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Study abroad : Subject Guides

What types of architects are there?

Architecture is about much more than simply designing buildings. We turn our focus on the different types of architectural specialisations and what each involves.

Architectural drawing

When you think about architecture and studying a degree in the subject, you might have some set ideas of what it’s all about. Images of building plans, models of skyscrapers and glass-fronted modernist buildings may come to mind. However, there is so much more to the field of architecture than this. You may be surprised just how many specialisations there are for you to pursue. We explore the main specialist areas of architecture. 


What is architecture?


Let’s start with the fundamentals. Architecture is a blend of both art and science. The primary focus of the field is the planning, design and construction of buildings and other structures within the built environment. Architecture is the translation of abstract ideas into physical form. 


Architecture has always played a significant role in society, from the development of cities to the design of different architectural styles. It is sometimes referred to as ‘social art’ in that you can interact with it daily, and it can shape the way you move in and around spaces. Let’s turn our attention to the specialisations available for aspiring architects. 


Explore some of the best universities for architecture


Commercial architect 


Commercial architecture focuses on the design and creation of multi-purpose buildings. This is usually done in urban settings. Being a commercial architect may mean designing and working on projects from office towers to hospitals. Commercial architecture firms usually design buildings with a clear business or social purpose. Examples include museums, airports, and even monuments


To qualify as a commercial architect, you have to complete a professional degree and be accredited by a professional association. You also require an understanding and knowledge of urban planning, building law and construction management. 


Find out where you could study architecture in Canada


Industrial architect 


For an industrial architect, the design process is motivated primarily by function. In other words, what a structure or building needs to do. It’s a more practically oriented way of approaching architecture. These buildings must be optimized for efficiency and often need to consider health and safety regulations. 


As an industrial architect, you’ll work on buildings and projects such as:


  • Storage facilities 
  • Power plants 
  • Harbours 
  • Terminals 
  • Refineries 
  • Warehouses
  • Breweries 
  • Factories 


For industrial designers, it’s about finding the perfect combination of form and function, always considering the characteristics and needs of the relevant industry. Industrial architects are likely to work very closely with engineers of various specialisations during a project. 


Thinking of becoming an architect but aren’t sure? Get some advice on how to match your career choice and personality


Landscape architect 


Sometimes you walk through or into a calming and relaxing green space with a harmony of elements that complement surrounding buildings and the environment. This is where the expertise of a landscape architect comes in. 


Landscape architects specialise in the design of outdoor areas. This can be from the small-scale gardens of an office park to a large city park. Landscape architects aim to create spaces in which the natural world is designed to function alongside the activities and needs of people. In some cases, landscape architects work in more practical areas such as waste and water management.


If you’re thinking of becoming a landscape architect, get ready to brush up on your knowledge of natural materials, trees, plants, and flowers. This knowledge is essential when deciding what will work best for a given space. Some places you may have visited where the influence of a landscape architect can be seen include:


  • Botanical gardens 
  • Golf courses
  • Resorts 
  • Green city streets and boulevards
  • Rooftop gardens 
  • Reservoirs and dams
  • Industrial parks 


A great way to gain insight into the field of architecture is through a work placement


Interior architect 


It’s all in the name. An interior architect’s primary focus is to design and construct indoor spaces. An interior architect needs to balance what a space will look like with what is practical from a building perspective. The structure is equally important to what it looks like. 


An interior architect needs to think creatively in translating form and function into comfort and appeal. A space needs to be both attractive and habitable. For example, keeping a business space professional, practical, and welcoming. Interior architects may work with interior designers, but the role is not the same. Designers focus solely on what the space looks like. 


Find out how to map your career and study path


Green architect 


With the increasing awareness about and importance of sustainability and environmental issues, designing structures to address these concerns is essential. This is where a green architect can make a difference. A key focus is the design of buildings that have a small environmental footprint and are energy efficient. It’s a good choice of a degree to save the planet


Construction projects can generate a lot of waste, and the choice of building materials also plays a role in how environmentally friendly a structure is. Green architects design with the environment in mind. They find use approaches such as sustainable design techniques, energy recycling, water recycling, and green spaces within buildings. The mantra for a green architect is that buildings should blend naturally within an environment. 


We hope you feel more informed about the different types of architectural specializations. While you are here, you can continue your research by reading more about professional degrees and STEM subjects. If you’re ready to search for your perfect architecture degree, you can use of course matcher


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