An architect is one who produces, within a given budget, an aesthetically pleasing design which will stand up to tear and wear and suit the needs of the people who live or work in it. Like poets and musicians, architects’ outstanding creations will be able to last and be appreciated for a long time. Architecture is the science and art of building. Design work involves both artistic skills (producing something visually attractive) and scientific skills (producing something which is also technologically feasible).
As architects are responsible for the original concept, they are also involved in each subsequent stage from design through construction until the final completion of the building project. However, this role of overseeing the project until completion may be undertaken by other professionals. Civil engineers are responsible for the design and construction of structures and utilities such as bridges, dams and roads as well as the concrete and steel of the building. It is not unusual for engineers to manage and control the entire construction process.
Architects must fully understand traditional and new methods of construction and materials and appreciate their potentialities and limitations. But above all, they need to understand and be interested in contemporary society and changing lifestyles. They must also understand the community’s expectations and needs, as well as social problems which may lead to loneliness, mugging and vandalism.
The sociological aspect of architecture is much more important now than it was a decade ago. High rise flats which were once hailed as architectural successes when they were first built have turned out to be disasters in social terms. Architecture today requires a combination of artistic, technological and sociological expertise. In addition, as an architect’s job is to design for others, its design has to meet the financial capability of the users.
As such, the route to be an architect can be arduous. Its duration is normally longer than the other courses. It may take 5-6 years.
NATURE OF JOB
An architect’s work can be broadly categorised into:
(a) Design work
(b) Project management.
In his job, architects receive a set of instructions from their clients or employers on the type, function, capacity and estimate cost of the building required. The building may be residential, commercial or industrial; the brief may be for a unit or an entire housing or industrial estate. Each building may be designed from scratch, or alternatively it may just involve the conversion of existing structures, such as turning houses into shops.
In either case, the method of working is the same. Based on the instructions given by his client, an architect begins to gather information on the occupants’ requirements and the nature of activities that will be held within the building. In order to understand more fully the needs of a potential user or community, feasibility study may be necessary. This may involves interviewing the residents, the workforce, the general public, sociologists and psychologists.
Once the idea has been conceived, the architect produces sketches and plans on a drawing board. These must be detailed enough to show the sizes and specifications from which estimates of the cost of building materials can be produced. They also consider the characteristics of the building materials to be used, their strength and durability. They take into account the effects of environmental factors, such as direction of sun and wind, traffic flow, etc. in order to maximise privacy and comfort.
Sometimes models are built for a more graphic presentation of a project. The interior layout of buildings may also be designed by the architect. All of the above work may be done by an architect on his own, by a team or with the aid of architectural technicians. Several sketches /models may have to be produced before one is finally accepted by the client.
Once the plans are finalised and accepted by the client, it may be up to the architect’s office or department to obtain planning approval from the relevant authority, prepare and negotiate contracts with building contractors, engineers and surveyors, and supply all contracts.
The architect may be in overall charge of the contract when it is awarded to a contractor. This will involve regular visits to the site, checking the progress of the work, its quality and workmanship, site safety, materials used, issuing instructions to the contractor’s agents and even certifying payments to contractors. A lot of time will be spent discussing problems with the site agents and engineers. This responsibility will continue until the construction is completed and ready for the client’s use.
In many instances, the architect may not be in overall charge of the project but acts as part of a multi-disciplinary team, working with engineers, surveyors, interior designers, etc.
In order to function effectively, the architect requires the help of assistants at various levels.
The Technical Assistants and Technicians are trained people who are capable of assisting the architect in solving the complexity of his problem. He works in an architect’s or planner’s office both in the public and private sector. Duties vary considerably according to the size and structure of the office. It can be broadly categorised under design and office administration.
When the specifications on the proposed design is received, it is first of all studied in terms of practicality, cost and eventual use.
A lot of preliminary information must, therefore, be gathered before any design work can be carried out. It is the job of the architectural technician to collect, analyse and prepare the technical information required for a proposed design. This may involve site inspection and survey. It can also involve collecting specialist advice and opinions such as engineering or surveying reports, or even interviewing residents in the area to test local attitudes towards proposed developments. All the information collected must be sorted, analysed and presented for the use of the architect and any other members of the design team.
Once a final design is decided upon, the team may have to prepare presentation drawings or models for the client. If the design is accepted by the client then the technician may prepare detailed technical drawings for use by the building contractor and their craftsmen. Computer technology has paved its way into architecture drafting and is used as part of the work, for example, technicians may use computer-aided design techniques for drafting and design work.
To carry out these duties effectively, the technicians must have a sound and indepth knowledge of building techniques, its principles, the use and cost of materials and various aspects of building by-law.
Architectural technicians may be responsible for certain aspects of site administration. The client and any specialists involved in the project must be kept informed of the progress of the construction project and of any problem or delay.
Technicians are often responsible for carrying out liaison work between the interested parties. They may also act as secretary at site meetings.
It may be up to the technicians to organise work schedules for the various stages of a project. They may also carry out site inspection, ensuring the work is being satisfactorily carried out, materials are of the specified standard and that site safety measures are being observed. Any problem, defect or difficulty must be reported to the architect or project manager.
In large construction projects, many different types of engineering and construction professionals will be working together. The technician must be able to work with any other member of the building team. Even when the building is complete with all internal fittings, is occupied and in use, the technician may have to contact the client or occupants to ascertain the performance of a finished building.
Architectural technicians are also in charge of the day-to-day running of an architect’s office with or without clerical support, whether it consists of many senior technicians or one or two technicians working directly for an architect.
WORK ENVIRONMENT AND CONDITIONS
An architect can work in different settings: in private practice; in the architect’s planning departments of a local authority such as Town Council (Majlis Perbandaran), Public Works Department (Jabatan Kerja Raya); with a public body such as the State Development Corporation (Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri); with a Ministry; or in the architect’s department of a commercial firm, large enough to have a continuous programme of building or maintenance work.
In private practice, his client may be an individual, a commercial firm or a local authority. In private practice, architects normally work on design only and not as in public sector, on design and maintenance.
In local authorities, the architect works on a wide variety of buildings, such as one-family houses, blocks of flats, schools, swimming pools and clinics. Usually he also collaborates with private architects employed by the authority for specific schemes.
Most of the architect’s work is office based – receiving clients, discussing design plans, producing sketches and detailed plans. A good deal of time may also be spent out of the office, interviewing people who might live on the proposed site, obtaining the opinions of other professionals, briefing the interested parties, etc. The architect may also work on the site, checking progress and helping the site agent or engineers to deal with any problem.
Although some architects are able to work the standard 9am to 5pm working hours on a particular project, the actual working hours vary from project to project and can be irregular with extra working hours in the evening and at weekends. This is because most construction projects have a set deadline, thus increasing the pressure for extra hours. As work is carried out on site, the architect must be able to deal with problems as and when they arise. This can mean being on call or available on site while work is carried out.
Drawing and design ability is essential; an artistic flair is an advantage. An ability to interpret the forms and functions of a design is a vital skill required. Architects must be practically minded, creative, and interested in and be able to appreciate the social and environmental factors that will affect the use of the buildings they design. Self-discipline and authority are necessary in order to put over and uphold ideas and decisions, and to deal with people from a variety of backgrounds. Mathematical ability is required for working out design problems and building economics. An aptitude for giving clear instruction and good eyesight is also helpful.
Successful architects are those who are creative and bold enough to present unconventional designs.
BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL ARCHITECT
Upon graduation, a graduate in architecture can opt for employment or work towards becoming a professional architect where one can start one’s own practice and establish an architecture firm by oneself or in partnership with other professional architect(s).
To become a professional architect, one needs to complete the professional examination and acquire the practical experience as required by the Board of Architects Malaysia. A graduate with a degree/qualification that is recognised by the Board of Architects Malaysia shall first register with the Malaysian Institute of Architects to become a graduate member of the Institute. He/she then works towards acquiring 2 years practical experience under the pupillage of a professional architect as required by the Board of Architects Malaysia and sit for Part 3 of the Architectural Professional Examination
With a degree/qualification that is recognised by Board of Architects Malaysia, the candidate is exempted from Part 1 and Part 2 of the Professional Examination. There is no exemption from Part 3 of the Professional Examination.
MALAYSIAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS
Malaysian Institute of Architects or Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM) is the national professional institute representing architects in Malaysia. PAM was founded in 1920 as the Institute of Architects Malaya. Through the years, it has evolved and registration under the current name came about in 1967.
The mission of the PAM is to promote the advancement of architecture and the architectural profession for the betterment of society. The objectives of the Institute are to promote and enlarge knowledge, study and practice of architecture; to provide a central organisation for architecture; to assist and advise Governments, local authorities, or other private or public bodies on matters related to the architecture profession; to promote friendly interaction and discourse amongst Architects; to obtain and disseminate among the members, information on matters affecting the profession; and to preserve and to maintain the integrity and status of the profession.
Among the main activities of PAM include organising conferences, seminars, lectures, forums and courses; engagement with professional fraternity in construction industry and the general public; conducting student competition, offering scholarships and organising sports and social activities for the members.
BOARD OF ARCHITECTS MALAYSIA
The Board of Architects Malaysia or Lembaga Akitek Malaysia (LAM) is a statutory authority responsible for the enforcement of the professional practice of architects, graduate architects, interior designer and building draughtsmen.
These include the registration of architects, graduate architects, interior designer and building draughtsmen; registration of architectural consultancy practices; regulation of their conduct and ethics; conducting examinations for admission to the profession; accreditation of architectural programmes in Malaysia as well as development and promotion of the profession and representing the architectural profession locally and at international levels.
For further information, please contact:
Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (Malaysian Institute of Architects)
99L, Jalan Tandok, Bangsar,
59100 Kuala Lumpur,
Tel: +603-2202 2866
Fax: +603-2202 2566
Lembaga Akitek Malaysia ( Board of Architects Malaysia)
Tingkat 17, Block F, Ibu Pejabat JKR,
Jalan Sultan Salahuddin,
50582 Kuala Lumpur,
Ms Wee Hui Bieh, AFMSA, Sept 2020
Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM)
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