The job of the architect has always been to provide shelter from elements. Before anything else, a building must keep inhabitants safe and dry. Creating a protective environment, however, is only the first of the architect’s many responsibilities. Here are just a few of the architect’ tasks:
· Take the client’s long list of functional needs and draw up an arrangement of interconnected spaces
· Shape building materials into permanent structures that enclose the spaces, admit light, and make sure the building doesn’t fall down
· Reach beyond structural and functional necessities to create a design statement that is beautiful and stirs the emotions.
Spaces, in turn, must be organized and shaped to meet a variety of functional needs. At the same time, architecture must rise above mere structural and utilitarian necessity to achieve beauty and make an impression. These daunting tasks require the architect to possess a combination of organizational, technical, and creative talents. Basically, architects have to be good at everything. Architecture is often referred to as a “Renaissance” profession, requiring its practitioners to be well versed in the sciences and the arts. And that is not all architects have to do. Today’s architects must possess business and management skills. They have to drum up work; consult with engineers, landscape architects, lighting designers, and other specialists; supervise design and construction teams; and oversee budgets and project schedules. Architects say it also helps to have the skills of a psychiatrist when calming nervous clients.
From the History of the Profession
In ancient times, architects and builders were one and the same. Roman architect Marcus Virtruvius Pollio wrote in his influential book, “Ten Books on Architecture”, that architects should possess knowledge of both the theoretical and practical aspects of construction. However, the architects on ancient times were subservient to the owner, who claimed the design of the building as his own. Credit for the beauty and structural ingenuity of the Parthenon, for example, went to Roman emperor Hadrian – not to the architect.
During the Middle Ages, architects were called master builders. They acted as designer, supervisor, and contractor for cathedrals and castles. They learned their craft through on-the-job training with stonecutters, carpenters, and other artisans before rising to the rank of master. Not until Renaissance Italy did the architect become wholly responsible for the artistic aspect of a building and have his name associated with the project. The owner, meanwhile, assumed the role of patron or financial supporter, and pride himself on fostering the most talented designer.
During the eighteenth century, architecture became a subject studied in books and at school. You were not considered educated unless you knew something about buildings and their design. Aspiring architects traveled throughout Europe and farther afield, sketching and soaking in famous architectural sights. From their drawings of ancient Greek and Roman temples and other historical monuments, European and American architects of the 1700s and early 1800s created new buildings for their own times.
Blue-Blooded and Blue Collar. During the eighteenth century, two distinct types of architects emerged.
· The gentleman architect was well educated in architectural theory. This architect designed buildings in his spare time while pursuing another career. He was the person that you see in all of those old European paintings standing in his library wearing a powdered wig, breeches, and white stockings.
· The builder-architect was trained practically and was more closely tied to masons and carpenters. The builder-architects were the guys who liked Scotch, got their hands dirty, and told stories about North American Indians.
A good example of the gentleman architect is the US President Thomas Jefferson who was America’s first great native-born architect. There were no architecture schools in colonial Virginia, so Jefferson learned architecture from books. His "bible" was the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio's The Four Books of Architecture, which taught him the rules of classical design. Jefferson also looked to his contemporary world for ideas. He owned a vast collection of books about architecture and completed many impressive buildings.
Though classicism was his foundation, his distinctly American buildings incorporate a “melting pot” of design ideas. Monticello, the estate house, which Thomas Jefferson himself designed, was based on the neoclassical principles described in the books of Andrea Palladio. It is situated on the summit of an 850-foot-high peak in the Southwest Mountains (see right). The name "Monicello" comes from the Italian "little mountain" and is located in Virginia.
As the Industrial Revolution took off, the gap between the design and construction aspects of a project continued to increase as structures became more sophisticated. In fact, building technology increased to the point where an engineer was added to the building team. Engineers were responsible for the entire design in some cases and created awesome metal-and-glass structures, much to the chagrin of architects.
During the nineteenth century, architects separated themselves from amateur designers and the building trades. They were distinguished by their knowledge of printed sources, such as treaties from ancient Rome and the Renaissance, and their ability to draw. The grand tour of the European continent was an important part of their education. You were just a big nobody if you didn’t do it. Many young architects studied the classical building in Italy and Greece and other continental styles of architecture, which in turn, inspired their own designs.
An Organized Profession. By the mid-nineteenth century architecture had become an organized profession. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) was founded in 1837 to advance the “esteemed” art and science of architecture and its positive effect on town and cities (see left). The American Institute of Architects, founded in1857, followed the RIBA’s example.
Architectural education in America and Europe was strongly influenced by the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. The French academy, established in the seventeenth century, favored the study of ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The academy encouraged students to produce symmetrical designs and elaborate, two-dimensional watercolor renderings of their building projects. This method was adopted by American schools of architecture, which led to Beaux-Arts Classicism, an architectural style that was widely applied in America from about 1880 to 1930.
The New York Public Library
How Architects Get to Be Architects. Contemporary American architects are licensed or registered to practice by the state within which they work. Licensure requirements include a professional degree in architecture, a period of practical training called an internship, and a passing grade on a state-administrated test called the architectural registration examination. There are several types of professional degrees in architecture:
1. One type is a 5-year Bachelor of Architecture degree, intended for students who are entering the program from high school or have no previous architecture training.
2. Another type is a 2-year Master of Architecture degree for students who already have an undergraduate degree in architecture.
3. Some universities also offer a 3- or 4-year Master of Architecture program for students with a degree in a discipline other than architecture.
Graduates of these programs are required to complete an internship before taking the registration exam and becoming licensed. The registration exam covers a broad body of architectural know-how, from building technology to history. Those who pass the exam and meet all standards established by their state registration board are licensed to practice architecture in that state.
Many states require continuing education to maintain licensure. Requirements vary by state, but they usually involve attending workshops, university classes, and conferences for a certain number of hours. Many architects are members of the American Institute of Architects, a group that sets professional standards but does not license architects.
Like today’s pop stars, the turn-of-the-last-century architects were showmen who paid careful attention to the location and design of their offices and to how they dressed when they consulted with clients. For example, Boston architect Henry Hobson Richardson established a studio that resembled an artist’s atelier and purposely situated it in suburban Brookline, Massachusetts, so that clients would have to travel a distance to see him. When clients arrived at his studio, Richardson greeted them in a monk’s obe and sounded a temple gong to summon his office boy. Visitors were made to feel like pilgrims in his exotic retreat.
Modern architects also cultivated an artsy style: Frank Lloyd Wright donned capes and pork-pie hats; Lois Kahn sported bow ties; and Le Corbusier wore owlish round glasses. Such image-building strategies are still a part of architectural practice. To be successful, most architects must be first-rate marketers and business people while still conveying the artistic air of inspired creators.