AGC Blog

What Makes a Good Architect?

June 8, 2015

A good architect understands the builder’s needs. A good architect knows the importance of the details. A good architect crafts the building on paper. A good architect takes their time in order to save time for others. A good architect is (usually) expensive.

Throughout ancient and medieval history, most architectural design was accomplished by successful artisans who rose to the role of master builder. Stone masons, blacksmiths, and carpenters, for example, were familiar with the building process and worked with the materials necessary to put a building together. It was natural that those who mastered a certain material craft would eventually rise to the role of architect, although the actual term didn’t exist at the time.

It wasn’t until the 16th century when people began using pencils on paper that the distinction between architect and carpenter began to form. Once building planners could formulate plans and designs on paper, the design process and the building process began to separate. Massive advancements in mathematics and technology in the centuries to come caused the gap between artist and carpenter to widen. Two distinct professions emerged: the architect and the craftsman.

Today, the distinction is stronger than ever. In fact, the many roles involved in building a modern-day home are separated among dozens of parties. Plumbing, demolition, electrical, roofing, and heating are all subcontracted to those companies with expertise in each field. Although the experts get the job done, the general contractor coordinates each one. With in-house carpenters on the job site every day constructing framing and making sure the pieces fit together, general contractors fulfill the role of the modern-day craftsman.

Although the roles are distinct, each party must be on the same page (literally) in order for coordination to be effective. Once an architect drafts plans for a building, it is extremely important for the builder’s needs to be taken into consideration before finalizing them. Late-stage changes cause headaches for contractors who prefer to follow through on plans made from the start, making us long for the medieval ages on occasion.