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Project Architect vs. Project Manager
By La Femme Architecte

Some of you may ask or wonder what is the difference between a project architect and a project manager. My initial response would be as follows:

  1. It depends on the size of the firm,
  2. which is then determined by the structure and organization of the firm or office,
  3. followed by responsibilities.

Typically, you will see project managers and project architects in larger firms (10+).

An office with at least 20 employees would be organized with a head principal (usually the founder of the company and the one who signs all the paperwork). The principal is usually busy running around bringing work into the office; always in meetings and talking to clients. Successful principals have busy schedules and do not have time to keep track of the daily aspects of projects. That’s where the project manager comes in. The PM is brought in to manage the daily affairs of a project or two, and supervise the project team. A project team usually consists of at least one draftsperson and one project architect, who is responsible for producing the construction documents, and works with the PM to meet deadlines and provide them with information.

Sometimes the lines between project manager and project architect blur together in firms that have around 10 employees. And that’s due to one or more of the following reasons:

  1. Small offices may not have the man power to delegate and separate the responsibilities.
  2. Small offices may not have the revenue to hire individuals for the distinct roles.
  3. The type and size of the projects may not require the levels of personnel to be involved and thus the roles may be combined.

From my experiences I have been a project architect, a mix between a PA and a PM, and most recently a project manager.

As project architect I was responsible for preparing and producing the construction documents as well as communicate and coordinate with our consultants. I had some direct contact with clients. I researched and specified products and materials.

While I was project architect my responsibilities expanded to project management lite, which meant that I took the lead in not only managing myself but staff and consultants and to some degree clients too, however I was not creating schedules or watching the budget. I determined the deadlines not only for myself but also for my consultants. As a Project Manager coordination with consultants became an exercise of following up with them on items that needed to be addressed. I also managed the flow of information to keep the project moving forward and meeting deadlines.

In a small office setting an individual has an opportunity to get lots of varied experience and advance professionally, which is why I prefer to work in small firms. Not all small firms may offer greater opportunities due to office structure. Sometimes they only need a draftsperson or just someone who can prepare and produce documents.

In a firm where titles are defined, PA and PM work in tandem to accomplish the project goal. The PA is responsible for producing the design and construction documents as well as coordinate consultant documents. The PM makes sure the project team meets the program and project scope as well as establishing and meeting timelines. The PM also coordinates with the client, consultants, and general contractor and/or construction manager. Other duties include managing internal budgets, project staffing, and construction administration.

LFA (La Femme Architecte) has been working for 9 years and counting in architecture firms that range from small to medium size. She enjoys various aspects of the field of architecture especially the challenges of managing consultants, team members, and construction administration. When she’s not busy with architecture, she’s blogging about her architectural experiences @ http://lafemmearchitecte.wordpress.com/

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