Architecture: Architect Hanan Al-Ramahi
If you think of building a career in a creative field that combines arts and science, you may consider becoming an architect.
The origins of architecture date back to ancient times, simply when humans started to build houses to live in. Through architecture, we learned about the civilizations that lived before us. The cities, buildings, and monuments they left immortalized their cultures and beliefs.
Art schools in Europe started to teach architecture during the 16th century, but the first known architectural engineering program was established in the late 19th century at the University of Illinois in the United States.
The architect’s main task is to provide solutions that transform the client’s vision into reality by designing places where people can live, work, and enjoy. A place doesn’t necessarily have to be a residential, commercial, service, or recreational building. It may be a neighborhood, an entire city, an industrial facility, or a landscape.
Some might think that an architect’s role is limited to designing the external features of a building or a project, but the matter is entirely different. The design must be within achievable scientific standards, and it must take into consideration the engineering side which guarantees that the building will satisfy the function it was built for. This means that if an architect needs to design a building, he may have to consider every detail, including lighting, ventilation, electrical wiring, maintenance, safety, health, building materials, mobility inside the building, surroundings of the building, and its impact on the environment.
Architects bring the client’s vision into reality by being involved in the project from early stages where they help define the specific project goals and objectives, before planning for the initiation of the project, preparing designs, and leading the project stages from concept design to construction. Depending on the type of project, architects usually work with a team of engineers from different disciplines.
Architects need to be creative and have analytical and problem-solving skills. Having good sketching skills is also crucial, as it is one of the first steps in designing any project. In addition, architects are like the maestros in the design team orchestra, so they need to possess leadership, communication, and teamwork skills. Learning how to use sketching, architectural design, and rendering software programs is also essential.
The importance of each of the above-mentioned skills will differ according to the career path chosen by the architect. Architects may take on several career paths gaining specific experience or earning postgraduate degrees and/or specific certificates. These career paths can be classified according to the building type like residential, commercial, or healthcare. It can also be according to areas of specialization like design architects, interior architects, urban planners, or landscape architects. Focusing on a certain specialization is one of the most important aspects any aspiring architect should think of but mastering a specific field does not mean you should completely neglect the rest.
The first step in becoming an architect is to graduate from a locally or internationally accredited architecture or architectural engineering program. The first requires at least five years of study during which most focus will be on architecture-related topics, while the second requires studying for at least four years, and more emphasis is placed on engineering content.
In addition, each country has its own regulations that govern the work of architects. For instance, in Qatar, an architect needs to obtain a license from the Ministry of Municipality and Environment. Architects with recognized degrees are registered under the Ministry of Municipality and Environment as Architectural Engineers and are classified based on years of experience as Trainees, Grade-C, Grade-B, then Grade-A Architectural Engineers.
AECOM Middle East
I decided to become an architect as soon as I graduated from high school. At that time, I did not think of other options and felt this was the right choice for me. Architecture blended perfectly with my personality and built my intellect and made me the person I am today. My father is a civil engineer. Watching him as I grew up developed my engineering and problem-solving mindset from an early age. I have always loved art and have been spending my free time honing my sketching and painting skills. Architecture was the form of livable art I have always been dreaming of.
I have been granted the His Highness the Amir of Qatar’s Scholarship for Academic Excellence to study at Qatar University, and I decided to enroll in the BSc. of Architectural Engineering program and was among the first batch of graduates from this program in 2010. My passion for architecture grew as I learned more about its fundamentals, underlying theories, and how it has been and is still one of the most effective tools to influence people’s lives and create memorable experiences. Architecture unleashed my artistic potential and got me out of my comfort zone. Spending long nights working on design studio projects was challenging but is something I really enjoyed. My family and university professors were very supportive, and this drove me to excel further and express my intellect through design.
Following graduation, I started my career journey with Allies and Morrison Architects. In 2012, I joined AECOM Middle East where I currently work as a senior architect. For the past nine years, I have been responsible for pre-design planning, architectural design, conducting design studies and value engineering, and managing and coordinating design among different building design disciplines. I also ensure that designs are compliant with local and international building and safety codes, and that the design product meets quality standards and client expectations. Meeting clients and project stakeholders during design and construction stages and supervising construction is also part of my responsibilities. In addition, I ensure buildings are designed with sustainability in mind, and I lead the accomplishment of the project sustainability goals.
Over the past 11 years, I have worked on more than 20 projects that included mixed-use, commercial, residential, infrastructure, transportation, master planning, healthcare, and cultural; most of which were mega projects like Msheireb Downtown Doha, New Doha Port and Naval Base, Doha Oasis Mixed-use Development, Ras Bufontas Special Economic Zone, and Public Bus Infrastructure Program.
In addition to being a licensed architect, I am also a certified Sustainability Professional and a certified Project Management Professional. It is becoming increasingly important for any architect to have a thorough understanding of sustainability principles and tools as well as be able to manage and lead the design process. This is also part of life-long learning and is essential to anyone pursuing a successful career in architecture.
Among other essential skills an architect needs to master are problem-solving, design management, and communication skills. Experienced architects meet with clients and project stakeholders on a regular basis and are expected to be proactive problem-solvers who manage and lead project resources to ensure the design is delivered on time and as planned.
Being a Chartered Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has been vital to my qualification. It’s a manifestation of an architect’s technical expertise and a proof of commitment to professional work ethics. It also brings their educational and career experience to a globally recognized level.
What I like most about my profession is how architects lead the design process and work with engineers to translate a project’s vision into reality. Architecture has also given me the power to think freely while putting my ideas into a logical and buildable form.
My advice to students who want to become architects is to enjoy their learning journey and understand that real architecture is not in the textbooks but in the buildings and places we see and experience. Architecture students should continuously improve their skills beyond what is taught in college and train their eyes and mind to reflect upon buildings and environments they see around. Architectural thinking logic, attention to detail, story making and telling, and graphical presentation skills are imperative. Add to this the benefit of traveling and gaining exposure to architecture worldwide and learning about the creative process famous buildings and world-renowned architects have gone through, because this triggers visual stimulation and feeds into the lush imagination architects are expected to have.