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The architect ( ancient Greek ἀρχιτέκτων architékton "supreme craftsman, architect, builder"; from ἀρχή arché "beginning, origin, basis, the first" and τέχνη téchne "art, craft") deals with the technical, economic, functional and design planning and Erecting or changing buildings and structures, mainly building construction . His core competence is the creation of architecture that goes beyond building .

Architect at the drawing board, 1970


Representation of an architect, signed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc

The job of the architect cannot be clearly defined and delimited, varies from country to country and is constantly in motion. The range of activities extends from “architecture”, which is dedicated to design and architectural theory , through engineering and the technical design of buildings, to construction management , where construction planning and execution are coordinated and whose focus is primarily on deadlines and quality and construction costs . A law passed by the Italian state on June 23, 1923, was the first time in Europe to protect the professional title of “architect”.

The professional field between current or historical architecture on the one hand and applied technology on the other hand also corresponds to the possible training paths such as universities (especially technical universities / technical colleges ), technical colleges , art academies and vocational academies , but also colleges and technical secondary schools . The focus of the training is traditionally set differently: at art academies, emphasis is placed above all on the design aspect, at universities special attention is paid to theory and science during training, at universities of applied sciences training is more application-oriented than at universities Vocational academies are practically oriented, but less diversified than at a university. Most institutions now have an individual training profile with their own specialization.


Representation of an architect in the Middle Ages

The profession of the architect is traditionally laid out in a generalist way: the builders of bygone times created the design and the statics in personal union and supervised the construction process. Depending on the epoch, they came from completely different classes and professions, for example in the Roman Empire they were mostly military engineers (cf. Vitruvius ), in the early Middle Ages often clerics, in the late Middle Ages from handicrafts, in the Renaissance artists, sculptors or scientists.

The medieval builders who emerged from the stonemasonry and the building tradition are referred to in contemporary sources as master craftsmen or magister operis . After the journeyman's examination as a stonemason, they completed additional training and after the master’s examination were able to work as an architect (see master craftsman books ).

Architect, 1893

It was not until the 19th century, in the course of economic and technical progress through industrialization , that the profession of architect emerged as a separate academic discipline. There were enormous advances in construction technology, new construction tasks (fire stations, schools, etc.) arose. Architecture schools and academies emerged. The builders, who usually had less training there, continued to run their construction companies specializing in implementation, while the academic architects specialized in the design of buildings.

The disciplines of architecture and civil engineering increasingly emerged. The architects mainly dealt with the design of the building construction, the civil engineers now provided all services for the civil engineering and civil engineering structures and planned the supporting structure for high-rise buildings, they were also often active in the construction management for high-rise buildings. The complexity of the tasks has continued to increase since then, so that further specialist disciplines established themselves in the 20th century: urban planning , landscape architecture , interior design , building physics, etc.

At the end of the 20th century, professions were added that took on many of the tasks of classical architects. Construction management and facility management took over the coordination of the construction, large companies offered complete planning and implementation packages, so that traditional areas of responsibility of the architects were shifted. In some areas in Germany, too, architects have retreated to the aspect of design, as is already widespread in the USA, for example.

The trend towards specialization does not stop at the generalist architectural profession today. In addition to the architect, who mainly deals with building construction , there are also the professional groups of landscape architects , interior designers and urban planners in Germany . Furthermore, the individual offices are increasingly specializing in certain construction tasks (administrative and commercial construction, cultural construction, residential construction, etc.) or in certain service phases of the fee structure for architects and engineers (e.g. competition management , design , implementation planning , tendering or construction management) . In addition, there is a further specialization in certain niches, such as B. observe ecological construction or the renovation of old buildings .

Fields of work

Usual fields of work that are covered by architects (to varying degrees depending on the country, office and qualification):

Working method

As comprehensive as the content of the architecture discipline is, the work of architects is just as varied and complex. Most freelance and salaried architects still work in small, medium-sized to large architectural offices for building design, building planning or site management. Depending on the size and specialization, some of the offices have their own departments integrated with other specialist planners, such as laboratory technicians, lighting planners, kitchen planners, building physicists or specialists in model construction, rendering / visualization or public relations. However, due to the market that has been changing for years, more and more architects are also active commercially or take on functions as experts or consultants. Interior architects, urban planners and landscape architects (open space planners) are not specialist planners, but specializations in the architecture profession.

Architectural offices

Architecture office 1967

Apart from smaller construction projects such as single-family or two-family houses, the planning process is mostly organized based on a division of labor. This applies not only to the work within the architectural offices, but also to the cooperation with the external project participants.

Only a few architects are still working on the complete range of services of the German HOAI with all service phases. Rather, the employees of medium-sized and larger offices deal i. d. Usually with a focus on sub-areas of the planning process , such as B. the draft, the implementation planning, the tendering and award of construction contracts or the construction management. A specialization of architectural offices on the respective service phases 1 to 5 (draft, approval and planning) or the service phases 6 to 9 (economic and structural implementation) is meanwhile widespread.

Since the work of various specialist engineers such as structural engineers and supply technicians must be integrated in almost all construction projects, and more and more experts such as urban planners, traffic planners , facade and landscape planners or facility managers in larger projects , architects have a high degree of communication and coordination skills as well Empathy and assertiveness required. Since architecture is usually also linked to the aspect of economic efficiency , the architect must also think and act economically. In the changing and overall shrinking market, and under high competitive pressure, quality in project presentation to private and public clients is increasingly required.

Different qualifications are required depending on the focus of the individual architect's work . If the design architect primarily needs outstanding conceptual and representational skills , the implementation planner must have knowledge of design as well as technical-constructive and legal knowledge ( building law , environmental protection , etc.). In the construction management, organizational skills and detailed knowledge of the construction process and construction by master builders and craftsmen are required.

However, this specialization should not be understood to mean that the architects involved in a building project work in isolation from one another. The various project phases are closely interlinked and interdependent. A basic understanding of the entire planning process is therefore also essential for the specialist, as is the cooperation with the civil engineer and, in the case of larger projects, with the geodesist , other specialists and the responsible authorities .

One of several CAD programs

The digital revolution of the last few decades has of course certainly not stopped at planning professions like architects. Traditional means such as sketches or model making are still used in the planning process . The final planning and presentation of projects is now almost exclusively created on the computer with the help of CAD programs. Mastering at least one CAD program is essential for architects today. Often, however, experience with different programs is expected in both two- and three-dimensional representation, which sometimes even goes into the fourth dimension in development and time series .

More information on the available CAD programs as well as specialized programs for architects can be found in the articles CAD and List of CAD programs .

Due to the meanwhile strongly fluctuating order situation and the consequent uneven workload within most architecture offices, flexible working hours are indispensable depending on the organization. Before important appointments, such as B. Submission of competitions, building applications or client presentations, overtime and work on weekends are therefore often essential. In the case of many large projects, the responsible architect or someone authorized by him must also be available at all times.

Work in other areas

Architects are also employed outside of their traditional field of activity. This can be project management on the part of the client or an activity in the construction and real estate industry. Activities as technical experts, experts or consultants (e.g. in the field of fire protection or energy) are also common. There are further interdisciplinary interfaces with the areas of product design, industrial design, art, film & theater, multimedia, advertising and communication design.



The training to become an architect is possible in Germany (and Austria / Switzerland) as part of an architecture degree and can take place at a total of 64 universities in Germany (as of 2015); the admission requirements vary greatly depending on the country and university. In addition, the second educational path via one or more crafts and practice z. B. possible in an architectural office. The Chamber of Architects decides who is allowed to call themselves an architect, who is authorized to submit documents and thus z. B. May submit building applications. The prerequisite for this is a completed degree with a minimum standard period of study of eight semesters, two years of professional experience and evidence of further training measures in the amount of 80 teaching hours (NRW requirements).

A consecutive Bachelor / Master course lasts i. d. Usually ten semesters or five years including the master's thesis . At some universities, a practical semester is integrated into the course of study. However, the average duration of study is often longer than the theoretical standard duration of study.

The bachelor’s degree at the universities lasts at least six to eight semesters and ends with the academic degree “Bachelor”. The Bachelor's degree is usually taken between the end of the 5th semester and the end of the 7th semester, with an average of 6 semesters. Around 6,000 students successfully passed their final exams in 2010.

Also, internships must often be proven before starting the course and during the course of up to six months. You are only an architect if you are registered in the Chamber of Architects. To do this, you must have at least two years of professional experience. The bachelor's degree is, however, partially viewed by the German chambers of architects as not qualifying for a profession, which is why one is not allowed to use the professional title “architect” despite a successful degree. The advantages of this degree should lie in the modular structure of the study and the higher international comparability. A master’s degree is possible as further training for bachelor’s graduates, and a doctorate for graduates of master’s degree and diploma graduates .

The expiring diploma course with the degree of Diplom-Ingenieur (Univ., FH) or Engineer (Fachschule-FS) normally lasts nine semesters at a university, ten semesters at an art academy and eight semesters at a technical college.

Job title

In Germany, only those who are registered in the list of architects of a German Chamber of Architects can call themselves an architect . In addition to having completed a degree in architecture, you regularly need professional experience of at least two years. Details are regulated by the architects 'laws of the respective federal states and the statutes of the architects' chambers.

The authorization to use the professional title of architect is one of the sufficient conditions for the major building submission authorization with the building permit authorities. The chambers see themselves as representing the interests of all architects . Conversely, this also means that the interests of the large number of non-self-employed people working in architectural offices that are not registered in the Chamber - especially those who have graduated - are only represented to a very limited extent by the Chambers.

The title of the service of Catholic dioceses active architects diocesan architect , also diocesan master builder , more rarely diocese architect ; often they also have the official title of building director. The diocesan architect is usually also the head of the building administration (building authority) of the respective diocese.

Professional associations

In the Federation of German Master Builders, Architects and engineers are organized 9,000 architects and engineers of the construction industry by its own account. The Association of German Architects (VDA) is another interest group of German architects, interior designers and landscape architects. The Association of German Architects and Engineers' Associations (DAI) has 33 local architects and engineers associations with around 4,000 members.

An association of freelance architects in Germany is the Bund Deutscher Architekten (BDA), which claims to have around 5000 members. The Association of Employees Architects e. V. (VAA) is a professional association that represents the interests of employed architects in the North Rhine-Westphalia Chamber of Architects and in public. Only the interests of freelance architects, landscape architects, interior designers and urban planners are represented by the Association of Freelance Architects in Germany . V. (VfA) based in Berlin.

labour market

According to the Federal Chamber of Architects, there are (as of January 1, 2018) around 131,000 registered professionals, the proportion of women is 34.2%. A total of 111,000 are involved in building construction. About 42% of the architects work freelance, about 53% are salaried employees and about 2% are civil servants, and about 3% are involved in the construction industry. The profession found itself in a serious crisis from the mid-1990s, in which the economic situation of architects in Germany deteriorated. The profession of architect was often assigned to the so-called academic precariat . In the first decade after the turn of the millennium, the situation improved slightly, then significantly, as the construction industry had a very good order situation due to the low interest rates. The unemployment rate among architects was 6.4% in 2017.

As a very capital-intensive industry, dependent on investments by the private sector and the public sector, the construction industry was hit particularly hard by the economic crisis of the late 1990s and early 2000s and the precarious financial situation of the public coffers. As a result, the majority of German architecture firms had to contend with a considerable lack of orders. Many offices did not survive this crisis.

The architect's job description has been subject to change for years. Many once classic fields of activity - from the conceptual development of large projects to implementation planning and construction management - are now offered by project developers, construction companies or other competitors. As a result, the field of activity of architects' offices that are unable to respond to this development in an appropriate manner has narrowed more and more in recent years.

Similar to doctors and lawyers, independent architects have a fee schedule ( HOAI ), which is made dynamic by being linked to construction costs.


According to the report of the Hommerich Institute, which compiles the annual statistics for the Federal Chamber of Architects, the average annual surplus per owner of architectural offices in 2017 was 89,510 euros.

The average values ​​of the annual surpluses per office owner in 2017 (according to office size) can be read from the following table (rounded to the nearest thousand):

Office size: number of people working (including owner) Average annual surplus per office owner 2017 (rounded to the nearest thousand)
Owner without employees 0EUR 47,000
2 to 4 people 074,000 EUR
5 to 9 working people 123,000 EUR
10 and more active people EUR 216,000

In the past few decades, the economic situation of freelance architects has changed significantly, parallel to the labor market situation. While in the post-war boom , especially in the 1950s and 1960s, freelance architects, alongside doctors , dentists and accountants, were still among the best-paid professions in West Germany, the average income of freelance architects fell sharply as early as the 1970s. By the end of the decade, the average income had fallen to 81,700 DM in 1979 (real value in 2020: approx. 94,000 euros). In 1987 the value was significantly lower at DM 76,700 (real value in 2020: around EUR 69,000). At the beginning of the 1990s, average incomes rose again for a short time, but a positive development has only been observed in the last few years.

In 2008, the Federal Statistical Office named an average gross annual income for architects from tax office data of 54,529 euros, the Federal Chamber of Architects in 2015 of around 54,206 euros. It should be noted, however, that these statistics only include professionals officially registered as architects in the Chamber. The majority of those working in the industry earn significantly less, and the spread is very large.


Job title

The professional titles of architect and civil technician are protected in Austria and, according to the Civil Technicians Act 1993, may not be used by persons who have not been granted the relevant authorization.


In Austria, the architects, together with the engineering consultants, belong to the group of civil engineers .



In Switzerland, architecture is taught at various universities as part of an architecture degree .

Job title

The professional title of architect is not protected in Switzerland, which is why there are numerous practitioners who use this name. The requirements for exercising the profession are not uniformly regulated either. Only in the cantons of French-speaking Switzerland , Ticino and Lucerne do the cantonal building laws stipulate the minimum quality requirements for architects and civil engineers. The academic degrees from the acquisition of university diplomas are, however, protected by law.


In Switzerland, the architecture scene is divided into three associations. The Federation of Swiss Architects (BSA), the Swiss Association of Engineers and Architects (SIA) and Swiss Engineering STV (formerly the Swiss Technical Association) as the largest professional association of all engineers and architects. In Switzerland in particular, there is also the profession of structural draftsman , who takes on a supporting role in an architecture office.


In Spain , the job title "Architect" ( Arquitecto ) is protected as in Germany and requires a degree in architecture and membership of a Spanish Chamber of Architects. In addition to the Arquitecto , which is comparable to the German architect, there is another professional group in Spain that takes on decisive tasks in building planning and construction, the so-called Aparejadores or Arquitectos técnicos . Unlike the Arquitectura , which u. a. The four-year academic Arquitectura técnica also considers and teaches the design, architectural and historical aspects, and focuses on the technical and constructive problems of building. The aparejador is, however, not an arquitecto , but an Ingeniero civil and thus to be equated with the civil engineer or Anglo-American civil engineer . His range of services mainly includes the areas of construction management and supervision, tendering, awarding and coordination with the authorities.


The Japanese equivalent of the general term architect is kenchikuka ( Japanese 建築 家 ), which is made up of kenchiku 'erecting a building' and ka here roughly 'professional practitioner'. However, this is not legally protected.

In Japan, however, building planning and construction may only be carried out by state-certified architects who are known as kenchikushi ( 建築 士 ), where shi stands for 'scholar'. Their legal requirements are set out in the Kenchikushi-hō ( 建築 士 法 ‚Architects Act ' ) of 1950. This knows three classes of architects: Architects 1st class ( 一級 建築 士 ikkyū kenchikushi ) who are allowed to plan and erect any type of building, architects 2nd class ( 二級 建築 士 nikyū kenchikushi ) for a limited type of buildings of smaller dimensions and timber construction - Architects ( 木造 建築 士mokuzō kenchikushi ) for smaller wooden buildings. For example, public buildings such as schools, hospitals, theaters, etc. with a floor space of more than 500 m² or a height of more than 13 m may only be constructed by 1st class architects. These receive their license from the Ministry of Construction , the other two architect classes from their respective prefecture . In 1995 there were 264,398 1st class architects, 566,791 2nd class architects and 11,386 timber construction architects.

See also

Portal: Architecture and Construction  - Overview of Wikipedia content on architecture and construction


  • Günther Binding : Master of the architecture. History of the architect and engineering profession . Primus Verlag, Darmstadt 2004, ISBN 3-89678-497-8 .
  • Kerstin Dörhöfer: Pioneers in Architecture: A Building History of Modernism . Wasmuth, Tübingen 2004, ISBN 3-8030-0639-2 .
  • Werner Durth : German Architects . dtv, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-7828-1141-0 .
  • Mathias Eisenmenger: The architect: The future job profile taking into account his responsibility as a master builder . kassel university press, Kassel 2007, ISBN 978-3-89958-252-9 .
  • Robert Hodonyi: From construction site to construction site. A journey through the history of the architectural motif in literature. In: Weimar Contributions. Journal for literary studies, aesthetics and cultural studies. 54, H. 4, 2008, pp. 589-608.
  • Ralph Johannes (Ed.): Design. Architectural training in Europe from Vitruvius to the middle of the 20th century: history - theory - practice . Junius Verlag, Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-88506-441-1 .
  • Isabel Kuhl, Kristina Lowis, Sabine Thiel-Siling: 50 architects you should know. Prestel Verlag, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-7913-4044-9 .
  • Winfried Nerdinger (ed.): The architect. Past and present of a profession. Two volumes, Munich 2012.
  • Ulrich Pfammatter: The invention of the modern architect: origin and development of his scientific-industrial training . Birkhäuser, Basel et al. 1997, ISBN 3-7643-5473-9 .
  • Hanno Wolfensberger: Architect's twilight: 10 swan songs on a profession . Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 1993, ISBN 3-593-34922-1 .
  • Tanja Kullack: Architecture - a female profession. Jovis Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86859-114-9 .
  • Ingrid von Kruse: Eminent Architects. Jovis Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86859-111-8 .
  • Ulrike Eichhorn : Architects. Your job. Your life. Edition Eichhorn, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-8442-6702-0 .

Web links

Commons : Architects  - Collection of Images
Wikisource: Architecture  - Sources and Full Texts
Wiktionary: Architect  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. cf. klaus Portable: Vitruvius's heirs. Highlights of the architect's profession in Italy in the 19th and 20th centuries. In: Winfried Nerdinger (ed.): The architect. Past and present of a profession. 2 volumes. Munich 2012, vol. 1, p. 201.
  2. a b c Ulrike Eichhorn: Architects. Your job. Your life. Edition Eichhorn, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-8442-6702-0 .
  3. Requirements for membership in the NRW Chamber of Architects. Retrieved April 12, 2017 .
  6. ( Memento from August 18, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  7. Statistics of the Federal Chamber of Architects -
  8. Desperately wanted architects, Architektenblatt on August 31, 2017 -
  9. Average surplus per owner of architectural offices In: , accessed on May 21, 2019.
  10. Average surplus per owner of architectural offices, according to office size In: , accessed on May 21, 2019.
  11. Structure and salary analysis 2015 - Salary survey / bak_haltsbefragung- 2015_bericht_sum.pdf
  12. Federal Chamber of Architects: Economy / Labor Market; Statistics.
  13. 建築 家 . In: 世界 大 百科 事 典 第 2 版 at Hitachi Solutions, accessed April 12, 2012 (Japanese).
  14. 建築 士 . In: 主要 な 資格 が わ か る 事 典 at Kodansha, accessed April 12, 2012 (Japanese).
  15. ^ A b Peter Fenn, Michael O'Shea, Edward Davies (eds.): Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management in Construction: An International Review . Routledge, London 1998, ISBN 0-419-23700-3 , pp. 339 ( limited preview in Google Book search).