Project Architect vs. Project Manager

October 19, 2008 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Miscellaneous

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 @

Related Articles

2 people have left comments

Great answer! What I really need to ascertain is whether archetecture PMs (and I gather from the above it would likely be with larger organizations) must be licensed architects?

I am the PM for a large commercial development company and would like to transition over to work on sustainable projects and urban planning for an architecture firm – in your opinion, what are my options – thanks!

Jen wrote on November 5, 2008 - 10:36 am | Visit Link


So sorry for the delay in answering your question.

Based on my experience, you don’t have to be licensed to be a PM for an architecture firm but you should have an architectural background. Most employers will seek someone with a degree in architecture.

It is important that you understand how drawings are put together and organized as the other architects who will be working with you will look to you for guidance. You may not necessarily be asked to draw but it is handy to have knowledge of Auto CAD. You will be responsible for reviewing the drawings so knowledge of building details and city codes will be an asset.

I think if you are serious about a transition, perhaps returning to school is an option. You may apply for an Masters in the study of Urban Planning and/or sustainable design. You may also look into becoming a LEED Accredited Professional; click the link below.

I have met various people within the industry and it seems that it is easier for someone with an architectural degree and background to transition to careers with the construction and design industry but not the other way around. I have not met anyone who has worked in an architectural firm that didn’t graduate from architecture school (that includes urban design and planning).

I hope this helps. Good luck!

la femme architecte wrote on May 9, 2009 - 7:02 pm | Visit Link

feel free to leave a comment

Comment Guidelines: Basic XHTML is allowed (a href, strong, em, code). All line breaks and paragraphs are automatically generated. Off-topic or inappropriate comments will be edited or deleted. Email addresses will never be published. Keep it PG-13 people!

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

All fields marked with " * " are required.

Project Management Categories