Engineers are people of numbers and architects are dreamers with their heads in the clouds…

A typical statement that may not necessarily hold water.

Let us just talk about the roles both play in a building project. Even though when you go to the site here, you are addressed as inginar-sahib. There still is a difference between an engineer and an architect. The first one is that an architect’s vision is much wider. As an architect, you can see the broader picture that includes the narrow domain of each engineer involved in the building project. But of course, it’s not just about buildings, an engineer does more than work for buildings and cities. An engineer is a person whose job may involve designing and building engines, machines, roads, bridges, etc. An engineer can also specialize in chemical engineering, electrical, plumbing, and sanitation, lighting, mechanical, software, sound, industrial, structural, aeronautical, etc. Architects too have their specialisations. They might specialize in building design and development, urban design, landscape architecture, city planning, sustainability, graphic design, interior design, product design, customer experience design, etc.

Then there are also computer engineers who do the hardware and software to create our virtual world. An architect is focused on buildings design and construction in close touch with clients and interaction with all other stakeholders. So, there is a people component as a big part of an architect’s domain too.

Visit structure heavy building like a stadium and try to isolate the domains of the architect and engineer. It’s just not possible! They have both worked in tandem to achieve the result.

The differences between an architect and an engineer have been talked about by many. Describing the two as

  • two cultures – science and humanities
  • chalk and cheese, apples and oranges
  • The what, why and the how
  • Straight-line approach vs. roundabout approaches
  • Technical and creative
  • Etc. etc…

In the context of a building, the architect is like the composer and conductor of a piece of music and each engineer plays out their instrument seamlessly. Both are necessary for the successful and smooth completion of a building. They might be different in their training and their thought process, but they are complementary. It’s not a competition but a collaboration.

Let’s also talk of the different aspects of a building and who is responsible for them:

  • Context – architect
  • Use, usability, user-friendly – architect in consultation with engineers
  • Materiality – architect from the point of the look and feel of the building and engineers for practicality.
  • Client and user requirements – architect
  • Client and user psychology – architect
  • Comfort – architect and engineers
  • Stability – mostly engineers
  • Sensuality or appealing to the human senses – architect
  • Idiosyncratic approach or personal style – architect
  • Spatial implications – architect
  • Budget/cost – architect and engineers
  • Functionality – architect and engineers
  • Safety – mostly engineers
  • Environmental sustainability/carbon footprint – mostly engineers

These are some indications of the different approaches the two bring about for the building, but ultimately, it’s for a common goal. The absolute essentiality is collaboration. An ego clash sometimes does happen between the ideologies, but it is ultimately resolved based on the common vision for the project. There is software available too now to promote interaction and to detect and resolve clashes, BIM and

IPD. More details on: www.autodesk.com/redshift/architecture-vs-engineering/

For more on the collaboration, do see: www.teachengineering.org/lessons/view/cub_intro_lesson03

Discussing this with fellow architects, I was able to extract some quotes about their thoughts on the subject:

Vishal Garg, practicing architect:

Both of them are trained to visualise, but both visualise in different fashions. An architect’s imagination is more visual and he leaves it to the engineer’s capability to work out the modalities to make his dream visualisation a reality. An engineer, on the other hand, visualises the technical aspects of how things would practically work and then modulates his thoughts to make it real. The architect is more imaginary in the thought process with a strong visual sense whereas the engineer’s imagination is derived from the technical aspects of how to make things work. Without the engineers, the architect’s dream concept would remain a dream.”

Divay Gupta, practicing conservation architect:

Historically I don’t think there was any difference between an engineer (structural or civil) and an architect. Both terms were used interchangeably. Classical western architecture also mentions firmness (structural), aesthetics and function as the three pillars. The same was the case in ancient India where the main architect, (called a vastukar, sthapati, Sompura, etc). Engineering was among the 13 disciplines he/she was to master. Of course, there were exceptions too. With the coming of the British, most initial buildings were designed by engineers – military and later by railway engineers. Early architects were engineers turned architects. The original architectural courses in India were few but were very engineering heavy. Some of them still are. Especially those that are part of engineering colleges like IIT, Kharagpur, etc. Of course, there were others like JJ and Baroda which being part of art schools were different. In this scenario till the establishment of spa in Delhi in the 1950s, most of the architectural work was being done by engineers. When the architect’s act came about in 1971, several engineers were also part of its drafting committee. And at that time, somehow it was decided to let engineers practice architecture, as they were doing so, only without being called one. That’s the legacy we are now saddled with even today.”

On the lighter side of things, Raj Anand, practicing architect, recounted an anecdote:

A client who did not want to hire architects and engineers, both, for the design of a mere industrial shed, told the engineers he had hired to go ahead with the design too and to make sure that the shed had ‘north-lights’. The engineers went ahead as required and designed the shed with sky-lights. When the shed was ready and the client came for the inauguration, it was realised that all the ‘north-lights’ were sky-lights facing south!!

A784-Architects-VS-Engineers-Image-1
Source- ArchvsEngInfographic_httpsnewschoolarch.edu
Mona Madan
Author

An architect by training,who has practised for over 20 years. Her chosen path nowis of a researcher, writer and creativity coach. Shebelieves that it is nowthe era of compassion - for humans to do away with attitudes of segregation and to heal all that we have ravaged!

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