, investment in equipment and technology, and promotion.

Office specialization:  If business is plentiful, specialization in a type of building, signature style, method and/or materials of construction may be worthwhile.  However, in a market where every scrap of business however small must be flushed out by beating the bushes and turning over every rock, beggars can't be choosers.


Methods and materials:  The availability of materials and skills to use them determine the range of choices available to the architect.  Mud brick, cut stone, cast iron, fabricated rolled steel sections, balloon frame, space frame, pneumatic, tensile, etc. each describe a material and imply a method of construction.  Residential and commercial construction are restricted to those materials and methods that are economically available.  While in rural Egypt Hassan Fathy prevails.

 Estimation and cost control:  Everywhere the natural optimism of the architect produce initial estimates of construction cost that are later eclipsed, sadly, by reality.  Say it ain't so.  It is the hope of BIM to introduce reality at a much earlier stage of building design.

 Scheduling:  Closely allied to cost estimation is an estimate of when the building will be delivered to its users.  PERT and other forms of scheduling are effective tools used by sophisticated contractors in estimating the initial delivery time but modifying and fine-tuning the estimated end time as construction proceeds.


Handbooks and guidelines:  The process through which design professionals adhere to the ADA requirements can be tortuous, painful, and sometimes costly.  Most architects rely on a RAS (registered accessibility specialist), an authorised expert of the state authority govering accessibility adherence, to pre-check their documents and post-check the completed construction.  However, having a current and clearly explained desk reference is both useful and prudent.

Continuing Education:  Most licensing jurisdictions require architects to take a certain number of course hours every year in the principles and practice of applying the laws of accessibility.  This is meant to keep them current on changes to the law as well as familiar with the larger range of situations in which ADA is implicated, some which they may not encounter frequently if at all.


millford-plantation-habs-color-2.jpgArchitectural History

Regional:   Architectural styles vary locally and regionally as a function of environmental differences, cultural variation and longevity of settlement, availability of materials and/or building skills, and other factors.  What got built in the southwest with its Spanish influence differs from the English and northern European influence in the northeast; hurricanes in the southeast and earthquakes in the west, arctic conditions in the north, tropical in the south.  Historically the buildings reflect those differences, and proivide important environmental clues regarding how we should design buildings today.  Local plantation architecture made good use of shading and natural ventilation we would be wise to emulate.

National and international: Stylistic fashion in architecture follows changes in every other aspect of a culture.  We see parallels and sometimes amusing similarities between architecture and clothing fashion.  These have little to do with regional environmental imperatives.  Similarly buildings designed to look like ice cream cones, Indian teepees, or even "the old woman who lived in a shoe" have motives that have more to do with jokes and clever statements than they do with architecture. 

corbu.jpgArchitectural Design and Theory

The heroic age:  The 20th Century produced a handful of architects whose lives and works loom larger than life as we look backwards:  Frank Lloyd Wright, Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Louis Kahn, Kenzo Tange, and a few others.  Not all their work has been preserved, and not all their work is worth preserving.  This is not to say that other periods did not produce their heroes - they're just not always well-remembered.

Space and time:  Goethe said "music is liquid architect; architecture is frozen music."  Music and speech are expressed in time and sensed by hearing; architecture and materials are expressed in space and sensed by seeing and touch.  The divergence or convergence of the two concepts, when they are thought as distinct, has played out in the theory and practice of architectural design in the western world.

Feng Shui: In the East a different concept prevails in which orientation, usage, and the pattern and perceived movement of the stars determines spatial organization.

Pattern languages:  Although popularized by Christoper Alexander in a book of the same name, the concept has a larger latitude and is worthy of greater application.  It is not a theory of style but an amalgam of space, usage, and decoration.

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