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Last edited 08 Jul 2016
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'Architecture' can mean:
- Buildings and other physical structures.
- The style of buildings and other physical structures.
- The method of constructing buildings and other physical structures.
- The practice of the architect.
Architecture as 'the practice of the architect' refers to planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience. It extends from urban design and masterplanning to building design, the design of individual spaces and even fixtures and fittings. It also includes the pragmatic aspects of realising buildings and structures, including programming, procurement and contract administration.
The term 'architecture' is also commonly used to describe the process of designing any kind of system, and is commonly used in describing information technology.
Buildings first evolved from a need to satisfy the human needs of shelter, security, worship, and so on. The way that these needs were satisfied using the available materials, space and skills gave rise to a wide range of building techniques and Styles.
The origins of human-made shelters can be traced back over 40,000 years to the ice age and the Siberian Steppe, where remains have been found of simple shelters constructed from animal skins draped between sticks. It is likely that structures of this type were the first dwellings constructed by humans.
These 'tented' structures thrived in regions where materials were scarce, or where survival required mobility; both conditions which tended to be brought about by low rainfall. Changing climates brought about a slow transition from nomadic tents to permanent huts and vice versa, and it was from the resultant process of intermediate modification that an enormous range of composite dwellings evolved.
Some of these basic generic forms of structure are still used in remarkably un-changed forms throughout the world today, for example; the black tent, the mud brick hut and the yurt (a composite structure still in common use in Mongolia).
It was through the maintenance and personalisation of these early structures, that decoration was introduced, and they became more than purely functional shelters. As cultures developed and knowledge was formalised, the process of building became a craft and vernacular “Architecture” emerged.
See architectural styles for more information.
The term 'architect' has been in existence for many centuries, however the architect as its own recognised profession is a relatively modern concept dating back to the mid 16th century, from the French architecte and Italian architetto (originating from the Greek arkhitektn, where arkhi means 'chief' and tektn 'builder'). The term and what it represents has evolved through history to its current form in which architects are seen as highly qualified and educated professionals.
See The architectural profession for more information.
The most common route into the architectural profession in Britain today (almost 96%) is through university study which is broken down into:
- Part 1 – Honours degree in architecture.
- 1 year out in practice under the guidance of an architect and monitored and recorded in line with RIBA requirements.
- Part 2 - Masters, Diploma or BArch (depending on individual school) taught in university for 2 to 3 years.
- A further monitored and recorded year in practice.
- Part 3 - the RIBA final exam.
See architectural training for more information
Although buildings in the UK are commonly designed by people who are not architects, the term 'architect' itself is protected by the Architects Act 1997 which established the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Only qualified individuals that are registered with the ARB can offer their services as architects. Section 20 of the Architects Act states that 'A person shall not practise or carry on business under any name style or title containing the word “architect” unless he is a person registered under this Act'.
The ARB has responsibility for:
- Recognising qualifications.
- Maintaining a list of registered architects and ensuring that people not on the list do not offer their services as an architect.
- Monitoring standards and investigating complaints.
See The architectural profession for more information.
The ARB code states that architects 'are expected to keep (their) knowledge and skills relevant to (their) professional work up to date and be aware of the content of guidelines issued by the Board (ARB)...' The RIBA has developed a curriculum for continuing professional development (CPD), and it is considered that anyone satisfying the RIBA's requirements is likely to satisfy the ARB that they have maintained their competence.
The ARB code also required that architects maintain 'adequate and appropriate' professional indemnity insurance (PIII). The level of PII required will vary considerably depending on the role of the individual and the size and nature of the projects they undertake, however, ARB state that 'in any event an architect is expected to hold a limit of indemnity of no less than £250,000'.
Architecture is a team-working process and rarely a lone activity. There is always a client and there is always an interpreter of that client's needs. The relationship between client and architect is fundamental, and the establishment of a professional and trusting relationship between the two is the bedrock of every successful project.
Creating architecture involves art and beauty, science and engineering, values and beliefs, friendship and team-working. It is one of life's rewarding activities, bringing together a wide range of personalities, skills and expertise. It is an adventure for the client, the architect and their team.
It is important to place that adventure within a sound organisational and contractual context so that procedural complications do not derail the principal activity. A simple, clear, legally-defined understanding of what is involved will benefit the whole process, avoid conflict and help clarify the interrelationships and responsibilities of all the partners involved in commissioning, designing and building a project, large or small.
Architectural services can be procured by a multitude of routes, however, they generally involve certain core activities:
- Receiving and understanding the brief, agreeing how to proceed and gathering data.
- Feasibility and assessment.
- Concept design / outline design.
- Design development.
- Construction data
- Construction procurement.
- Post-occupancy evaluation
See Concept architectural design for more information.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Appointing consultants.
- Architect's fees.
- Architectural styles.
- Architectural training.
- Concept architectural design.
- Consultant team.
- Design liability.
- English architectural stylistic periods.
- Lead designer.
- Professional indemnity insurance.
- The architectural profession.
- Urban design.
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