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Industries & Professions /
Architecture is a blend of technology and art. Architects plan and design buildings, other structures, and the spaces around them. In addition, many technicians are involved in the design processes and in the construction projects that eventually implement the designs.
Architecture is similar to engineering in that efficiency is an important element of architectural designs. A design needs to facilitate the kinds of activities that will take place in and around the structure, such as home life, manufacturing, education, retail sales, or sports events. In recent years, as energy efficiency has become increasingly important, new design techniques and materials have been lowering the continuing costs of heating, cooling, and lighting the completed structure. Architects and technicians also need to consider how their designs may achieve savings and reduce environmental impact through the appropriate selection of construction materials and methods.
Aesthetics are another important consideration in an architectural design. Clients expect that the appearance of the structure will be attractive and appropriate for its setting. The design may be based wholly or in part on certain historical traditions, perhaps to better blend in among nearby older buildings or to suggest the traditions associated with the activities for which the structure is intended. A competing aesthetic consideration is the principle that "form follows function," a rule that has become the guiding standard of the modernist movement since it was first articulated by the American architect Louis Sullivan around the turn of the 20th century. Designs may also achieve other visual effects; for example, Canadian-American Frank Gehry and Iraqi-born Zaha Hadid design buildings that look as if they are in motion.
Since buildings and other structures are centers of human activity, architectural designs need to ensure the health, safety, and security of the people who will spend time in and around the buildings. This is the main reason why architects are required to be licensed. Architects and technicians consider the structural soundness of the building, its accessibility to people with handicaps, the circulation of air, the elimination of wastewater and garbage, and safeguards against potential threats from fire, the extremes of nature, and criminal activities. Many but certainly not all of these considerations are covered by building codes that are imposed by cities and states.
Architectural work is always a team effort. Architects must consider the needs and preferences of their client and consult with urban or regional planners, surveyors and engineers, landscape architects, and even interns or technicians who may design some detailed elements of the structure. They also work closely with construction contractors as the project gets built to ensure that the design is realized as intended.
Most architectural work is done in an industry category called Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services, which employs about 1.36 million workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Approximately 88,370 architects work in this field, although small numbers work for government and construction companies. The field also employs 30,450 surveyors, 69,020 architectural and civil drafters, 10,870 landscape architects, and 8,770 interior designers.