What Makes a Good Architect?

During several decades of practice, I have seen many changes in the profession of architecture.  The tools we use to design buildings have changed.  The materials we specify to construct a building have changed.  The way people interact with the built environment has changed.  As a profession, we have not only embraced these changes – we have, in many instances, been the driving force behind them.  And, there are no indications that the rate of change will be slowing anytime soon.

In this dynamic context, how can you be sure to choose a good architect?  The following key traits provide a strong foundation for an architect – one who keeps pace with change and balances creativity with reality – which includes considerations such as your pocketbook.

Architects work within a given set of parameters to solve complex design problems.  A good architect approaches this task with enthusiasm and preference to exceed expectations, looking for opportunities to exercise creativity and promote innovation in the built environment while delivering optimal tangible value.

It is not the architect’s job to simply tell the client what he or she wants to hear.  A good architect serves as an objective member of the team, advocating for the client’s goals and the end users’ needs.

Good architects must be good listeners, envisioning how the space will be used now and in the future.  This is akin to a servant leadership mentality – the focus should always be on the end user, not on the architect.

Clients are best served by healthy, thriving firms.  This means ensuring adequate personnel, financial integrity and ethical business practices as a foundation for accomplishing all projects.

Good architects nurture their client and community relationships through quality work and personal engagement, which often results in repeat business.  An architect’s professional reputation is the culmination of many personal interactions throughout his or her career.

Passion for the profession of architecture, bolstered by an earnest desire to please, is a pivotal factor that motivates architects to continually strive to demonstrate these key traits during the span of their careers, irrespective of challenges and bumps that may be incurred along the way.

These key traits are critical to look for when choosing to work with a particular architect.  If you would like to learn more about how to choose an architect, including how to manage the selection process, visit the AIA’s website, How Design Works for You.



  • Millie Hue / August 28, 2018

    I like that you pointed out that the architect that we should be hiring must also be objective about the design. Like you said, the goals of the client are important as well as the needs. I will share this with my husband because we plan to have our house to be custom-built. We can be too idealistic with our goals, so we would need to have someone who is going to tell us what can be achieved and what cannot be. Thanks!

  • Austin Saunders / January 30, 2020

    I like what you said about a good architect having enthusiasm for the tasks at hand. My brother has been telling me about how he wants to design a new house for his family in the coming years. I’ll share this information with him so that he can look into his options for enthusiastic professionals who can help him with this.

  • Greta James / April 6, 2020

    Thank you for pointing out that a good architect will try to get you everything you want and need but most importantly they will be clear and objective about the project. My sister is thinking of building a fantastic home on top of this hill that overlooks the city. She wants to have her dream home full of modern architecture. I hope that she looks into architects that can help her get that dream design.

  • Paul Heck / January 6, 2021

    It is always a good idea to use a local firm. they should also be willing to meet in person and you need someone who is really concerned for your wants and ideas.. but always be open to suggestions

  • Jay Ren / April 5, 2021

    Objectivity, as you stated, is so important for a team. When an architect can tell the people they are working with what will and won’t work, that’s good. When they can also tell them an alternative solution to get the same thing done, that’s amazing.

  • Joyce lundell / August 18, 2021

    Very much appreciated. Thank you for this excellent article. Keep posting!

  • Charlotte Fleet / December 2, 2022

    My uncle would like to hire an architect this month to help design an upcoming construction project. You made a good point about the importance of looking for an architect that has good listening skills. I think my uncle should also keep an eye out for an architect that has many years of experience under their belt.

  • Roshini / May 9, 2023

    Thanks for sharing

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