An Introduction to the Architect

An architect is a person who plans, designs, and oversees the construction of buildings.

There are over quarter of a million professionals within the UK construction industry. Construction professionals make up just under a quarter of those employed in construction. And a quarter of construction professionals are either architects or architectural technician – approximately 62,000.

The Royal Institute of British Architects has more than 28,000 members worldwide and more than 3,000 registered UK practices. There are 33,184 architects residing in the UK that are registered with the Architects Registration Board.

In Britain today almost 96% become architects 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.

After completing their training they must register with the Architects Registration Board (ARB).

The role of architecture existed in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Indeed an early recorded documented architect died in c.15BC! Marcus Vitruvius Pollio who was author of De architectura’ the first (recorded) book on architecture, written for the emperor Caesar Augustus and still referred to today.

A structure must exhibit the three qualities of firmitas, utilitas, venustas – it is solid, useful, beautiful

During the Renaissance architecture came into its own. Yet in Britain craftsmen often did the work of design until the 1770s when the growth of prestige buildings saw architecture developing as a profession. The modern day term ‘Architect’ comes from the French architecte and Italian architetto, originating from the Greek arkhitektn, where ‘arkhi’ means ‘chief’ and ‘tektn’ ‘builder’.

Here are some key milestones:

  • The word architect first appeared in the English Oxford Dictionary in 1563
  • Royal Academy of Arts founded in 1768 – the society appointed a Professor of Architecture. Architectural drawings were hung as part of the Society’s annual exhibition. Architects sought membership and for more than 50 years this formed part of architectural education
  • 1791 Architects’ Club founded – by James Wyatt, George Dance, Henry Holland, S.P. Cockerell. The club had select membership and was primarily a dinning club
  • London Architectural Society formed in 1806 – sought to advance the art of architecture. Members had to annually create an original architectural design and essay. The Society met fortnightly and members were struck off for none attendance.
  • 1819 Architects and Antiquaries Club – this consisted of 20 members and six annual dinners, members were tasked with occasionally submitting an essay
  • 1831 Architects Society founded
  • 1834 Committee of Architects call for an institution for the profession – This was known as the Institute of British Architects in London
  • 1837 royal charter granted – Royal Institute of British Architects
  • 1842 Architects Society and Institute of British Architects in London merge
  • 1866 This became the Royal Institute of British Architects
  • 1887 RIBA members not permitted to hold profit making position in contractor
  • 1894 first School of Architecture founded in Liverpool
  • 1931 – Legal recognition of architect, the Architects (Registration) Act created the Architects Registration Council of the United Kingdom (ARCUK).
  • 1938 Architects’ Registration Act – Title “architect” restricted to those registered
  • 1997 new regulatory body and its Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) were created reconstituted ARCUK as the Architects Registration Board (ARB)

In summary the architecture profession is a creative one, with its history in the arts and renaissance. Architects still, as detailed in the works of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, seek to achieve design that is solid, useful and beautiful. The origins of the word also hold true today that the architect is the chief, a designer in charge. It takes 7 years of study to qualify as an architect, and then to remain chartered architects must complete 35 hours of Continual Professional Development (CPD) a year. Needless to say Architects are well educated, hold a high level of responsibility and are very busy individuals who have a creative yet practical approach.


Understanding the Architect - Marketing Personas for the Construction Decision Making Unit