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13 Essential Skills Needed to Be an Architect

Male architect working on construction plans
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Deciding to become an architect is a wise career choice; it’s exciting, it pays well and you’ll get to make a significant and lasting contribution to how societies are shaped. But not everybody has what it takes to fulfil this complex, technical and multifaceted role. Indeed, it takes a unique mix of skills in order to be a suitable candidate for a career in architecture.

If you’re interested in this fast-paced and dynamic industry, these are the top skills needed to stand out from the crowd…

 


 

1. Numerical Skills

The entire concept of architecture is grounded within the rules and boundaries of mathematics; therefore, you’ll need to possess a strong grasp of numerical principles, especially within geometry and advanced algebra. If you haven’t already, you should look to attend your nearest A Level/high school diploma-standard maths class, as it is a basic prerequisite to enrol on any architecture degree.

 

2. Creative Skills

If you’re going to be spending the rest of your career designing cutting-edge buildings that push the boundaries of aesthetics, then you’re going to need a flair for the imaginative. The ability to be creative and bring daring new ideas to life is the essential mission statement of any architect, so if you want your work to be memorable and well-received, you need to be constantly innovating.

 

3. Design Skills

Of course, it’s all well and good creating something that looks good; however, it also needs to be practical, viable and suited to the needs and demands of your client. This is why it’s important to have a good understanding of design processes, such as knowing how to combine visual appeal with functionality; a good architect will always know how to compromise between the two.

 

4. Legal Knowledge

Aside from the client’s specifications and the allotted budget, the biggest restriction on your designs will be the multitude of building codes, regulations and policies that you need to adhere to. Although you will have the help of a qualified surveyor in this regard, it will save everybody a lot of time (and you a lot of design revisions) if you have a basic knowledge of what you can and can’t do.

 

5. Communication Skills

Unsurprisingly, architects are not the only people responsible for a building’s construction. Aside from the client, there are numerous lawyers, construction managers, surveyors, contractors, local government officials, tradesmen and structural engineers that you will need to liaise with, each with their own unique interests and concerns. Knowing how to communicate effectively with each one and ensuring everybody’s needs are met is an understated but vitally important part of the role, and the successful delivery of a project can often depend on it.

 

6. Teamworking Skills

On a similar theme of collaboration, the ability to work well with others is an essential component of an architect’s armoury. Although the actual design work may be done in solitude, at any one time you will need to liaise with:

  • your internal team, whether to produce blueprints on an existing job or to pitch contracts to potential clients
  • the construction team, in order to ensure adherence to your designs or to discuss the availability and cost of materials
  • the client, to establish practical functions and the direction of the project
  • surveyors and planning officials, in order to satisfy legislative demands and to maintain the integrity of the local environment.

That’s just a snapshot, too; there are many other frequent occasions where you will be required to work as part of a wider team, often drawn from different industries and backgrounds that you may not necessarily be familiar with.

 

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7. Commercial Awareness

Although commercial awareness may sound like the latest CV buzzword, it is actually an important aspect of any professional’s skillset. Understanding the industry (or industries) that you operate in can allow you to connect with the right clients and secure the right projects. It also allows you to better understand the needs of other stakeholders, ensuring that those aforementioned collaborative partnerships will run a lot more smoothly.

 

8. Artistic Skills

Away from the business side of things, you will, of course, need to sit down at some point and actually draw something. Whether this is through ‘old-school’ drafting techniques or the use of Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, you will need to be familiar with the processes and methods used, including how to scale accurately.

 

9. Problem-Solving Skills

In the history of plans, few have ever succeeded without a hitch somewhere along the line. As you can imagine, large-scale building projects are no different. When a design-related problem arises, you need to be flexible and adaptable in order to resolve it quickly and efficiently, whether it be a legislative issue or a material supply issue. Either way, having an alternative solution to hand is an essential skill.

 

10. Visualising Skills

When given a client brief, top architects are already starting to picture in their head what their creation will look like; visualising is a skill that all artistic and design-based professionals need to possess. Of course, once various changes have been made and certain hurdles overcome, the end product might be different, but if you can’t envisage your design in the first place, then how will it ever translate onto paper – let alone real life?

 

11. Engineering Skills

As any architect or engineer will quickly tell you, there are distinct differences between the two professions. However, they both need to have a basic understanding of each other’s capabilities in order to work together. An architect cannot submit a design to a structural engineer if it’s not physically possible to implement; therefore, some understanding of basic physics and engineering principles is a must.

 

12. Leadership / Management Skills

As previously mentioned, there is no one central figurehead of the construction process; as it’s your design, though, you will need to explain, dictate and delegate certain aspects to various contractors, as well as junior architects and technicians. This requires basic leadership skills that will develop with experience, although you could also choose to pursue a project management qualification in order to accelerate the process.

 

13. Attention to Detail

Whether hand-drawn or otherwise, architectural drawings are painstakingly detailed pieces of work that a wide array of construction workers rely on as a guide. Therefore, one misplaced window or a hastily conceived plumbing arrangement can cause problems – and, subsequently, delays – further down the line. As a result, attention to detail is an important part of the role, as you won’t be able to cut any corners or leave anything to chance.

 


 

As you can see, becoming an architect requires more than just a simple touch of imagination and flair; you need to be business-minded, open to change and a natural leader, too. You also need to possess a veritable array of transferable soft skills, not to mention a grounded education in the defining principles of mathematics and engineering.

Of course, this unique blend of skills is honed and crafted over a period of time; architecture degrees typically last between five and seven years, after all. But if you’re confident that you can demonstrate the potential to acquire these skills, then there’s no reason why a successful career in architecture can’t be yours.

What other skills do you think an architect should have? Let us know in the comments below…