Dezeen Magazine

The British public don't understand the role of the architect

Dezeen Wire:
 the majority of the British public have "little idea" what architects do, according to a recent survey commissioned by online architect's forum

The results reveal that 15% of adults are unaware that architects design buildings, while as many as 72% don't know that architects apply for the planning permission required for construction.

The full results of the survey can be downloaded from

Here's the press release:

Survey Reveals Lack of Public Awareness About The Role of an Architect

A survey commissioned by, the new online community for architects, has found that the majority of British adults have little idea what architects do.

As part of the survey, which was carried out by YouGov, respondents were asked to select things that they think an architect does from a list of tasks which are allroutinely carried out by architects.

15% did not know that architects design buildings. 22% did not know that they prepare detailed construction drawings for building projects. 48% didn't know that architects prepare specifications to be used for building projects. Even more surprisingly, 69% didn't realise architects negotiate planning permission with the local authorities. 72% didn't know they apply for planning permission in the first place. 74% didn't know architects can deal with certification for building projects and 79% that they can ensure that the construction site complies with Health & Safety legislation. A staggering 86% were not aware that architects select, negotiate with and manage all the contractors and 91% that they run the financial accounts for building projects. Editor Richard Buxton said: "Gabrielle Omar, the architect who starred on the reality TV show The Apprentice was the inspiration for this survey. The results support what she said in an interview with The Architects' Journal about the public not knowing what architects do, and the profession being in need of a brand overhaul."
Gabrielle said: "It seems the public knows even less than I first thought about the services architects offer. I think we all need to work together to find creative ways to engage with and educate the public about what architects can do for them."

Participants were then asked where they would be most likely to look for an architect. Those up to age 34 were most likely to search the Internet (45% of those aged 18-24 and 50% of those aged 25-34), whilst those over 34 would most likely ask a friend (43% of those aged 35-44, rising to 52% of those aged over 55). Notably, very few people in any age group said they would be most likely to refer to a printed directory (7%).

Having revealed where architects would be best advised to spend their marketing budget, the survey then asked respondents which three factors would most influence their decision to use one architect over another. From a list of nine possible answers, by far the most popular was: 'that the architect is qualified and registered' (71%). In second place (58%) was: 'that the architect can provide good references from satisfied clients'. Architect's fees were the third most important factor (46%). In fourth place were interpersonal skills, with 29% of respondents saying that whether or not they liked the architect and felt they could work with them was important. A 'professional website which displays a portfolio of the architect's previous work' came fifth with 21%

Richard added: "There is an apparent contradiction here between the large number of people who said they would search online for an architect, and the smaller numbers that said they would be influenced by a professional website.
"In fact, there is no contradiction: it seems it is less important what your website looks like; rather more important that you have a high online visibility, of which your website may form only a small part.

"There are some other important lessons from this survey. Although other factors may be more important than your website, it should still shout the range of your services, how competitive your fees are, your qualifications and client endorsements."

The full results of the survey are now available for download on, where architects can come and discuss its implications in the forum with the survey's authors, Richard Buxton and Arlo Guthrie, and with Gabrielle.